Monday, May 4, 2015

In Which I Realize the World Has Been Totally Fucking With Me This Whole Time

1) Why is it that we refer to grown men as "men" but women are still, regardless of age, always "girls"?

2) Why do women have to change their titles based on marital status, while men always get to be "Mr."?

3) How is it that having babies helps men get raises while women get demoted or booted out of the workforce entirely?

4) How are the stats on violence against women still this bad?

5) Why do women have to be skinny and perfect and made up while men get to look like whatever the fuck they want? And yeah duh, I know there is body pressure on men too. But let's be real honest for a hot sec and admit that the body pressure on men is not even in the same galaxy as the pressure we put on women. Like don't even pick a fight with me on this because I'm all fired up and you will lose.

Until a very short time ago, I would've denied being a "feminist." I would've rolled my eyes at this, and insisted the wage gap had nothing whatsoever to do with the thigh gap. (And I used to think the thigh gap was something I dreamed up all by myself. How adorable.) Or that tabloids had nothing to do with how often I cried in dressing rooms. I would've told you my eating disorder was purely a case of genetic chance. That the chemicals in my brain happened to collide in a certain way that gave me a disease just like any other; like cancer or ALS or diabetes.

And I used to think my eating disorder was all mysterious and tragic; that it transcended all that cultural-forces/body-image bullshit that NEDA likes to talk about in their awareness campaigns. I didn't think it had anything whatsoever to do with feminism or cultural values or society or anything. It was my own private little drama. It was Limited Edition Anorexia, not Mainstream Anorexia.

But you know what? My eating disorder was about as basic and boring as they come. Young girl feels fat. Young girl goes on diet. Young girl falls into the most stereotypical trap imaginable. Young girl is now a young woman who realizes modern society has been totally fucking with her this whole time, and she totally fell for it.

Yes, genes had something to do with it. Yes, anorexia is a biological disease and not a trend or a phase. No, it is not caused by Weight Watchers or Hollywood or fashion magazines. But there is also a reason that it hits mostly girls and not mostly boys. There is a reason my obsessions of choice are calories and exercise and not something else. I was born with anxiety; my brain was wired to be compulsive. Society taught me what to fill in.

I am smart. And independent. And I do not suffer fools. And I don't put up with bullshit. And I don't really "do" trends. But I believed the world when it told me I needed to be skinny to be worthy. My 10-year-old brain didn't make that up all by itself. There are consequences to teaching little girls that their appearances matter most. That they can't really grow up to be anything they want. Or that they can try, but they'll probably be underpaid and undervalued, and have to endure it all in high heels that give them bunions or plantar fasciitis. That they are pretty much supposed to be wives and moms and leave the real work to the menfolk. And that they are, above all else, supposed to be pretty.

My advisor's daughter is three. Her preschool had "career day" a few weeks ago where the kids were supposed to dress up like the career they wanted. Little D wanted to be a "boss." It didn't even occur to her to dress like Mommy, who has a PhD and works as a clinical director at a hospital. Instead she wanted to wear Daddy's belt and necktie. Not a dress; a tie.

It was adorable for about six seconds, and then it broke my heart.


  1. I feel the same way as you, the "feminist" mindset sort of snuck up on me.

    My brothers have been encouraged to pursue whatever career they wish, even though they both want to pursue arts and music. I was told that was not a choice, as it was not practical. Just become someone's secretary until you get married. I have been stuck as someone's secretary for more than 12 years, and at this point I would rather die before I married some arsehole in a suit and tie.

    I don't understand how society is still this way. After all the efforts of the Suffragettes, and all the feminist movements a few decades ago, it's like everything just quietly went back to exactly the way it was.

    1. Yup, agreed all around. It's almost harder in some ways because now, people don't really take pride in being feminists. It's like a dirty word. I grew up thinking I didn't HAVE to be a feminist, because boys and girls were finally equal! It hasn't been until getting older and understanding how the world actually works that I realize wow okay, sometimes being female leaves you seriously handicapped in the world.

  2. The wage gap drives me insane. WHY WHY WHY?????

    1. I have no answers. It makes me want to tear my hair out.

  3. These are some really good points, and a lot of people don't think about these things - but more people should. When I got married, changing my name was such a hassle, and I had to change it on sooooo many things and Brian only had to changed his status to "married" on a couple of things and that was it. lol. It was annoying. I think women still take the backseat to men in a lot of ways, and I don't know what it's going to take to change it. I know one thing Brian and I have been thinking about is if we have a baby soon, then he might be a stay at home dad while he finishes up school and when we mentioned that to a few family members they looked at us like we were crazy and wrong. Why can't the father stay home if he wants too? why can't the husband and wife both be working and raising a family? I would love to stay home, but if he hasn't finished school, then its better that I work,,, what's wrong with that? Anyways, I kind of went on a little rant but I like this post and I am glad you wrote it :)

    1. That is awesome about you and Brian. It shouldn't be a big deal - but it really is in this day and age, that families are able to work out the best solutions for themselves even if it means bucking the traditional route. I have been thinking about this a lot because I am entering a field (academia) which is NOTORIOUSLY terrible about supporting women, especially since the tenure-track years often line up with the years women are getting married and having babies (e.g. thirties). The New York Times recently did an interesting piece about how how even in families where both parents work, it is somehow always Mom who ends up being the "designated worrier" in terms of making sure all the kids' stuff gets taken care of:

      I think this stuff is sloowwwly changing as families - like yours - are realizing that there is no "right" way to navigate marriage and householding and parenting, but damn is it maddeningly slow.