It’s Not Only Women-Men Do It Too

Here are 2 comments on a recent Huffington Post article of mine, Don’t Pity Me Because I Don’t Have Kidsin which I wrote about how people have a hard time understanding my “childfree” life:

woman comment
-a woman

and

man comment abt not having kids
-a man

And while I can proudly report that I told both those people (very nicely) that I thought they were wrong–that it wasn’t just women who judged people without kids–I also have a confession. The piece in question was originally a blog post of mine called Why You Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Meand that blog post of mine was originally called Why WOMEN Should Stop Feeling Sorry For Me. 

So yeah, until recently, I also bought into the idea that it’s really just women who have problems with childless people. I wrote the piece in October, and before I published it I read it to my best friend for feedback (read: for her to tell me that I’m a literary genius and the piece was perfect). But she couldn’t get past the sentence: “And women have a hard time understanding that.” We talked for a while and she made some good points, namely that women are probably only more likely to voice their opinion on the matter, not necessarily more likely to have it in the first place.268149208_d51dec08deI changed the title of my post but wasn’t entirely convinced until a few months later, when something else happened.

I posted a hilarious meme that said “The best part of kids is that I am not responsible for any of them.” I know, right? Told you it was hilarious. Also happens to be true–despite the fact that I love (some) kids, I don’t have any myself because I’m not ready to give up the freedom that one loses upon procreation. And someone said this:

Such a sad, sad commentary by someone who has never experienced the pure joy and love a child brings to the heart and soul of one who IS responsible for them.

I’d only been on Facebook for a short while at the time, and wasn’t able to let trolls’ comments slide off my back with the same ease that I am now. (Ha.) It made me so angry that I took to Facebook to write the one and only rant that I’ve ever posted. And let me tell you, it was a pretty good one. I said that it most certainly was not a sad commentary, that a woman doesn’t need kids to be fulfilled, that blah blah blah, insert feminist rant here. And I could totally feel both men and women near and far giving me a feminist salute as they liked and commented and shared my post. I was basically saving civilization in general, and feminism in particular.

But here’s what was interesting. Everyone assumed that the comment was made by a woman. It wasn’t.

I wasn’t trying to trick anyone, it just never occurred to me to mention that it was actually a closed-minded man who said what he did about my “sad” commentary. (Unsurprisingly, he had a lot of hunting pictures up on his page–a lot of standing triumphantly over enormous dead animals, his eyes glistening with pride that he was able to outsmart an animal and then turn a weapon on it.)

So my question is–why? Why are we (myself included) so quick to assume that it’s only women who care about the status of women’s wombs? The idea of a happy marriage with 2.5 happy children is the great American Dream, is it not? Isn’t it a societal standard that both men and women designate as the arbiter of what’s important and what isn’t?

I don’t have any definitive answers, but I do know that these questions merit some serious thought. As women, I think we’re especially hard on other women. Both of those comments portray women as catty and competitive, but there’s something much more aggressive–almost vitriolic–about the woman’s comment. There was a resentment there–that I was part of a group of people who were consciously trying to perpetuate a notion that I knew to be false. That I was afraid to tell the ugly truth about who women really are.

A friend told me that he did think women care more than men about who has kids, and when I asked him why, he couldn’t cite any specific examples. Just a general feeling. We have been trained to think certain things about each gender, and then to attribute those differences to “nature.” And if we really want things to change, we need to start examining those ideas and questioning where they have actually come from.

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13 Things I Learned From Facebook in 3 Months

11076788946_2ab83d617cIt’s been three months since I’ve kamikazied my way into the world of social media, and I have to say, I’m coming to understand it in a way that’s making it surprisingly enjoyable.

Nah, just fucking with you. It’s all still totally absurd and anxiety-producing, and it has me worried about the survival of mankind as a whole. But it hasn’t been all bad. Here’s what I’ve learned: Continue reading

Call an Ambulance: My Man Has the Sniffles

my boyfriend last weekend.
My sick boyfriend.

Last weekend my boyfriend came down with a wicked case of Ebola.

Wait, that doesn’t seem right—I feel like I would’ve heard about a Jersey outbreak or I’d remember being forced into quarantine. But if it wasn’t Ebola, then what was it that made him too weak to move as he neared his end and repeatedly reminded me how very gravely ill he was?

Oh that’s right—I remember now. A cold. That’s what my boyfriend had. Case of the sniffles.

And it got me thinking, mainly about how men are usually such babies when they’re sick, while women seem to able to power through. Maybe it’s because women spend almost a quarter of their adult lives in a crampy, hormonal hell in which our bodies are hijacked (yeah, I’m playing the period card), or maybe evolutionarily women have had to be the stronger sex in order to give birth. Maybe it’s because throughout the centuries of male privilege, women have had no choice but to suck it up and make him his turkey pot-pie anyway. Continue reading

(in)gratitude

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make me good god, but not yet. -st. augustine

i’ll be honest–my creative juices weren’t really flowing this week. i started and abandoned several pieces that i thought might make good blog posts.  as the week wore on and i was becoming more and more frustrated, i was also being inundated with more and more displays of gratitude on social media.  it’s that time of year.

gratitude. ugh.

it’s not that i don’t think gratitude is important or that i’m not grateful for a lot of things.  i do and i am.  i suppose ultimately i think of gratitude the same way i think of humility and coolness—if you’re talking about it, you ain’t got it. look’it me, look’it me! look at how grateful i am? aren’t you grateful you know such a grateful person?? Continue reading

my vagina does not need pilates

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a few weeks ago, i took a pilates class to relax and clear my mind.  this happened instead.

“c’mon girls, relax your neck and pull that bellybutton in toward your spine,” the teacher barked over loud music.  “let’s go ladies! tighten those cores, tighten your glutes—and tighten that va-jay-jay!”  oh for fuck’s sake.

first of all—no. just, no. and second of all—NO. never say that again. ever. anywhere. to anyone.

now let’s deal with the semantics. as a grown woman, you should be able to say the word vagina. don’t we do enough abbreviating these days?  must we address our genitals like that too?  tie-tie and tum-tum and cray-cray—i’ll cop to using some of those stupid phrases sometimes.  and while they’re certainly not my proudest moments as a writer, asking someone if their tum-tum hurts is not the same thing as calling my vagina something that sounds like the name of a cheerful puppet on a children’s show.  i’m not a little girl who hasn’t mastered the art of pronunciation yet, and neither are you.

semantics aside, there are much bigger issues here.

8538274076_8972335d2bi work out to feel like a bad-ass. of course there are physical benefits—healthy heart and tight tush and blah blah blah. the thing that gets me to the gym when i don’t want to go (which is every time i go) is the bad-ass thing. i exercise to stop my rat wheel of a mind, tune the world out, and leave feeling stronger. do you think any of that is possible when you keep lobbing the phrase “va-jay-jay” around? does that sound like something that makes you feel ready to head out and kick the day’s ass? the only thing it makes me want to kick is you—in your va-jay-jay. and it’s not even the good kind of violent impulse that fuels my workouts sometimes. it’s the distracting and demeaning kind.

so listen closely because i’m only going to say this once: my vagina does not need to do pilates.  y’know what actually, maybe that bears repeating. my vagina.  does not need.  pilates.  it just doesn’t.  no one’s does.

this has nothing to do with who’s had kids and who hasn’t—it’s not about anything physical.  it’s about finding one goddamn place in my life where i’m not bombarded with the idea that as a woman, my value is inextricably linked to my sexuality—a sexuality of a very specific form and function.  woman as object for consumption.  shit, all i have to do is walk through the lobby of the gym and i see diet products everywhere and bright lcd screens that accost me with images of shiny, happy people using shiny, happy products. which is why when i actually get to the fitness studio, and you’re the one who is supposed to be my guide, it’s kind of important where you take me and how you get me there.  and taking me there via vagina-talk is completely unacceptable.

while i’m at it, here are a few other things i never want to hear again from a teacher at the gym:

  • while working my ass, don’t tell me to “squeeze it like a stripper holding onto a hundred-dollar bill.”  whatever the opposite of empowerment is—that sentence is it.  not to mention an image i could do without.bikini-234438_1920
  • when you’re balancing on one leg and you fall over, please don’t tell me that you have your period, which everyone knows compromises a woman’s balance. first of all, i very much doubt that’s true.  and second, keep that shit to yourself. you fell over. it happens.  just own it.
  • while working my back, don’t talk about all the women you see with back-fat to whom you want to run up and offer your card.  let’s try not to confirm all of our worst fears about how women treat each other.  you’re on stage, with a microphone, in front of women of all shapes and sizes—act like that fuckin matters to you.
  • don’t tell me that once i get into shape and start getting noticed by my friends’ husbands, then my own husband will start paying attention.  really?  do you get a bonus if you hit every evil stereotype of a conniving woman, talking shit and stealing husbands?
no it certainly is not. why must we bullshit? being healthy is a lot of things but exciting is not one of them.
no it certainly is not. why must we bullshit? being healthy is a lot of things but exciting is not one of them.

this last one has nothing to do sexual politics, but it’s really important nonetheless:

  • please—for god’s sake—don’t try to get me to whoop, clap my hands, count out loud, or vocalize my excitement in any way.  don’t tell me to smile because frowning will give me wrinkles.  YOU smile.  do not ask me if i’m enjoying myself—i’ll tell you right now: no, i’m not. that’s always the answer.  my muscles are burning, i can’t breathe, sweat is pouring off of me, and i’m watching the woman in front of me do it all more nimbly and without breaking a sweat.  you asking me to show faux-enthusiasm for something that is kicking my ass only serves to highlight how much fun i am not having.  and how can i be a bad-ass when you’re telling me to clap my hands?

as the people closest to me will attest, i am not an especially easy person to please. i know that.  i realize that often my expectations get the better of me, but i don’t think this is one of those times.  i’m asking for a few simple things: don’t tell me to clench anything in my ass, don’t perpetuate every nasty female stereotype, don’t talk about your period, and please—if you hear only one thing today—leave my vagina out of it.

photo credit: She says via photopin (license)
photo credit: Dark muscle woman via photopin (license)