This female had a garbage weekend.
If you have been following my blog at all, you know I’ve actually had a pretty terrible month.
I don’t want to go into ALL of it, but for those of you who have been following: My daughter was in the hospital for pneumonia. I had to take her there right after seeing The Ex in court to have my protection order renewed. The renewal was granted, but I still had to see and hear the idiot. Just because every time I see him in court he says or submits something which ultimately helps my case, does not mean the encounters aren’t triggering. And, after this annoying and triggering court encounter, I took my daughter to the doctor and she ended up being admitted to the hospital for three days with pneumonia. She is out and better now; every one is better now, except for coughs that bring up thick gobs of yellow phlegm, but I am exhausted. And I have a lot of annoyance built up in me.
I had a sorta humorous post planned for today, and although once upon a time humorous did mean phlegmatic, I just don’t have it in me. Sorry…next week…
What I do have in me are complaints. But I’m going to try to at least make my complaints useful.
Here is a list of everyday experiences I am just plain SICK of dealing with as a female; things you all just need to stop doing RIGHT NOW.
Before some guy out there in the vast wide web decides he needs to say, “Hey guys deal with stuff too…” yeah that’s true. But I’m not a guy, so you write that list. I am a female. This is my list.
Our society is shaped by misogyny. It is ingrained in our culture; so much so, in fact, that pretty much everyone is misogynistic on some level at some time. Guys are misogynistic. Gals are misogynistic. Gender-queer people are misogynistic. Feminists are misogynistic. I am misogynistic. Sometimes. Sometimes we all are.
It is very difficult to grow up female in a world that is so misogynistic even the people who decry misogyny occasionally engage in it. Difficult, and exhausting.
I’ve been doing this female thing for close to thirty years now. I’ve paid my dues to quiet desperation. Now it’s time to call this junk out.
My guess is that I’m not alone in being sick of this stuff. So cut it out fellas. Here’s the blueprint:
1. Hearing Jokes About My Genitalia
If you “hear” anything from this article, hear this: Jokes about vaginas, or breasts, or female butts are never funny. Never. Not even that one you like to tell when you’re drunk, the one you think everyone laughs at, even the females. Maybe it’s true; maybe they do laugh. Even the females. But we’re not laughing because the joke is funny. We’re laughing because we’re uncomfortable. Not all women have vaginas, true, but I’m betting the ones who don’t are uncomfortable too, if for different reasons.
Maybe you, pussy joke teller, are a totally nice guy. Maybe you’re unaware how uncomfortable you’re making the women around you. I can buy that, because we are socialized to laugh at sexist jokes. If we don’t, we are labeled as prudes or just marked “no fun.” Who wants to be considered no fun? So we laugh.
But it’s not funny to constantly hear about how guys want some celebrity’s legs wrapped around their faces, or about how many fingers go in which holes, or to have to worry that every single benign comment is going to be met with “that’s what she said,” or to have to plan how we are going to eat a banana in public. Okay THAT joke by Chelsea Peretti about the stress women face when publicly eating bananas is funny, but the reality is not.
This pussy joke trend is worse than just annoying. It can be triggering for sexual assault victims. And if you’re around more than five women, there’s a significant chance that you are in the presence of a sexual assault survivor. Who undoubtedly has issues with sex and now you are forcing her to act casual so everyone doesn’t know that she is really tensed and trying to calm a racing heart and/or tearful outburst. All for your stupid joke that nobody really finds funny anyway.
Don’t even get me started on the effect these jokes have on young girls! Okay, just a few words…When you make jokes about vaginas around inexperienced young girls, girls whose bodies are going through weird and uncomfortable changes, it prompts them to feel shame about their vaginas. It causes them to think of their bodies as the brunt of a joke, during a time when they are already unsure and probably unhappy with their bodily changes. These joke lower girls’ self esteem, which can make them overcompensate by acting over-casual about sex…like over-casual to the point of doing it way before they’re ready. This is real. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. It is not cool.
Plus, think of it this way: Most of the people telling these jokes enjoy vaginas. 100% of the people telling these jokes owe their existence to a vagina. Why are you mocking vaginas? I know that when I was single, a guy’s chance of playing with mine dropped pretty much to zero if he made jokes about it. So why be dumb? Got a pussy joke? Just shut up.
2. Dealing With Guys Who Think I Owe Them Something
From my attention briefly, to my body, to my damn love, guys have been thinking I owe them something as long as I can remember.
Whether we’re talking the distant male cousin who got upset when my six-year-old self didn’t kiss him goodbye, the faceless harassers demanding smiles up and down the annals of memory, The Ex who beat me if he suspected I had “given” my body to someone else, or the random guys I befriended only to learn through awkward outbursts that friendship wasn’t all they had wanted; my entire life has been plagued by guys thinking I owe them something…anything.
Hey wake up. I don’t owe you shit! I don’t owe my husband shit, and I’m married to him! So I certainly don’t owe you!
The only thing I owe anybody, male or female, is respect, and that can be quickly unearned by acting as though I owe you anything else.
For some reason, men are taught that they own this earth. It’s ridiculous. Just today I was the apathetic victor in a ridiculous stare-down with this guy who goes to the same mental health clinic as me. I mentioned him in my post about what I learned in the psych ward; he was my friend there, in the psych ward, but when we got out he began demanding my attention. When I declined hanging out with him a few times, he found another way to get me to agree to see him: He said that he would contribute a monologue to my theatrical production about addiction, but only if I met him in person and transcribed it because “he has autism.” He never explained that more fully and it’s just one of those things we’re not allowed to question, so I didn’t. Well, he got very aggressive about the time and place. He stopped asking me when and where to meet him, and began telling me when and where to meet him. When I got just a little cheeky, making it clear I wouldn’t stand for his controlling behavior, he blocked me on all of our connected social channels.
That was not the first time a guy who I considered an acquaintance, or a friend at best, flipped out when I did not acquiesce to his demands. And I doubt it will be the last.
But it should be. Guys, stop it. NO woman owes you anything. No matter what your relationship is to her, no matter how badly you want it from her, no matter how nicely you ask or act, she does not owe you anything.
Hear that? Say it with me:
Oh but hey, aren’t I bitching now? I bitch all the time. How can I be sick of bitching?
I’m not sick of bitching. I love bitching. Talking about my negative experiences is soothing. Talking about something that is bugging me helps lift some of the strain of the nuisance. Talking about something that has traumatized me helps lift some the pain and shame that accompanies it. Complaining is helpful. We all do it.
Here’s the problem: When a man complains, he is complaining.
When a woman complains, she is bitching, or whining, or bitchily whining (whinily bitching?)
Seriously, there have actually been studies done that show people are less likely to believe a female complainant. Even when reporting crimes-and I have experienced this firsthand-we are treated like we are the criminals. We have to defend that the thing happened, and that it wasn’t somehow our fault, before we can even get to filing an actual report. Why do you think that so few rapes are reported? Because they’re not happening? Ha! It’s because they’re not believed.
Female complaints are viewed with such contempt in this society that women are actually administered less pain killers than men when visiting Emergency Rooms, and have a more difficult time receiving a serious diagnoses, even when one is merited. This is not okay. Your belief that I am “bitching” because I’m “on my period” is affecting my health. Stop it.
4. The Pressure Of Expectations
Sure, everyone has expectations. Our parents have expectations of us. Our kids have expectations of us. Bosses, siblings, friends, enemies; everyone places expectations on each other. It’s a normal annoying thing that unites all of humanity.
Females, however, face some very specific sets of expectations which can cause us a lot of harm.
Those expectations vary slightly by culture, but each set of age groups faces a similar set of expectations, at least in every culture that I have been exposed to. If you come from a culture with radically different expectations of females, or no expectations specific to females (??!!) please share it in the comments!!!!
As far as I can see, females are expected to behave nicely, look cute, wear frilly dresses, and just looooove princesses when they are kids. A lot of girls do love those things. I loved dresses and princesses. Both of my daughters love dresses and princesses. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing wrong with a girl who doesn’t like them either. Or with a girl who also likes trains and mud, which both of my girls adore too. They would both probably happily slather mud over their pretty dresses, craft mud crowns to wear in their hair, and proclaim themselves the princesses of dirt. And that’s okay. Well maybe not all of that is totally okay, but you get the idea.
When we female peeps get older, we have other expectations held against us. And they can become very confusing. We are expected to open our legs for men, but not so many men, because then we’re sluts. It has to be some men though, or at least women..we have to fuck, basically, sometimes, or else we’re prudes.
Then for those of us who become mothers, it all really hits the fan. Suddenly we are faced with an assault of expectations. Some of those expectations even come from feminism. We are expected to be doting mothers. But we’re also expected to provide for our family financially. But we’re also expected to have a clean home. But we’re also expected to cook healthy food. But we’re also expected to spend time with our kids. But we’re also expected to know and fulfill ourselves. If we aren’t engaging in self-care, we are bad mothers now, for godssake! It’s insane! If a mother fails to fulfill any of her motherly expectations, she becomes a female pariah. I should know, because I did.
I raised my son for two years, but when I was twenty-one, I placed him in the care of family. It was not an easy choice. Even though I had been forced to get pregnant and forced to carry the baby to term, and even though I had never planned to be a mother, much less one at nineteen when all I really wanted to do was finish college and write the nine novels I had planned; despite all that, I really loved my son. More than I thought I could love anyone, especially after all of the abuse I endured. I tried very hard to be a single mother; I tried to be everything to my boy.
But I was traumatized. The level of abuse The Ex perpetrated on me was insane. Literally, that man is insane. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder around the same time my baby boy was diagnosed with autism. Up until that point, I had been struggling to hang on. I had been dealing with flashbacks, depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and suicidality, and through all of it I had been trying to care for a child. But the chaos of fresh PTSD is totally at odds with the routine necessitated by autism. I could have been selfish. I could have kept my beloved baby at home, and I could have continued to receive the praise and glowing esteem that was quickly yanked from me when I gave my baby away. Instead, I did what I felt was right as a mother, and I placed him with more established and emotionally stable family members so that he could have the best possible chance at life.
I made the right decision. Some of the other choices I made around that time were not the best, but the decision to give my son his best chance at life was a good one. I did not fulfill my motherly expectation, however, which would have been to raise my child in my home by myself no matter what the emotional or financial expense. And now I am paying for it. This is the line of assault The Ex is using against me in our custody battle: I am a bad mother. I “abandoned” Robin by not caring for him full time alone. He should be taken from the home where he is thriving, because I am a bad mom.
The irony is that The Ex really did abandon him. The Ex harmed him by beating and raping me in front of him and by strangling me when I was holding him until I lost control of my limbs and dropped him. Then he departed from his life for eight full years before suddenly petitioning for custody on the grounds that I abandoned him by placing him with family and continuing to be actively involved in his life.
I….don’t really know what to say to that….
This case has yet to be determined, but it would not surprise me if the court lent this argument some kind of credence, despite the blatant, absurd sexism behind it. It would not surprise me one little bit.
5. Birth Control
Someone made a period joke in my peer support group this week (please don’t make period jokes) and then the leader tried to mediate it with some kind of serious talk about periods. He is one of those guys who goes beyond just not saying crappy stuff, but actually tries to amend other people’s crappy talk; it’s super awkward. Anyway…he said something about women having periods for two weeks. And everyone went insane! It was all guys except me and one other female, by the way. And all these guys went nuts!
“Oh man, I hope she’s not having her period for two weeks!”
“Two weeks? More like three or four days. Whoa.”
“Who has their period for two weeks?”
It was actually really amazing to see all of these depressed, lethargic guys get so excited about periods.
But eventually I had to break it up and say “I have periods for two weeks.”
Not naturally. Naturally, I have periods for, yeah, three or four days. Really light cramp-free ones. But since I started Nexplanon and stopped breastfeeding full time, I have begun to have really heavy, crampy two week periods. That is two weeks of heavy blood loss, while having to care for kids, and just generally human. It sucks big time.
I have also started getting acne, which is a problem that I never had before. My sex drive has lowered, which sucks because I am a sexual assault survivor and already had issues in that department. Thing is, I could get the alien-technology implants removed, but all birth control has side effects. All of it.
And I am freakishly fertile, so the side effect of taking nothing is having yet another baby when I am far from ready for that.
If I could come up with the funds, which is an issue all its own, I could have a tubal ligation. But why are my only options massive side effects, invasive surgery, or a hoard of children? Oh yeah, or condoms. But what married person uses those? That’s one of the reasons to get married, or at least committed! Condoms suck, we all know that.
Supposedly there is a male birth control being developed for the mass market. I’ll believe it when I see it. Til then, birth control get its spot on the list.
6. Catty Competition
This one will please the lurking sexists. This is one that us females perpetrate upon each other. It does have its foundations in sexist media and rape culture, but let’s just focus on the behavior that needs to be changed, for now.
We spend so much time comparing ourselves, trying to decide who is prettier than the other, trying to ensure that “I” am the most desirable. When women don’t conform to these standards, when we choose to dress ourselves in ways that do not conform to the male gaze and its version of beauty, we are ridiculed and “othered.”
As a bisexual woman the phenomenon of female competition is especially awkward because I’ll often find myself simultaneously envying a woman, and being attracted to her. How confusing is that? No wonder I’ve never “gone all the way” with a female…
We are constantly comparing ourselves to one another. Even when one group of females decides to empower themselves, it is often by putting down another group of women. I know Meghan Trainor has already gotten plenty of crap for her song “All About That Bass” but really: When are we going to stop framing our ideas of female beauty around pleasing men and putting each other down? I know that “fat shaming” is a real thing, and that heavy girls face difficulties I just can’t understand, but when I was a waifish teenager with itty bitty titties, I felt worthless, and every time someone told me to “go eat a sandwich” it reinforced that. I made an entire post about why I stayed in an abusive relationship, so I can’t blame it all on body shaming, but my force-fed bodily insecurities definitely played a role.
Female beauty is inherent. It radiates from the inside out. Despite what your favorite pop culture trash mag says, you don’t look better around women who are just a little “uglier” than you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway. If the guy you think is cute doesn’t think the same back, it’s not because your best friend has better hair than you. You’re just not his type.
Truth is, all of this media-endorsed body shaming, fix-yourself, catty-comparison culture is a sly trick to keep women down. If we are all obsessed with what makeup we wear, and who looks better than whom, then we are not going to fight for the amendment of domestic violence laws, slimming the wage gap, or correcting the fiercely sexist mentality that got Donald Trump pseduo elected.
7. Not Having Enough Space
Now I’m not talking about manspreading, although that’s a thing and it is annoying. But manspreading is a symptom of this category, not the category as a whole.
Men are raised to believe they are entitled to space. Whether that is physical space, like the seat on a bus or train; temporal space, like the majority of a conversation; or emotional space, as in prioritizing their needs within the context of a relationship, men feel entitled to space.
I don’t think they’re completely wrong. I think that all people are entitled to enough space to be comfortable and have their needs met. This gets frustrating, however, when men feel entitled to more space than women, and it manifests in acts like manspreading, interrupting female voices in conversation, or expecting and accepting care and affection without reciprocating it in full.
The problem is exacerbated because women, in turn, feel entitled to less space.
Yes, it’s true. We feed into this phenomenon. I’m not “victim blaming” here. I’m saying this is a systemic problem which requires attention and work from all parties. Men need to stop taking up so much space. Male bodies need to start giving female bodies more room to participate in life. Females in turn need to start taking up more space.
We are constantly being told to make ourselves smaller. Diet. Slim down. Drop a dress size. While those messages are harmful to our body image for obvious reasons, they are also harmful to our self-identity as a whole. If we are constantly being told to make ourselves smaller, we are constantly being told that we don’t fit. There is not enough space for our female bodies. We need to accommodate the world, rather than the other way around.
Well that’s bullshit, and I’ve had enough. There is more than enough space in this world for girls and women to exist comfortably.
8. Having To Be Tough
Once upon a time, I was a little girl who loved to write poetry, play dress-up in frills, get hugs from her mommy and daddy, and sleep with a mountain of stuffed bunnies.
Then I became a teenager and I decided to go the rocker route. And rocker turned into psuedo-punk, and I began experimenting with drugs and hanging out with street people. And it would have been just a phase (well not my love of grunge, punk, and rock music, or my empathy and respect for homeless people) but I became ensnared by an older guy who decided to severely abuse me and give me PTSD.
Now I have serious problems. I can’t go out so much with my friends. I don’t even really have many friends anymore, because socializing is an inherent part of friendship and I’m not good at that. I shy away from touch. I don’t readily give or accept affection. And I have to endure a lot of hardship.
People are constantly saying, “You’re tough. You’re strong. You can do it.”
I guess that’s true, and I guess they’re trying to be supportive. But I don’t want to be tough all the time.
Why can’t I be a tough strong female, and also get cuddled and wear frilly dresses and get nice surprises every once in a while? Why can’t strong girls get flowers? I want-I need to put down the weight of my past every once in a while. I need to be soft sometimes. Strong females need pampering too.
Our society has created a polarization in which a female can either be an ingenue, and be treated delicately, or she can be a warrior, and be lauded for her strength and left to her own devices. Well, I’m here to tell you that warriors need love too.
Awesome female fashion designer Stella Rose St Clair gave me permission to quote this amazing little poetic story she posted on her Facebook account. I think it sums up the female experience quite nicely:
Biking home though Bushwick in an aggressive rainstorm at 3:30 am is totally weird.
One well meaning guy left his drunk friends on a smoking stoop to run along side me for a block and then hugged me at the traffic light and told me “you can do it”!
An orthodox man pulled up in a mini van and tried to awkwardly hit on me.
A nerdy guy also on a bike rode behind me asking if I wanted to get high and when I told him I wanted to get DRY he said “awwwwww…” and rode away defeated.
A hobo laughed at me.
Somehow my makeup stayed on the whole time.
So there you have it. Eight everyday phenomena that female people put up with and hate.
Are you a lover of women? A woman yourself? Leave a comment telling me what you think. What would you add? How will YOU actively fight sexism?
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