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People Think Women Lie Because That’s What We Teach Our Children

Posted: 09/11/2014 2:21 pm EDT Updated: 09/11/2014 2:59 pm EDT
WENDY DAVIS

“Portions of the post first appeared in Role Reboot.

In her recently-released memoir, Democratic nominee for Texas governor Wendy Davis writes about two abortions she had many years ago. A National Review Online contributor would like her to prove it. Like Erin Gloria Ryan, who wrote about this yesterday in Jezebel, I won’t link to this article, which included the following sentence, “The Davis campaign did not respond to questions about whether Davis’s highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.”

This “wink, wink — we all know women lie” masked as journalistic concern isn’t just about Davis, but all of us. Words like “highly suspect” “evidence” and “verification,”used in circumstances like this, leverage a diffuse and atavistic suspicion of women.

Women’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, in legislatures, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices and in our political system. People don’t trust women… not to be bossespilots, employees. Last year, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly don’t believe women who request flextime. Until relatively recently, in order to hedge against the idea that women lie, many U.S. police departments had “corroboration requirements” for rape reports, unlike any other crime. Pakistan’s controversial Hudood Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery. Bias is particularly pronounced when it comes to women’s bodies and who does what with them.

Several months ago, a man in France was arrested for raping his 14-year old daughter. She’d gone to her school counselor and then the police, but they needed “hard evidence.” The recently-revealed Rotherham abuse crimes, in which more than 1,400 girls were subjected to rape and other violence, were largely enabled by authorities who thought girls didn’t deserve to be believed. They aren’t alone. Studies show thatcollege students and, even more disturbingly, police officers, believe that up to 50% of women lie when they accuse someone of rape, despite wide-scale evidence and multi-country studies that show the incidence of false rape reports to be in the 2%-8% range. As I will forever point out, as late as 2003, people jokingly referred to Philadelphia’s sex crimes unit as “the lying bitch unit.”

Everyone lies. However, people expect different kinds of lies from men and women. Women are frequently considered trustworthier except when lies include another person, in which case confidence in the veracity of what women say plummets. In other words, women can be trusted to talk about themselves, but not anything else. Even when people surveyed say they think women are more honest as individuals,despite themselves, they cannot trust them as leaders. In Davis’ case, she’s not even extended this courtesy, being believed when she is recounting the facts of her own life.

You know what a memoir is? Testimony.

The words testimony, testify, testis, testicle, attest, intestate, testament and contest are related etymologically. Yup. That, historically, you could not give testimony if you did not posses the balls to do so is not a metaphor. Apparently, men in ancient Rome cupped each others’ testicles, as a sign of trust and truthfulness, when taking oaths. Today, men no longer do this, at least not that I’m aware of, nor do they place their right hands on their testicles in order to swear to tell the truth in court any longer. (Someone will tell me that I’m lying, in which case they should contact theUniversity of Chicago.)

While this delicious historical tidbit may seem like a quaint oddity, and it’s fair to assume that most people are not overtly linking men’s crown jewels with the truth, the fact remains that we live with this legacy. This semantic cluster provides interesting insights into who we, culturally, choose to believe and how we, systemically, regulate narratives and prioritize experiences. There is a certain self-fulfilling ideological logic to the notion that the vast majority of women are, quite literally, not fit to have their words taken at face value or their concerns taken seriously.

Take courtrooms, and their proxies — media, school rape adjudication boards and public judgment. Myths about gender and truth don’t stay at home when jurors, judges and journalists go to work. In courtrooms, not only are men considered more credible, but they are particularly thought more credible if they are talking aboutcomplex subjects. Are Wendy Davis’ abortions, and the ethical and moral considerations that led to them, complex? Conservatives in particular have a hard time recognizing women’s moral competence.

As Dahlia Lithwick so richly documented a few years ago, the GOP’s destructive, ruinous anti-woman “social policy” agenda is being pursued under a rubric that insists women need “permission slips” and “waiting periods.” The government shutdown last year? Conservatives holding the country hostage because they wanted to add anti-abortion “conscience clause” language to legislation. Whose consciences? All the lying, morally incompetent and untrustworthy men who need abortions and health care?

It’s not just what women say that people find in-credible, but studies also show that women are allowed an exceedingly narrow band of how they are allowed to say it. If a woman expresses righteous anger, she is less likely to be believed. If she expresses herself in a combative way in response to a hectoring lawyer or reporter, she is going to be disliked. If she is silent, she will be distrusted. If she talks too much, she is thought to be making stories up. If she is a woman of color, well, all of that on steroids plus some. What are Jezebels and welfare queens if not, first and foremost, myths about liars?

People don’t just turn 18 and start doubting what women say, their competence or authority. This struck me clearly three years ago, when, in fly-on-the-wall fashion of parent drivers everywhere, I listened while a girl in the back seat of my car described how angry she was that her parents had stopped allowing her to walk home alone just because a girl in her neighborhood “claimed she was raped.” When I asked her if there was any reason to think the girl’s story was not true, she said, “Girls lie about rape all the time.”  She was 14 and very sure about this.

So, how exactly are we teaching children that women lie? I mean, clearly, most people aren’t saying “girls and women lie, kids, that’s just the way God built them.”

We don’t need to though. It’s in the air. Lessons about women’s untrustworthiness are in our words, pictures, art and memory. Women are overwhelmingly portrayed in media as flawedsupplementalornamental objects, or unattainably perfect. It’s easy to find examples of girls and women entertainingly cast as liars and schemers. For example, on TV we have Pretty Little LiarsGossip GirlDon’t Trust The Bitch in Apartment 23Devious Maids, and, because its serpent imagery is so symbolically basic to feminized evil, American Horror Story: Coven. Backstabbing women are astaple of reality TV.

Movies, too. PG and G-rated movies are filled with “women lie” precursors to their R-rated versions. Tangle‘s “Mother Knows Best” is a delightful ditty that takes particular aim at… mothers. Or, how bout Shark Tale, which features the song “Gold Digger,” a catchy tune that kids sing along to that describes women as scheming, thieving, greedy and materialistic? The vast majority of mad people in films are untrustworthy women and the entire Film Noir genre is filled with manipulative gals. What does the failure of most films to even allow two women to be named or speak to one another about anything other than the male protagonists say to kids?

In the music industry, hip-hop most frequently comes in for well-deserved criticism, but there is no shortage of music lyrics in all genres that convey distrust of and disdain for women. Pop culture has nothing on religion, though.

Here’s a two-for-one example! Delilah, a renowned biblical avatar of female untrustworthiness, made it into the lyrics of JT Money’s “Somethin’ ‘Bout Pimpin'”:

I got a problem with this punk a** b*tch I know
Ol’no good skanlezz switch out ho
An untrustworthy b*tch like Deliliah
Only thing she good for is puttin’ d*ck inside her

Ew. However, line for line, this is an updated version, albeit more catchy, of:

Amongst all the savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman.”

Women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.”

What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. One must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil.”

I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Honestly, what’s the difference? While most religious leaders aren’t going around spouting overtly denigrating opinions (does calling us “penis homes” count?) about women, many, through default and tradition, casually and uncritically expose children to religious texts, systems and cultures rooted in misogyny.

The United States is among the most religious of developed countries. There’s a straight line between catchy, contemporary expressions of the distrust of women andthese guys, who shaped the Judeo-Christian canon, and who continue to shape children’s imaginations. As a matter of fact, the quotes above represented a tradition that some consider an improvement for women. There is a strong family friendly heritage of sexism here. And, unlike pop culture, religious misogyny that inculcates children with a disrespect for women’s words is tied to institutional power in ways that mean women continue to be impoverished and die, including because women are denied access to safe, legal abortions when they need them.

Most importantly though, when it comes to religion, the dangerous and destructive effect that the everyday ritual silencing of women has on children, and what they think about women, cannot be overstated. Personally, I won’t allow my children to participate in religious conventions were women are barred from speaking as leaders. If women aren’t allowed to speak with ministerial authority, it’s because they cannot be trusted to. Children aren’t stupid, they’re just young.

A seemingly simple statement, with its barely contained innuendo, such as “only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions,” ripples widely and resonates deeply in the cultural imagination. When you see this language, these ideas, don’t tolerate the insult. Name it.

As Ryan said, “Are you sure you want to do this? Is this the message you want to send? …This seems wrong.””

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Colleen Clark’s Body Image Comic Reminds Us That Our Bodies Don’t Define Us

Colleen Clark’s Body Image Comic Reminds Us That Our Bodies Don’t Define Us

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/24/2013 5:07 pm EDT  |  Updated: 10/01/2013 11:15 am EDT

“We struggle with it every day: the conflict between our belief that women should celebrate their bodies and the constant public criticism of women’s appearances that communicates the exact opposite message.

So when we came across this incredible comic drawn by Colleen Clark that deals with that ongoing battle, we had to share it.

Clark, a 20-year-old Illustration student at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio, completed the comic over a 16-week semester. “I love the phrase ‘write what you know,’ so I chose to write about what I know best: feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and hateful of my body,” Clark told the Huffington Post in an email.

Clark found the second page of the comic particularly hard to draw. “That giant naked woman is a representation of my own body and how I see it,” she said. “I knew people would be disgusted by that drawing, but I look a lot more like that woman than the women in the thousands of ads I see every day. I needed to draw it for me and for the majority of women in the world who look more like her than supermodels.”

Weight stigma is currently very common in the U.S. Fat-shaming is practiced publicly, and overweight and obese Americans are often treated like second-class citizens, subjected to prejudice from employers and healthcare professionals. A 2011 study found that women feel vulnerable to weight stigma in their everyday interactions and relationships, and in 2012, 46 percent of participants in a fat-bias study said they would rather give up one year of life than be obese. Thirty percent said they would rather be divorced than obese.

“[I]t has been difficult to draw and to talk about, because of how close this topic is to my heart,” Clark wrote on her Tumblr. “I really hope people can relate to it at the very least, and that it can help someone think of their bodies a little differently at the most.”

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

All images belong to Colleen Mary Clark and are reproduced here with her permission.”

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10 Everyday Sexisms and What Do You Do About Them

 
Posted: 07/31/2014 4:44 pm EDT Updated: 4 minutes ago
CONFIDENT WOMAN

This post is updated from an earlier version that appeared on Role Reboot.

Research shows that most people don’t see sexism even when it’s right in front of their noses.

“Women endorse sexist beliefs, at least in part, because they do not attend to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives,” wrote Julia C. Becker and Janet K. Swim, the authors of this study about the invisibility of sexism. “Many men not only lack attention to such incidents but also are less likely to perceive sexist incidents as being discriminatory and potentially harmful for women.”

How do you think about and respond to these 10 examples?

1. Religious sexism and discrimination. Do you really believe women are incapable of religous authority? This ritualized silencing of women is practiced by practically all major religions which, with minor exceptions, bar girls and women from ministerial leadership. That means access to the divine is mediated exclusively by men and their speech. This is legally unchallenged discrimination and its effects go way beyond places and practices of worship. From the moment a girl realizes that she is not invited to participate in clerical rituals because she is a girl, she learns that her voice is powerless and not respected. So do the boys around her. But, hey, at least we pay to undermine the public good through tax credits and subsidies. What if you objected? And stopped supporting this discrimination?

2. Double standards — lots of them. We live with an infinite number of hierarchy-building double standards based solely on gender, which restrict women’s freedom and impair our ability to lead secure, rewarding, autonomous lives. 50 of these are explored in Jessica Valenti’s book, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut. They range from expecting girls to exhibit more self-control and politeness to grossly different treatment of men and women when they age and when they use their bodies to express themselves, to distorted ideas about boys and girls “natural” capabilities.

3.  Chivalry, otherwise know as benevolent sexism, is part of our “manners.” A man who opens a door for you and doesn’t mind if you do the same for him is one thing. But, one who categorically refuses your offer speaks to a much bigger problem. Benevolent sexism, the kind that is passed off as “protective” and “gentlemanly,” is a core characteristic of how masculinity (and by binary contrast, femininity) are constructed in conservative cultures. Studies have shown that themore entitled people are, the more likely they are to hold sexist beliefs — which says an awful lot about #WomenAgainstFeminism. It’s defined as “the negative consequences of attitudes that idealize women as pure, moral, pedestal-worthy objects of men’s adoration, protection, and provision.” A lot of this starts in childhood and comes under the mantle of teaching girls and boys to be “ladies” and “gentleman” instead of just civil and kind human beings who care for one another equally. In other words, what many people think of as chivalry, gentlemanly and “real man” behavior. The negative effects on women are well documented, particularly in the workplace.

There is a well-documented correlation between benevolent sexism and women’s acceptance of biased gender roles. Take the ways in which denial of the wage gap is expressed. For example, Phyllis Schlafly recently announced that closing the pay gap (she admitted it was real) would result in women being unable to find husbands. Ideas like this are deeply related to systemic support for an ideal worker who is male and a single breadwinner. That idea is a recurring theme of conservative policies about work and gender.

Our not seeing sexism where it is evident enables people with power to speculate out loud that “money is more important for men” and not lose their jobs for incompetence. I want you to imagine a political today saying money is more important for Jewish people. Or Black people. Or tall people. The pay gap amounts to $431,000 over a lifetime. Men make less than women in only seven of 534 job types, so, of course, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander recently demanded to know what gender gap legislation would do to help them. Benevolent sexists are definitively hostile to women’s workplace success. If we don’t challenge this very quiet form of sexism then we make sure it pays, but only a very small portion of the population. How much is chivalry worth to you? Because you can, after all, open doors on your own. Giving yourself a raise however, is impossible.

4. The high costs of “staying safe.” Every day women absorb, and are expected to pay, the costs of the safety gap. This gap costs us time and money and limits our movement. It can limit our employment opportunities, because some jobs can become very dangerous in an instant if you are a woman. Just ask reporterstruck driversmigrant workersactivists.

Ask yourselves, men, do you feel safe on your neighborhood streets? Do you choose where and when you shop or commute carefully? Do you have parking strategies, like not parking near vans? Do you use your keys as a weapon or take other similar measures? Do you avoid paying for a gym because you can exercise outside with no problems? We teach our children that these things are “normal” and to be expected. Talk about the costs to you with the people around you.

5.  Sexism in media is entertaining. “Family-friendly” media marginalizes and objectifies girls and women, creates damaging ideals of masculinity for boys, and sustains mythologies that support a violent, male-dominated status quo. Not only do we live with this media, but most people, genuinely otherwise concerned with their children’s well-being and future livelihoods, don’t actively challenge entertainment companies or related media to do better. When you see a movie and there are 20 men for every one woman (usually just one or two) on screen, do you say something? Do you think about the fact that that’s 20 times the number of onscreen jobs for men than for women? Or what that imbalance means on and off screen?

6. Women pay more for “our” products just because we are women and considered not “standard.”  A Jezebel article put it like this a few years ago: “Being born a woman is a major financial mistake.” Marie Claire published a similar list. Until recently gender pricing for insurance, which resulted in women paying up to 31% more for apples-to-apples coverage, was perfectly legal. Think I’m kidding? Here’s a 10 pac of Bic Cristal ball point pens for $5.89. Here’s the $10.14, six-pack version “for her.” Stop buying this sh*t.

7. Our language is profoundly biased, related to our social structure and affects the way we think. We pervasively use male generics and that has negative effects. I do it all the time — I can’t seem to break the “guys” habit. We still use male words, usually to denote positive categories, like “mankind,” but female terms for negative ones, “hos,” and “sluts.” We don’t, for example, sit kids down and talk to them about the social harms of “b*tch,”even when used affectionately. Women are routinely referred to as “girls” (childlike and dependent) and men “men.” This is part of a larger problem with the infantilization of adult women. We’re more likely to be referred to as animals, and with a purpose. It goes on and on. But, words are important — if only because they show the dynamic interplay between ideas. This may sound trivial until you consider that Japan has gendered terms for all three pronouns, whereas the Nordic countries are trying to introduce gender-neutral ones. Why does this matter? Well, Japan is the least gender equitable place when it comes to men and women’s labor and the Nordic countries the most. I’m not suggesting causality, just significant cultural correlations that we are not immune to.

8. We engage in prejudice against men that inhibits equality. I’ve seen women take babies away from their fathers in parks in order to change their diapers because “men aren’t good” at that sort of thing. Or maybe you’ve listened to men call themselves their children’s “babysitters,” or sat through television ads that portray men as incompetent idiots, slobs, sexist dolts or children when it comes to taking care of domestic life. More dangerous, however, is the repetition of rape and abuse myths that endanger boys and men by perpetuating discriminatory ideas about who gets raped — drunk girls who ask for it or make the mistake of stumbling into dark alleys.

9. We pretend street harassment, the public regulation women and LGTB people either doesn’t happen or doesn’t matter. I’d warrant that very few people talk to their daughters or non-gender conforming sons about street harassment before it happens. The effects of this harassment and really can’t be underestimated.

10. We let our schools teach sexist lessons and perpetuate gender hierarchical systems of organization. First, our education system erases the contributions of women in history and fails to provide an accurate portrayal of the past or sufficient role models. Girls go into our schools with assuredness and ambition, but they don’t leave that way.

Second, schools are filled with social norms that, if left unexplored, undermine diversity and equality, for example, dress codes enforcement.

Third, many remain structurally based on complementary models for men and women, from boards, which tend to be run by more men (because, you know, that’s where the hard job of money is done) to everyday volunteering and PTA involvement(mainly, still, women). School administration and coaching continue to be male dominated in an industry, education, that is made up mostly of women. So, children are immersed in educational environments that continue to sideline women’s historical labor, that sexualize girls with outdated rules about appearance and morality, that provide gender hierarchal examples of social structures and, for good measure, where classroom dynamics have been shown to fail at fairness in ways that hurt both boys and girls.

By the time boys and girls leave high school and enter college, boys are twice as likely to say they are prepared to run for office. I know hardworking individual teachers trying their hardest to offset these effects, but as institutions and cultures, many of our schools remain profoundly patriarchal. What if you challenged your school to make paying attention to core gender issues a priority instead of dancing around symptoms like homophobic and mean girl bullying, math problems, boy crises and more?

***

This is a short list. Setting aside the real physical harms that people can and do encounter, living with everyday sexism is like fighting a low-grade infection for your whole life. When women take note of sexism during their daily lives — for example, talking openly about street harassment or workplace bias — and name it for what it is, they stop accepting it as “normal.” For female politicians dealing with biased commentary and political opponents all too comfortable in the boys’ club of the public sphere, openly confronting sexism works. When men start to notice, when they think about the differences, they can empathize. Its the first step to understanding, as Jamie Utt put it, that “as it currently exists, masculinity is fundamentally an expression of patriarchal oppression.” But, before this can happen, women have to tell their stories and register their legitimate objections and people have to listen and understand why its important. Prevailing cultural attitudes continue to minimize gendered harms.

However, women are clearly in a double bind because calling out sexism can result in real penalties. A recent study very depressingly showed what we all know: Women who advocate for equality, in the workplace, for example are actively penalized for doing so.

The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness and this social politeness prohibition is a significant impediment to positive, everyday change. When a man at a neighborhood party comments openly and rudely on my breasts or when another in a meeting interrupts me incessantly, it is me, not them, who is considered hostile, “strident,” and unpleasant for saying, “My face is up here,” or “Would you please stop interrupting me?”

The fact is, we are engaged in a tidal process of awareness-raising that requires everyone to look at the role that sexism plays in their lives. Are you acknowledging it when it happens, and what do you do about it if you do?”

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Posted: 07/30/2014 3:25 pm EDT Updated: 07/30/2014 7:59 pm EDT

“After a United Nations-run school sheltering more than 3,000 Palestinians was shelled early Wednesday, UN official Chris Gunness could not contain his grief while on camera with Al Jazeera Arabic.

“The rights of Palestinians, and even their children, are wholesale denied… and its appalling,” Gunness, spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told Al Jazeera Arabic from Jerusalem. The interviewer appears to thank him for appearing, upon which Gunness breaks down and weeps.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health said at least 17 people were killed and 90 wounded by the school shelling. An Israeli military spokesman told the New York Times that Israeli troops did not target UN facilities, but did respond to Palestinian militant fire from nearby the school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

The White House and the United Nations Secretary General separately condemned the attack. In an official statement Wednesday, the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Kranhenbuhl wrote: “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.””

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8 Science-Backed Reasons Why Dads Deserve More Credit

8 Science-Backed Reasons Why Dads Deserve More Credit

Parenting is often seen as an innate female right, privilege, and obligation. It’s not.

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8 Things Middle-Aged Women Think About Far More Than Whether They’re Still F*ckable by Middle-Aged Men

8 Things Middle-Aged Women Think About Far More Than Whether They’re Still F*ckable by Middle-Aged Men

by 

Posted: 07/11/2014 4:58 pm EDT Updated: 07/11/2014 4:59 pm EDT

“Tom Junod’s recent Esquire article on the sexual viability of 42-year-old women would be just silly if it weren’t for it being part and parcel of the “new” misogyny taking hold in both American culture and American politics. When white men still make the rules, get pissed off when they can’t make the rules and punish women for wanting to make their own rules, well, Houston, we have a problem. The GOP denies a war on women at the same time it pushes for legislation on women’s reproductive rights that would take us back to the ’50s. Then they insult women who push back. Rush Limbaugh says we are all sluts because we want the same sexual freedom he (and other men) enjoys and Fox News mostly wants us to sit down and shut up, if we aren’t one of their interchangeable blonde talking heads.

And yet what Junod wants us to be concerned with is whether men like him want to sleep with women over 40. He’s a 55-year-old man who deigns to consider bedding some famous 42-year-old women, but only if they are movie stars and have been doing their pilates. And he clearly feels bad not just about our necks, but about our whole fading beauty. So he’s willing to f*ck us one last time before we disappear.

But here’s the thing. We don’t give a sh*t about Tom Junod. We don’t give a sh*t about Rush Limbaugh. We DO give a sh*t about the legislators who are trying mightily to take back what small rights we have won, but we don’t care a whit if those legislators like us. Or if they think we are too loud or aggressive or even just downright bitchy.

Sure, we pass by a mirror and sometimes don’t recognize ourselves. Yes, time is flying; it is fleeting and yes, our youth is long behind us. And, yes, many of us still work out and try and eat right and put on mascara before we leave the house. But what really concerns us? Lots of things that have nothing to do with men or whether they continue to desire us.

If we have children, we care about getting them grown; if they are already grown, we care about keeping them safe. We care about our grandchildren born and the ones we wish for. We wonder what kind of world they will grow up in and when we look 100 years into the future we are terrified: by climate change and war, by famine and oppression, by injustice and inequality.

If we have girls we worry about their safety. We wonder how much to teach them about the ugliness of the world, the cruelty of men and boys. We worry about how to protect them and arm them to protect themselves — without scaring them to death. If we have boys, we struggle with how to teach them respect and kindness and decency toward their own sex and the opposite one. We fear for the violence that is under the surface of all our children and we think about ways to tamp it down and give it constructive outlet.

We care about our parents and how they are aging. We struggle with how to take care of them, if we can pay for their care, if they can live with us and not drive us crazy. We worry about their health and their meds. Some of us continue to try and make peace with our parents despite years of abuse or neglect.

We worry about our old age. Will we have enough money to provide for us if we live another 30 or 40 years? Where would we like to live and how? Who, if anyone, will take care of us? If we are sick we wonder: will our family be able to go on without us? What joys will we miss by dying? How can we go with as little pain as possible. Will we inherit Alzheimer’s or heart disease or something else?

We wonder about our partners. If they will live as long as we do. If we can sustain love and kindness for that long, if those partners will be there for us. Some of us are trying to leave old or tired or abusive relationships and we wonder: Can we make it alone at this age? What are our chances of finding companionship again? Or love? Or even one last grand passion? And if we find that grand last passion we will, yes, worry about how our bodies measure up; we will obsess, if only for a few weeks, about the way we may have aged. But then we will remember (our friends will remind us) that no one gets to be 42 or 52 or 62 without scars and bumps and wrinkles and lumps and stretch marks and age spots and that that person in bed next to us has the same fears and the same imperfections.

We think about our friends and how much we love them, how much we need them, how much we want to be there for them as they travel through middle age. We hope we can give them something of ourselves without using ourselves up. We hope they can cheerfully and kindly listen to us b*tch about our children and our parents and our partners and money and time and the world and that we can do the same for them. We worry about them getting sick and dying because we have been through that before, already, and it’s hard and sad and ugly.

We wonder if we will have enough time to do the things we want to do, if we should change jobs or careers, start a business, or stay home and take care of our children and our parents. We think about books we would like to read and places we would like to see.

And we worry about nameless, faceless fears, the ones that keep us up at night: the sudden storm or car accident or disease or attack which could in one fell swoop changes our lives overnight and forever.

And those are only the worries of the middle-class. Add to those worries poverty, prejudice, and wondering where our next meal might come from. How to pay the bills, who will take care of our kids when we go to work, if we can make that old car last a few more months or year. If we can see a doctor and pay for it.

So. Women worry about the future, money, children, friends, parents, work and life.

Women don’t worry about being f*ckable. We worry about being loveable: able to be loved, able to give love, able to maneuver in a world so lacking in it. Unless we are quite mad, we do not compare ourselves to movie stars or models. We do not care if middle-aged male white writers do not wish to include us in their list of f*ckable women. Unlike men like Junod, we women know full well what is fantasy and what is real. We see it every day when we head out into the world.”

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