Mad Men Women

There’ve been a lot of articles in the mainstream press addressing women’s anger. Reading them is both validating..and ironically, rage inducing. They please me because they’re long past due. They piss me off because women have been writing about their own anger for decades…yet those articles and essays and books, like women in general, have largely been ignored or negated, shoved under the rug and passed over.

Look, women’s anger–when it has even been allowed— has almost always been used against them. Mocking, shaming, creating caricatures around women’s anger? It’s used to shut down the conversation before it even begins. It’s the wrench in the patriarchal tool belt.

Angry women are almost never granted legitimacy. There is no framework for women’s anger. We are shushed, patted on the head, prescribed Valium, and repeatedly told to calm the hell down can’t you take a joke?

Mad women are shrill, we’re harpies, we’re hysterical. We are the cartoon figure of the feminist killjoy, an equality pushing dementor who sucks the joy and fun from every conversation; the racist caricature of the angry black woman; the crazy ex-girlfriend, the bunny-boiling anger of a scorned woman or the vengeful ex-wife. And so forth.

All of these caricatures? They exist to undermine the legitimacy of women’s anger. You see, if we make fun of it, we don’t have to take it seriously. If we don’t take it seriously, we can convince each other that women are just being whiny bitches out for revenge and avoid the real issues.

Pssst…..there’s a lot to be angry about. Legit.

And here comes the mainstream media riding in two centuries too late on a lame-ass pony reporting on women’s anger as if it’s a new trend.

Women’s anger is not a damn fidget spinner.

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I’ve borne witness to the anger of women young and old, but by far the most pissed off group I’ve seen is the one caught between maiden and crone. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, is my own peer group.

Women between forty and sixty who are coasting on a tidal wave of blind, white rage.

And still the media asks, gosh ladies, why are you so darn mad?

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Women my age–women who grew up with the idea that it was ALL possible (Sally Ride! Sandra Day O’Connor!), we were lulled into a false sense of equality. Abortion was decriminalized, birth control became available. Women took control of their bodies–and by doing so, their economic power.

And they have been fighting to retain control of both ever since. It is never-ending.

We were told the problem was not enough girls liking math, not enough girls going into engineering. We were told the problem was high powered jobs were difficult to maintain as a mother. We were told, in short, the problem was us.

The problem was never that girls weren’t good at math. The problem is not that women aren’t interested in science and tech, or sports, or medicine. The problem is not that women aren’t funny or innovative. The problem is not that women make up allegations against men because they’re liars or out for revenge. The problem is not that women are not ambitious enough to have both a career and a family.

The problem is not women.

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You want to know one reason why the wage gap exists? The real wage gap–the one which traces the income of women working over a lifetime vs. that of men. It doesn’t exist because women don’t want good, high-paying jobs, or that they don’t possess the innate skills to do those jobs, (and if you thought any of those were the reason–check your misogyny at the door, bro.)

Let’s look instead at how men have been traumatizing women right OUT of those jobs with their penises.

Men with their dicks out have been chasing women out of tech, out of publishing and film, out of academia, out of finance, out of comedy and Congress and sports and every, single, other industry until all we are left with is men. Men who control what we read and see and hear and buy and listen to and like.

Those same men then turn around and ask why women are under-represented in those fields. Some go as far as to promote themselves as allies to the feminist cause. Those same men? They control the narrative we’re fed about women. That’s right. How’s that for a double-bind mindfuck?

Have you never wondered why women cluster in certain fields? Sure, some of it has to do with trying to carve out a career around the demands of family care taking (and don’t even get me started on that), but a lot of it is this: when you are surrounded by other women, you’re relatively safe. Oh, you may not be safe from backstabbing and bullying, but you are safe from being chased out of your chosen career path because your boss can’t keep his fantasies or his dick zipped where it belongs.

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Do you want to know why so many women are so blindingly angry?

Women have been playing by the rules we’ve been given, rules written by men, and yet whenever we get close to the trophy, the rules suddenly change. It’s like reaching square 98 in Chutes and Ladders and landing on that damn chute which dumps you back at square 4 every, single time.

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This anger you’re sensing from women? The one behind hashtags like #MenAreCancelled? It’s a survival mechanism against a system which has left many women with no other choice but to fight their way out.

And women have reached the point where if they’re going down, they’re going down fighting.

They may not win, but they’ll make damn sure they have the skin of the patriarchy under their fingernails on the way down.

 

 

 

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An Apple a Day (My Love/Hate Affair with Technology)

soapboxAs a parent, there’s nothing I like better than a good black and white moral conundrum. In our house we call them Berenstain Bear moments, and just like Mama Bear, there is nothing I like better than a story with a glaringly obvious life lesson, an open/shut case of right vs. wrong all tied up with an ethical bow at the end. I live for them. Of course life, let alone parenting, would be easy peasy if everything was a Berenstain Bear moment. Unfortunately it’s not.

Recently I’ve found myself standing on a (presumed) moral high ground shouting hoarsely into the nether. And whist up there on my soap box on top of my high horse at the highest point of said moral high ground, I realized that I am out of my depth.

It’s not often as a mother that I admit that. I am a hard-core believer in common sense parenting by the gut. Usually I have a pretty good sense of what is acceptable to me as a parent. If it falls on the unacceptable side of the fence, it doesn’t take long for me to scramble up to my pulpit where I will pontificate and preach–to whoever is listening–in my loud, American, children’s theatre trained voice. My voice is one of backyards and big skies. It is not meant, as my husband will tell you, for high ceilinged apartments in a country where silence is a national pastime.

It is no secret how I feel about screens, particularly iPads and video games. I hate them. Every maternal instinct in me wants to hurl every Apple product we own (and we have a fair number) out the window at times. I want to write long scathing letters to the late Steve Jobs. Screw you, Apple Man, for making so many cute, affordable gadgets that I now have to constantly battle with my kids about.

Allow me this rather lengthy piece of vanity, for there are so many factors at play here that the only way I can sort out my feelings is by sitting down and writing about it.

I don’t want to escape technology. Recently our broadband was down for nearly 10 days and it was me (me!) who complained about it the most. I missed my online thesaurus, being able to do my online grocery order, return emails, etc. That said, I have never been a game person. I don’t play Candy Crush or Farmville or Angry Birds  I never played Space Invaders or Pac-Man as a kid. This could be down to my personality, (I don’t watch much television either), or it could be my sex. It could be both. I simply don’t get the fascination with video games. I don’t understand the appeal, don’t understand the pull, the draw, the addictiveness of it; and because of that, I am limited in my acceptance of it. I am wiling to admit that is a weakness on my part. I don’t have room in my brain for ‘let me just finish this race’ or ‘one more round’ or ‘I’m almost there….just….just….just.”high-horse

The problem is that I don’t have girls who have similar personalities to me. I have boys. I have boys who do like Angry Birds, MineCraft, Injustice, and sixteen others I would be hard pressed to name.  I have boys who like games who have access to technology. I have boys who like games with access to technology who are growing up in a generation when ‘social’ is automatically followed by ‘media’, when play dates are two boys sitting next to each other connected on a MineCraft server, where bowling is done on the Wii and when as a fellow mother and friend pointed out, game has changed from a noun to a verb.

Is this what boys do?  I guess. I don’t know. Do they? I’m out of my depth, lost my perspective. I feel, in my heart, that my kids should be outside in the sunshine, beating the shit out of one another as opposed to crafting (anything noun turned verb) things on a 10 inch screen.  Yet I let them.

I let them because they enjoy it. I let them because it is a cultural connection to their peers, the same way we used to discuss last nights’ episode of Happy Days (Did you see when Fonzi jumped the shark? Yeah, it all went downhill after that….). I let them because we live in an apartment in a foreign city. I let them because in Denmark it is dark at 3 pm in the winter. I let them because when they are plugged into whatever fantasy world they are addicted to at the moment, they are leaving me alone. Yes, I admit it. They are quiet. It is pleasant. So what’s the problem, right?

The problem is, it is at odds with my own feelings about what they should be doing. The problem is, it is too easy to bask in the relative quiet of two gaming boys. The problem is, even with limitations, they are always asking for more. The problem is that I end up resenting having to be the enforcer of arbitrary limits, limits which are constantly tested. The problem is, I resent the fact that they seem unable to be able to entertain themselves for more than ten minutes without asking if they can ‘just look something up’ or watch an instructional video on how to create a mini Lego Ben 10 Way Big or “listen” to music on the iPad.

I say it again, screw you Apple and your minions for making my job as a parent that much harder. No, it’s not fair to blame a company, but it feels good to say it.

stock-footage-targeting-red-apple-on-head-hit-by-arrow-colorful-background-close-up-zoom-out-clip-idMy oldest is going to be ten in a few months. He is slowly easing out of the imaginary play scenarios of the last decade (oh for a round of Playmobil Pirate football!) and is in the no man’s land between being a kid who is happy to play and being a teenager who is happy to do nothing. He’s not old enough to go out and do his own thing, but he’s growing out of his toys. He’s bored. Because of our decision to live the life we do—in a foreign city in an apartment–time with friends has to be arranged and managed rather than simply walking out the door and finding someone to play with. We don’t have a back yard for him to kick a ball around in or watch the clouds roll by. We have a beautiful park behind our building, but it’s no fun to be on your own when you’re a kid. So yes, I fall back on screens far more than makes me comfortable. And I struggle, because this seems to be the new normal.

Yet it feels wrong to me.

But what if I am wrong?

This is what happens when you lose perspective. I wish is were clear-cut. I wish it was a Berenstain Bear moment. Instead it is a gray area that I have trouble navigating myself,  yet here I am trying to guide my children through it. It is difficult to reconcile yourself to the fact that something you don’t feel comfortable with is something that you have to learn how to live with, regulate, and compromise about.

The technology conundrum. Sooner or later I feel in my bones that there is going to be an iRevolt, led by mothers. Probably mothers of boys. Who love MineCraft. Boys who take over our nouns and make them verbs. Oh, I don’t know. Just as likely that they’ll all end up becoming perfectly normal, contributing members of society who like to game a bit on the weekends.

It is a scenario I will gladly step down off of my high horse for. If only I could be sure.

 

Thanks to all my FB parents who contributed to this piece by sharing their own limitations and feelings about kids and iPads. And thanks, AG for calling attention to the travesty of turning nouns into verbs ;-).

For more of my techno-rants, you can see:

It’s the End of the World as We Know it

Balancing Acts

If You Give a Kid a Cookie

 

 

Like, Your 40s are Going to be Totally Awesome!

Photo: emmyz.net
Photo: emmyz.net

Michelle Obama recently turned 50 and headlines around the world declared that 50 is the new 40.  Doing the media outlet math, that means that in CNN years, I am really only 33.  Result!  All kidding aside, I enjoy being in my 40s.  Sure, there are bosoms to deal with and middle age spread to contend with. There are the beginnings of aches and pains and myopia and you start to Google strange symptoms on a daily basis.  There’s the Medusa like reality of menopause staring down at me.  But there are plenty of pros too:  wisdom, friendship, being comfortable in your own skin (more or less), more disposable income, better taste in shoes…

Recently a friend and I have been having a “who had the worst hair in high school” contest on Facebook.  Even reading between the Aquanet lines, it was hard to declare a winner.  The 80s were a decade of big hair, bad hair, or in my case, Robert Smith hair.  If you are in your 40s or fast approaching that milestone, chances are that no matter how much you may hate your hair now, it looks better than it did in the 80s.  So, you see?  Another perk of life in your fifth decade.  But this post is not about all that.  This post is about the one perk you I bet you haven’t thought about.

We would, like, totally kick ass in a nuclear holocaust or a zombie apocalypse.

Think about it.  Not only did most of us watch The Day After and take notes, but there are plenty of tubular things about growing up in the 80s that would serve us well should we ever have to sift through the rubble of an atomic fallout or fend off brain-slurping, undead ex boyfriends.

Photo: Wikipedia.com
Photo: Wikipedia.com

McGyver.  How many times did you tune into McGyver or The A Team and watch them create explosives out of a shoe box, a bobby pin and some baking soda?  Or open tins with a twig?  Set a successful trap with a sock and a prayer?  These are skills that would come in handy during even a generic apocalypse, never mind a zombie one.

John Hughes.  Repeated watchings of the entire John Hughes oeuvre would make delegation a snap.  If you grew up in the 80s, setting up a hierarchy of jocks, princesses, athletes, basket cases, and brains would be—-well, a no-brainer.  Need someone to build a radio out of tin foil and scrap metal?  Where’s the brain!  Need someone to use as bait to draw those zombie suckers in?  Where’s Ally Sheedy when you need her?

CFCs.  If you ever kept a can of Aquanet or Stiff Stuff in your locker for between class touch ups, you know the power of hairspray.  If you ever had a girlfriend who used so much Rave you could taste it over her Bonnie Bell when you kissed her, you know how potent that stuff is.  A can of Aquanet and a lighter can go a long way, my friend.

Rotary telephones, typewriters and checkbooks.  If you’re in your 40s, you’ve lived a big part of your life without ‘technology”, (barring Walkman and the Commodore 64)  Think about what this means.  While a group of young guns is struggling to find their way, not knowing how to navigate without their GPS or Google Map, we could, oh, I don’t know, stop and ask directions.

Photo: themirror.co.uk
Photo: themirror.co.uk

Optimistic Realism.  If you are currently in or approaching your 40s, you grew up in a generation in which anything was possible, by working for it.  No relying on nepotism or reality television shows or expectations of entitlement.  No Mom and Dad arguing for a better grade on your behalf, no cell phones to get you out of a jam.  You had to think on your feet on the playground, write a decent essay to get into college, interview for a job in person.  Common sense and accepting responsibility will  be key components to surviving the coming of the Walking Dead.

Twiddling Thumbs.  In between battles for supremacy, there are going to be long stretches of nothing to do but sit around and watch the paint dry.  If you’re in your 40s, you’re used to boredom.  Remember, we only had 5 or 6 television channels.  And no internet.  We’ve done it before, we can do it again. We are ok with long stretches of watching the clouds go by.

The Clapper.  Think of the confusion this could cause.  Lights on. Lights off.  All as if by magic.  The undead wouldn’t know if it was Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Living Dead or what.

Brain Power.  If you can solve a Rubik’s cube, outrunning a zombie herd is no biggie.

University of Life.  Maybe that Bachelor’s degree in Sociology won’t help right away, but a BA  from the 80s/early 90s has got to be the equivalent of a Masters today.  Someday, when the fallout dust has settled and society is ready to be rebuilt, they’re going to be looking for smarty pants like us.  Maybe not sociologists and women’s studies majors, but that Liberal Arts degree could just come in handy.

Longevity.  If you grew up in the 80s, you’ve seen so many fads and trends come and go that you are wary of anything that promises instant results.  Le Disc, Chia Pets, 3 card monty, parachute pants, neon, Ponzi schemes.  So when someone comes up and offers you a device that can track zombie movement, or detect fallout radiation, you’re going to take them with a grain of McGyver-made salt.

Transportation.  If you grew up before seatbelts, you know the correct way to ride in the back of a pick-up truck without falling out.  You could also quite easily utilize unorthodox methods of transportation to outrun zombies and/or ash clouds:  roller skates, Big Wheels, Huffies and BMX racers.  Green machines.

Psychology.  You’d be surprised what you learned and retained from all those Afterschool Specials.  You never know when being able to spot which survivor was suffering from an eating disorder, who came from a divorced family, whose dad was a secret alcoholic might come in handy.  Knowledge is Power.

Breakfast club

Go out in Style.  If you’re minutes away from being caught by a zombie mob and having your brain sucked out of your eye sockets, you have the ability to go out in style.  Commandeer a parade float and sing Danke Schoen at full volume.  Perform a previously impossible lift at the end of a dance routine. Cycle across the moon.  As You Wish.

So you see, though sometimes the thought of getting older makes you maudlin, makes you contemplate your mortality, makes you start counting down your days on this mortal coil, there is plenty to be thankful for.  I promise, you will like, totally, be okay.

And, if all else fails, you can Just Say No.

Thanks to Goldfish for the Zombie Apocolypse idea,  Mrs. DW for reminding me that “kids, girls in particular, have been told that they can grow up to be whatever they want to be—they’ll just have to work really hard to get there. Empowering kids isn’t new. What’s changed is that the second part of the message has disappeared”  And to Betsy for highlighting the “hair” in Harum Scarum.

And a very Happy Birthday to several of you whom I know are fast approaching that 40 year old mile marker.

The Elephant in the Room

Image: retronaut
Image: retronaut

I am a card-carrying member of the Ms. club; proud feminist, maiden name keeper, donor to Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, and all the rest.  In my heart I believe the feminist movement played an important role in righting centuries of wrongs by raising awareness and shining light on gender inequality.  That said, as much as feminism has done for my sistahs and me, it hasn’t managed to make a dent in the mindfuck that is women and body image.

Body image; the old elephant in the lady’s room.  The consciousness raising groups of the late 60s, the bra burning and shaving boycotts of the 70s, the glass ceilings and shoulder pads of the 80s, the curve embracing 90s, even the photo-shopping exposés of the 2000s—all of that and that great hulking elephant is still there, trying to camouflage its bulk in the corner with a yoga mat and a Luna bar.

As comfortable as I am with who I am, I’m not so comfortable in my jeans.  Though I will never be a size 4 again without some sort of parasitic tapeworm, I would like to fit in my size 8s, comfortably and without having to yank and pull and lay down on the bed to get them zipped.  So yes, I have jumped on the resolution bandwagon.  The diet has begun and the work outs have stepped up.  I need to moderate my over-indulgences with some under-indulgences in order to even things out.  It’s like the financial crisis.  I’ve spent too much and now I have to put some austerity measures into place until things balance out.  I am ok with that.  Mostly.  What makes me pause is how much I talk about it.

How many of the conversations I have with other women revolve around food and exercise?  Too many.   In today’s modern world there are plenty of reasons to worry about what we are putting in our mouths, as our lives become more sedentary, it’s important to make sure we keep moving.  That’s not what I’m talking about, however.  I’m talking about how much effort women spend talking about dieting and exercising, not to mention putting it into practice.  We talk about how much we are eating, what we are not eating, what we’ve given up, what we’ve indulged in, what we miss eating, what we ate too much of which is why we are obsessing about what we are not eating.  We talk about diets (Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, 5/2 fasting).  We talk about exercise (yoga, Pilates, cross training, boot camp).  If you’re thin and fit, you offer advice, tips, dos and don’ts, gluten-free recipes and tricks.  If you’re overweight and out of shape you seek it out, looking for wheat in the chaff to avoid the chafe.

Image: babble.com
Image: babble.com

Generally speaking, most of the women I converse with are all just either side of the average.  None of us are in desperate need of losing vast amounts of weight to save our health.  Yet even the thinnest among us is unhappy with some body part, the fittest still striving for better definition or a flatter stomach.

None of this is unfamiliar to me.  I am a daughter of the Tab and cottage cheese generation.  A child of aerobicizing and Let’s Get Physical.  I grew up in a house with a mother who knew the calorie count of a baked potato off the top of her head.  And that is just it.  The fads and the trends have come and gone, but not much else has changed.  Sure, instead of putting on a leotard and sweating to the oldies, we are wearing lycra and paying a boot camp instructor to bark at us to crunch harder, squat lower and jump jack-ier.  The scales are digital, the gadgets are more high-tech, and there are apps to do the math for you, but the amount of time and energy we put into thinking about it, discussing it, fretting about it—well, that hasn’t changed despite all the years of trying to be happy with ourselves.  Even after decades and seminars, consciousness raising, educational initiatives and after school specials, most of us are still beating ourselves up to meet an idealized version of an imaginary woman; whether it’s the buxom, wasp waisted pin-up of the 40s or the cross trained triathlete’s body of today.

The real elephant in the room is that most of us are convinced WE are the elephant in the room.

Across my forty-some odd years, I have come across no more than a handful of women who have a truly healthy relationship with food.  By healthy I mean women who eat a balanced diet without having to obsess about it, or restrict it, or count it or talk about it.  Women who eat for pleasure without guilt.  I will be the first to admit that as motivated as I am by wanting to be healthy, I am even more motivated by the idea of fitting back into my clothes.  And if I am honest, I don’t mean the size 8s, I mean the size 6s.

We are too hard on ourselves, stretching and starving to meet an idealized image in our own heads.  While I may fret about how my stomach looks hanging over the button of my jeans, when my husband sees me naked, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s thinking about.  When I am having a coffee with a friend, or sharing a bottle of wine with another couple, I am pretty sure they aren’t tracking the caloric tally of my Rioja intake.  If I’m digging a sand castle with my kids on the beach, I really shouldn’t be worrying about whether or not people think my ass is too big for a bikini or that my arms could be more toned.  But I do.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Image: babble.com
Image: babble.com

I’m not saying we should all break out the cheese puffs and stick our heads in the batter bowl.  But as we’re logging those calorie counts, we should try to strive not so much for a size or a six pack, but for a healthy relationship and not one of extremes.  There is a balance between never having a slice of your child’s birthday cake and eating the whole cake in by yourself in one sitting. And while we are downloading the latest app for the iPhone or worrying about the right amount of wicking in our workout wear, we should take a moment to put things in perspective.

It’s a modern, champagne problem.  Surely women of the Industrial Revolution weren’t fretting over fitting an exercise program in between their factory hours.  Surely all the upstairs/downstairs to-ing and fro-ing of the Victorian era precluded any need for an evening yoga classes.  In a world where millions struggle to find enough to eat, we are keeping track of our calories to make sure we don’t eat too much.

I need to be the first in line to take my own advice.  You would think I would know better.  A card-carrying feminist, a student of Women’s Studies, a forty-something woman who blogs about knowing herself.  I am just as guilty of striving for an impossible ideal.  Perhaps my resolution should be more about moderation and less about size 6 or even 8.

It’s time to confront the elephant in the room and to send it back where it belongs.