It is intimidating to enter into a major that you know almost nothing about, and a major that historically has not had a great deal of women in it. When I decided on my major and announced it to my family and friends, I got a lot of confused looks. There wasn’t really a lot of excitement or congratulations. They told me “that’s a good field to get into” rather than “what a great choice for you!” This is understandable, since I do not really seem like I fit into the business world. My personality is very shy, and I have showed more aptitude for reading and writing than business. In addition, I had never really told anyone that I wanted to be in the business world. This reaction wasn’t uncalled for, but it made me nervous that no one seemed to believe in my decision.
When I started in my major, I had no experience in Business or Finance, and everything was new to me. I had to learn very fast and start from the bottom to be where some of my classmates already were. Some people had been investing already, and some had been reading and listening to podcasts about the market for a while. Surprisingly, there was an almost equal mix of men and women in my classes. In some of the upper-level classes, there might have been more men, but it was pretty close. The university did a great job in this way. Nevertheless, I still was intimidated by some of the men in my classes who acted like they knew everything already. They already had the upper hand, because more men have been in Finance historically, and the field may be more partial to hiring them.
We all know that if a bear cub is within sight, mama bear is right behind it, and you either need to get out of the area or arm yourself. We know that if mama bear has an issue with us being so close to her cub, we are toast. But does this mean mama bear is the superior creature? Likely not. Most of us think we are superior because we have opposable thumbs and the ability to reason. We have the intelligence to build cities, fences to keep animals out, and weapons in case the fences don’t work. We can build cranes and forklifts to lift things that humans can’t by themselves. This means that strength is not a characteristic that makes someone or something superior, right?
Throughout the years, many men have used their physical strength to try to control women. Domestic violence is still a huge issue, and many perpetrators are men abusing women. In the current pandemic, there is an upsurge. This is likely because couples are together 24/7, and there has been an increase in drinking and drug use to pass the time. Many men use the line “if men and women are truly equal, we would be able to hit you.” The first thing some men want to do is abuse us, but they already are. Men often use violence to assert dominance, as if strength makes them the superior sex. If this were true, the animal kingdom would rule the world.
All clothes are not created equal. While you would think that the only difference between men’s and women’s clothing is the physical appearance of it, that just simply isn’t true. Clothing is meant to be a way to physically represent who we are, a symbol of our fights and struggles, and not a clear divide between the genders. Women’s fashion is held in a different opinion, made of cheaper materials, and is not designed with the needs of women in mind.
One of the first and most harmful ways in which female clothing is unequal is due to the public opinion and mindset of it. The female fashion industry is seen as superficial, and putting an emphasis on the clothing you wear is viewed as vain. And yet, not putting effort into looking the absolute best deems a woman a slacker, lazy, or simply unpretty. Feminist Naomi Wolf once wrote in her book The Beauty Myth that “The way we looked determined our value to society.” Those who dress in female marketed clothing are judged by whether or not they conform to how that garment should look. The public mindset of female clothing is predominately that a woman’s worth is intrinsically and unconsciously linked to her appearance. This is an opinion that is often reinforced by the media that we consume as a culture. How many shows have you seen where the female character spends an inordinate amount of time deciding what to wear? I bet if you stop to think about it, you’ll find yourself surprised by how many there are. But this does not hold true for male’s clothing. With the exception of high end fashion, the men’s fashion world is viewed as more acceptable. GQ, one of the world’s leading men’s fashion companies, claims in an article on the clothing price difference that “Men are thought to approach buying clothes with more pragmatism”. Whereas women’s clothing is viewed as a physical representation of their worth, men’s clothing is just clothing. And that’s not even digging into the issues of dress codes and the way they reflect on the clothing.
In the age of social media it is extremely hard to be considered a “good mother.” If you look up any video of a mom and her baby on the internet, there are going to be people (mainly other women) telling her what she is doing wrong, or “mom-shaming,” even if the baby is laughing and happy in mom’s arms. Someone will tell her she is holding him wrong, or that the baby is wearing something inappropriate. Literally anything a mother does is wrong in someone’s opinion. Mothers are judged so harshly in today’s world for what they do with their babies and for taking any time for themselves to just be them, without the baby.
I understand that when you have kids, everything is about them because kids take up a lot of time. They are constantly learning and growing, and they need constant attention, supervision, and stimulation. Parents should want to be around their kids and they should be the center of their world. Creating and developing a new life is an incredible thing. It takes a lot of work. But this does not mean mothers have to completely abandon their personhood and who they are as people. Mothers are still people who have needs and desires separate from their children. This is a hard concept for many to grasp. There is a balance between being completely devoted to your children and giving up your entire self to them (which is unhealthy) and not caring about your children.
Life is a balance and it is normally not healthy to do one extreme or the other. Mothers have to find the balance that works for them. Just because a mother takes a few hours per night, or one night per week, or one day per month for herself does not mean she doesn’t care about or like spending time with her children. These few hours, nights, or days are essential to keeping sane. Kids are extremely draining, delightful creatures, and they need a lot of attention, especially from their mothers. This time away can’t just be at work, because work is draining too. Constantly running around working and taking care of tiny humans is exhausting, and not taking a break is unhealthy. Mothers need to let go of that guilt from others and from themselves for needing some “me time.”
Mothers are told even before they become mothers that they need to do everything they want to in life before they have kids because they can’t do anything afterwards. I’ve been told to travel, go to school, etc. before I have kids. The reality is that mothers can go to school with kids as long as they have a support system (although it is much harder). Mothers can travel either with their kids or without them. I’m not saying to go on solo vacations every 6 weeks to get away from the kids. I am saying that it is okay if you travel without them if you feel like you need to. Give yourself permission to be a person, to do things that you like because you like them. You can do things without your children. It’s okay.
Mothers are pressured to completely let go of their personhood in order to be good mothers. Fathers are not really pressured to do the same. This may be because fathers are still somewhat removed from raising children, at least in the US. Most companies don’t have paid maternity leave, let alone any type of paternity leave. Many couples can’t afford to have both parents not work, so the mother is the obvious choice to stay home. Fathers can still have a “man cave,” a garage, tool shed, office, etc. for themselves. They have time to themselves to do things they like to do, like fix things or create something. Mothers are typically watching the kids or cooking dinner while they do this. We should encourage parents to switch off having this time to themselves while the other parent watches the kids. Obviously, this is harder with a one-parent household, but it might be possible with a support system or at least when the child is older.
In this day and age, we need to go easier on mothers who are doing the best they can. Everyone has a different situation, a different lifestyle, and a different child. The needs of each family and each mother are different. Unless the child is in actual danger, we need to ease up. Stop judging mothers and start offering to help them, maybe by offering to take the kids while mom gets her hair done and takes a walk or a drive. Raising children is hard, and having “me time” is beneficial to both mom and baby. Let mothers be people, not just moms.
Parents tend to try to protect their female children from sexual assault by any means possible, which mostly means limiting their freedom. The same attitude does not tend to apply to male children because many parents feel that male children are stronger and will not be overtaken by female children. Further, they feel as if males will welcome any attention from females, and could not be raped or assaulted in the first place. This creates a double standard in the way that male and female children are raised. This double standard causes differences in the way that males and females are viewed, which cause societal issues in the way that genders are treated. This is especially true if someone is not a Cisgender male or female, in which they might be treated badly because they do not identify as the typical male or female.
This double standard continues into adulthood, where parents are still afraid for their daughters’ safety, but they do not worry so much about their sons’ safety when it comes to sexual assault. I know that when I went to college, I was given so many pink security accessories that I had nowhere to put them all. I had a pink, heart-shaped keychain accessory that when pressed, sounded an ear-shattering alarm. I had pink pepper spray that I had to take off my keychain because I was afraid it would go off in my purse. I had a little black Kubaton, which was a stick that you put on your keychain to use if you got attacked in a parking lot. All of these accessories were gifts from my parents for when I went to college. This isn’t unusual. Girls get pepper spray while boys get condoms.
This is because women are at a higher risk for sexual assault when on college campuses. 11.2% of all students experience it during their time at college. This why women are given rape whistles. Men, on the other hand, are given condoms because this is the time when they are expected to have more sex. Parents understand these two ideas, but they do not seem to link them together. They understand that their daughters are at higher risk of being assaulted, but not that their sons are at higher risk of being a perpetrator. Parents will try to protect their daughters from sexual assault by every method except teaching their children consent, self-control, and empathy. If parents taught their children these things, they could save someone else’s child from sexual assault, which in turn would save their own children.
This cognitive dissonance occurs when parents buy their daughters rape whistles and playfully give their sons condoms. Parents know that rape is statistically higher in college, but they only protect their daughters. They firstly do not understand that the statistic is for both children, but they also do not think that their sons would rape someone. I understand, because most parents know and raise their children from when they were small and innocent and they stay that way in parents’ minds. No parent ever wants to hear that their child committed a crime or hurt someone. No parent wants to believe that. Most of all, no parent wants to think that they were the reason their child hurt someone.
The #MeToo movement is just starting to shed light on how widespread sexual assault and sexual harassment are, and it is a topic that is finally getting some attention. Men and women are now able to tell their stories without being drowned out by those who support the perpetrator. The Harvey Weinstein conviction was a huge win for this movement, and was a step in the right direction in making sure perpetrators get justice. I feel that in past generations parents did not really understand why their children committed crimes like this. The link between these behaviors and how they were raised was unknown or ignored. Consent has only been a popular topic online recently, as many men and women did not understand it. Many people did not understand the difference between a consensual sexual encounter and sexual assault, which is terrifying.
Because consent is a new topic, many parents of college-aged adults or older did not have the chance to teach their kids about it. They may not have thought they needed to teach the concept, so their kids never learned it. Parents that are raising children now need to make consent a part of the sex talk. Make it a huge part of the sex talk. (We also need to expand sex education to make it comprehensive in order to take into account all parts of the spectrum and all -or most- situations, but that’s a whole other post.) The way that we can reduce these horrible statistics is to educate our children and other adults on topics like these. The future generation will be better for it and treat each other more considerately.
As women we are constantly bombarded by commercials, billboards, magazines, advertisements, and movies that show perfect women. These women are what society deems beautiful: stick-skinny, long dark lashes, long silky hair, high heels, lots of skin showing. It is natural that we would want to be beautiful, because beauty gets attention. Beauty gets perks and gets the date. So, we have to try to be the definition of beauty. We have to get lash extensions, try not to scream when the wax strip comes off or spill our own blood using a razor. We have to use chemicals on our hair and buy hundreds of dollars worth of makeup and then spend hours applying it. We have to train ourselves to bare the pain of squeezing our feet into tiny heels, balancing on them, and walking or dancing in them for hours. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard the words “beauty is pain.” And if it is, I don’t want it.
There is a constant pressure for women to always look good and to make an effort. 1 in 3 women will not leave the house without makeup, and 1 out of 10 women say they will not let their significant other see them without makeup. If we don’t wear makeup, we aren’t putting in enough effort. If we don’t spend a ton on our makeup, nails, hair, and clothes, we are lazy and will never find a significant other. Meanwhile, men are not expected to do any of this and encourage women to accept them as they are. This is a double standard that most women are aware of and see and experience daily. The only way to beat this is to encourage men to accept women as they are, just like they tell us to do for them. This means not being afraid to be “ugly.”
We have just broken the ice on weight bias in the media. More runways and ads for fashion and makeup are accepting women who are not stick-skinny and those with disabilities. LGBTQ+ men and women have broken into the makeup world, creating gorgeous palettes and makeup lines. The standard look of beauty and fashion is being challenged and expanded to fit the majority of the world. The media is finally recognizing that we want diversity and representation on screen. Even though much of it is likely just to increase profits, the world is still changing. We are realizing that all women and men do not look like the ones we see in magazines. Most of us will never be able to fit that mold, and we shouldn’t have to. We can be beautiful without it. We are making so much progress, but we need to recognize this double standard and start taking steps to resolve it.
One of the steps that we can take is to try to remember that our value does not depend on how attractive we are to other people. One of the biggest things I have learned recently is that my life objective is not to be on a diet and lose weight. I have so much that I want to accomplish, and none of it depends on me being a size 0. I will always prioritize my physical health, but I will not jeopardize my mental health by trying to look a certain way to please someone else. Realizing this and convincing yourself of it will not happen overnight. We are brainwashed basically from birth that being pretty is our main objective, and everything else is a bonus. Retraining yourself to not care and to help others see this is difficult, but it will impact your life in an incredible way.
Once you convince yourself of this, you feel free. You can go out with no makeup and in sweatpants and feel good and comfortable in your own skin. There will always be those who try to tear you down, just like there are those who try to tear supermodels down. When you really and truly believe you are beautiful without products and chemicals and procedures, no one can tell you otherwise. It took me a long time to love my body after it changed, but now no one can tell me my thighs are too big or my hips are too wide. It is important that we continue this attitude with our faces too. I have not completely gotten there yet, but I am on my way. Makeup should be something that we do for fun, not something that is required.
I completely understand that makeup makes us look better, and it is a hobby for a lot of people. I am not asking anyone to give this up or to feel ashamed about it. Makeup artists are incredible, and I personally admire anyone who can do a smokey eye because I can’t even get that look down no matter how hard I try. Makeup and fashion are arts, and are a confidence boost, and looking good makes us feel good. But we shouldn’t have to look good to be respected, and it is definitely not our objective in life. We are so much more than our looks, and it is time to convince the world.
In the roughly 75 years Mattel has been a toy company we as consumers have seen the release of a wide variety of dolls including many careers, races, and body types. Yet as of late 2019 a whole new kind of doll has been made available: Mattel’s first gender-neutral doll. Released in September the “Creatable World” kits include a doll that is designed to have no distinguishing gender based features (lips that are not too thick, no genitalia, a lack of defined hips, standard length eyelashes, etc). Each variety of doll comes with a short hair option and a long hair wig as well as an assortment of clothing including tutus and camo. Nothing about any of the dolls screams a specific gender identity and each allows the child to play around with the gender roles and how they are expressed. Now this is definitely a very dynamic step and one that comes with some successes and some failures. So, let’s dive into the toy and what it means for the children exposed to what Mattel calls “a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.”
To start with let’s peer into some of the problems that have arisen with the release of the new doll line. The first problem comes with the doll itself. As I stated above each of the dolls has the same basic appearance, one that doesn’t point towards the doll being either male or female. While this does allow the player more initial creativity in having the doll represent both common genders it can also create an unconscious mentality that individuals that appear traditionally gendered can’t identify differently. While it’s fairly easy for a young child to recognize that a doll with no gendered features has the potential to be any gender (and to switch between genders) the same cannot be assumed of a doll with a big chest or with broad shoulders. While I love the agender Barbie that can be used to represent both male and female characters it would be interesting to see a major toy company release a doll that physically conforms to one gender but identifies as another. A doll with the traditional ‘Barbie build’ that identifies as male and uses the preferred name of Brad, or a Chloe doll with Ken’s famous square jaw and wide shoulders. The next issue comes from the name itself. The wording of gender-neutral is not a term that many people actually use to self-identify as. More often than not gender non-conforming individuals identify as genderqueer, agender, gender-fluid, or nonbinary. Gender-neutral is just not a typical label. There is something to be said about Mattel choosing a wording that is not traditionally connected to any major political or media induced stigmas. It makes the doll more marketable.
The Mental Load is having to constantly keep track of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done, in the context of household chores and errands. This load is typically placed on women in the home, mostly because they are thought of as the caregivers and the ones who are supposed to be doing housework. In many homes, women have to distribute chores to their husbands and children. They have to know how much laundry is piling up and whose needs to be done first, which rooms have been most recently cleaned and which haven’t, when the dishes need to be done, if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty, and so much more. This is a constant list that keeps going all day, every day. There is always something to be done, and Mom is the only one who knows what it is. She is expected to tell each person in the household what to do and when to do it. This is typically not the same for men in the home.
Men tend to think they are “helping” their partners when they do chores with or without being asked. The problem with this logic is that by saying they are “helping,” they are revealing that they think housework is the responsibility of their partners. This makes for an unequal household. When women complain about the amount of chores they have to do and that their partner has not done anything at all, men tend to make the comment: “You should’ve asked!” As if they do not have eyes and cannot see the dishes piling up in the sink, that Mom is busy helping their child with homework, that the laundry needs to be done. Men feel that if they haven’t been asked to do it, it doesn’t need to be done. And if their wife asks them too many times and then gets angry because it still isn’t done, she is “nagging” him.
When I was in my capstone business class, the professors liked to bring in successful alumni (specifically those in business-related majors) to talk about their lives after college and how they got their jobs. It was probably to give us hope for the future and inspire us, and it did work, since most of these people did not graduate with jobs lined up and may not have been at the top of their class. I mostly only remember the women who talked to us because I identified most with them and I was inspired most by them. One of the women who came in told us about some of the bad habits that women have in the workplace that men typically do not.
The habits that I heard from her were similar to the habits in the book How Women Rise that I was reading a few days ago at my favorite bookstore. I was browsing through the chapters and was inspired when I realized that I do almost all of the habits described in the book, and so do many women I know. Women typically behave differently in the workplace than men do, and at times it can be detrimental to their success. I highly recommend this book as it explains how we can kick these habits and be more successful in our careers.
The first habit that one of the women said was that women are less likely to self-promote. Men normally have no problem talking to their bosses or their peers about their accomplishments, but women do not tend to do this. I realized that I don’t do this either. Even in personal relationships I tend to not talk about my accomplishments because I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging, but sometimes this is necessary. When your boss is considering you and your male counterpart for a promotion and your male coworker has already had conversations about their accomplishments with your boss and you have not, who do you think your boss is going to promote? Forget about what people might think of you if you’re bragging about yourself. The fact is that you have these accomplishments and you worked hard for them, so people should know.
Typically, the men’s rights movement and feminism are at odds. The way I wanted to start this article was “in short, they have no place”, but that would not be completely true. Men’s issues have a place in feminism, although somewhere in the back, because these issues are not at the forefront of the movement. This is for good reason, as attention has been paid to (white) men and men only for almost all of humanity’s history. There have been a few influencers who have said that there are no (or not many) advocates for men’s rights. This is not true. The entire history of “mankind” has advocated for men’s rights. We are simply choosing to focus on minority and women’s rights at the moment. Men may be upset by this because the focus has always been on them. Any attention taken away from them feels like injustice.
The main focus of the “men’s rights movement” seems to be on male circumcision, male suicide rates, false claims of rape and sexual harassment, low higher education attendance rates for males, lower academic performance in males, and the lack of programs for male survivors of domestic violence. These are all valid and important issues that do and should have a place in feminism. Unfortunately, the misogynistic ways of some activists are focusing more on drowning feminism in the name of these issues instead of working with feminists to solve them. The movement is often used as a way for men to turn the tables and paint themselves as victims to gain power over women once again. They claim that laws made to protect women are actually discriminating against them, and that women are trying to diminish or erase the roles of males in society.