Why I Resent Being Born a Woman

“Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” (New sculpture on Wall Street, 2017)

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I participated in the “Day Without a Woman” protest by wearing red, spending money at exclusively female-owned businesses, and not working. I reflected on what it means to be a woman and how my life would be different if I’d been born a man. I’m grateful that now my female friends and I can vote and our career options aren’t limited to stenography or teaching (!!!), but as with any seismic shift in society, other less visible disadvantages of membership in Club Double X are still stifling our potential as humans.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but at my core, I resent being a woman:

  • I resent that being a wife and mother seems so much harder than being a husband and father.
  • I resent that women are led to believe their wedding day will be the “happiest day of their lives.”
  • I resent that unpaid domestic work—what UC Berkeley’s Arlie Hochschild called The Second Shift—still largely falls on women’s shoulders.
  • I resent that rich, white men are largely anti-regulation unless they have the opportunity to impose limits on women’s access to birth control or reproductive health services.
  • I resent that women’s and men’s ideas are treated so differently. JK Rowling’s publishers encouraged her to use her initials because they believed that boys wouldn’t be interested in a book written by a woman. In that vein, male authors don’t have the courage to publish under a female pseudonym unless they’re writing trashy romance novels. (I’d love to be proven wrong here.)
  • I resent that words coming out of a man’s mouth are perceived as more authoritative, persuasive, and intelligent than if they came from a woman (i.e., the Goldberg Paradigm).
  • I resent that female nonconformists throughout history have been seen as crazy or disobedient while many male nonconformists are left alone or celebrated.
  • I resent that women rarely occupy upper leadership positions in government, companies, and religious institutions.
  • I resent that traditionally female “caring occupations” are paid less than traditionally male “physical occupations,” especially when there’s no longer a single-income family wage (except for the richest Americans).
  • I resent that women pay more for health insurance, dry cleaning, toiletries, clothing, and more, all while earning lower salaries than men for the same work.
  • I resent that only 29 percent of protagonists in popular American films in 2016 were women. And that was an all-time high.
  • I resent that women are expected to have a “civilizing effect” on male family members. Women tolerate men’s anger, mood swings, and selfishness while men are still favorably stereotyped as the “more rational” sex. Riddle me this: a man might get angry at a bar, break a bottle, and stab someone in the neck to defend his honor. His honor. So which one is really the more rational sex?

Protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling (2016).

  • I resent that if a woman is not smiling, she’s often perceived as angry or upset.
  • I resent that society condemns steroid use among men while not caring whether women inject toxins into their faces or get non-necessary surgeries.
  • I resent that women’s assertiveness is misperceived as aggression or bossiness.
  • Worst of all, I resent my own biology. Why should I be less physically strong than a man? Why should I have to bleed every month? And despite what some women say, being pregnant looks supremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. Ok, so I can’t really change this one, although the US could do so much more by mandating paid time off for new mothers (as nearly all developed countries do), improving women’s access to family planning and healthcare, and ensuring that if an insurance company covers Rogaine or boner pills, IT ALSO covers female necessities such as birth control.

Iconic shot of Afghani Sharbat Gula, National Geographic (1985)

And I’m a privileged, white woman from the United States. My experience is just one person’s perspective and like so many women, I’ve never been able to fit the mold of the fairer sex. There’s been just enough social progress that thankfully, I don’t have to. I’m proud to be a feminist, and I hope that these disparities will someday be anachronistic, joining the same graveyard where our ancestors buried feudalism, buried Jim Crow laws, and (more recently) buried the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. The ghosts of longstanding discrimination still haunt us and public sentiment often changes more slowly than the law, especially as prejudice is passed down to those without the education to know better. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my own ghosts—those stomach-turning vestiges of legalized discrimination—even if the frigate of social progress is a slow-moving son-of-a-bitch.

My favorite photo of Georgia O’Keeffe. She was one of the most original modern artists of her time. Her (future) husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, showed intimate photos of her naked body without her permission to advance his own career at an art show during the 1920s. The media picked up on the scandal and humiliated her for it. This is why her incredible paintings weren’t discussed seriously as part of the canon of modern art at the time; instead, they were often disparaged and compared to vaginas. Now you know why her work still carries that stigma.

5 thoughts on “Why I Resent Being Born a Woman

  1. Jocelyn,
    I agree. There is indeed a whole lot to resent. But… it’s women like you who speak up and make that son-of-a-bitch frigate move a little faster.

    Keep up the amazing work!
    XO M.

  2. I agree with most of what you say but if it’s your body, pay for own contraception and abortions. It’s very simple. You can’t go around telling other people to stay out of your body, to not make choices about your body while expectingt those very same people to PAY for your body’s contraception and abortions. If it’s your body and women are truly independant, they pay for themselves. They don’t use everyone else’s tax payers money. While it’s not women’s fault they are the ones who get pregnant, it’s not the governments fault either and women have to be responsible for the choices they DO make. The government shouldn’t have to pay money to women for getting pregnant (whether accident or not… you choose to have sex with rape being the exception) and then having to leave work early. The pay gap between men and women has also been debunked many times. Any pay difference is actually very small and there is many things to take into consideration. Women expect child care facilities built next to the work place (this all takes money you know and is not a bosses fault you want kids or you had sex and accidently got pregnant). Many women also take breast feeding breaks and take early leave off work when they get pregnant. While this sucks for women, it’s not the governments fault and ultimately you have more choice in the situation. Either don’t have kids or don’t have sex unless you are willing to deal with the conseauences of any accidents. The hypocrisy and irrational logic of wanting others to pay for YOUR BODY never seizes to astound me because it’s so stupid. So babyish and self-entitled rather than self-sufficient or independant. My viewd are the same when it comes to health care of all kinds. You need an operation? Pay for it. You have the money to buy condoms, pay for it. If not… what are you doing having sex in the first place? Be responsible for YOURSELF.

    • Contraceptives, in particular, should be covered by insurance. These responsibilities fall largely on women’s shoulders and it’s unfair. Do you think that men should have to pay for abortions or contraceptives when they help create babies or should women only have to pay for these services? Especially in a country where many insurance companies paid for Viagra (at least until rules changed in January 2016), insurance should help women (and men) with responsible family planning. We’re creatures who like to have sex and women get the brunt of the consequences, financially and otherwise.

  3. Well said. You’ve summarised the mess in my mind that I fail to articulate, and that people like my BF call me “antsy” and “uptight” about. Which adds fuel to my anger and resentment.

    • While some men believe that women’s “antsy” or “uptight” behavior isn’t normal, they’re slowly learning that it’s their own perceptions that need an adjustment. Thanks for reading!

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