I am woman?
Jackie Mirandola-Mullen | Monday, October 12, 2009
I used to think being a woman was not so bad. Apparently, it’s awful! Locked out of the priesthood and locked into providing the moral ideals for all of America! Worse than the weather, but more beautiful than men. Sex object in any setting, but ugly when smart, über-professional, and yet, coldly catty. No respect from men and too much deference from men, having doors held open for you all the time and other such nasty things.
Thank goodness I’ve now been enlightened as to just how horrible womanhood is. Otherwise, I may have quietly continued on in a situation I didn’t even realize I needed to get out of: getting free things, discriminated against, berated for the body I do have and yet discouraged from the alternative; possessing infinite freedom in our new age while resisting infinite pressure to be everything.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to announce my resignation of womanhood. I have enjoyed it tremendously and I resign quite hesitantly, but I cannot continue to lie to myself about the state of our gender. The results of my inquiries have been too inconclusive to support continuing on unchanged.
In researching what it means to be a woman, the evidence has pointed to the label as repressive, freeing, sexual, prudent, stylish, bland, endearing, overbearing, seductive and revolting. It doesn’t take an English Major to realize how antithetical those characteristics are of each other. You can keep arguing, trying to decide which opposite wins, but if you do, you may be missing the larger point:
Women don’t actually exist!
Many things contradict themselves. Water bottles give people in third world countries water to survive, but they also create pollutants and unmanageable expenses. The Dining Hall puts the salad bar right next to the donuts. The football team simultaneously gets better and worse every year.
These things can all be very confusing. But when a girl is trying to grow up, trying to establish herself as a woman and she hears from every side that women are too [adjective] while also too [opposite adjective], who is she supposed to be?
It’s easy to be cute, girlish and also a little tomboyish when you are still young and unaccountable for the definition of “woman.” But when you hit college, womanhood becomes a necessarily defined state of being. Do you value a career or children? Do you spend time on fashion or books? Are you seductive or bubbly? Do you “get things done” or have lots of time for friends?
Or do you manage to attempt them all, like so many women unable to pick between the diametric opposites and end up exhausted, confused and without feelings of individuality?
Being a “feminist” apparently is too obnoxious to exist in today’s world – that was only part of the radical, pot-smoking, peace-loving (and therefore God-less?) decade of the 1970s. No, today, that women’s rights stuff supersedes acceptable social behavior, and for some reason isn’t worth saving women from unfair discrimination, assault or domestic violence. But could that be wrong? How about when you consider that between 1998 and 2002, according to the American Bar Association, 84 percent of spouse abuse victims were female and 86 percent of victims of dating partner abuse were female?
Debating so much about what women are, and in what ways they are discriminated against or favored, enables the same gender inequalities that so many women and men spend their lives combating. Overly debating the intrinsic nature of women introduces an unmanageably paradoxical set of criticisms and expectations for women to meet, making them even more vulnerable to feelings of low self-worth that make abuse so difficult to prevent.
And it’s exactly those feelings that make it seem like being a woman is not worth it. What dignity am I trying to uphold, if womanhood contradicts itself to the point of absurdity? What if I don’t want to choose between a family, a career and making a difference, and I instead just want to retain a little bit of myself in the fold? I’m too exhausted to figure out who I am right now, and trying to figure out what type of woman I am adds too much stress to be helpful.
I’d like to call myself a woman again someday, but until I figure out what that is, I’m just going to be plain old Jackie for a while.
Jackie Mirandola Mullen is a senior history and German major. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.