Monday, May 18, 2009

Can we give ourselves a break?

I was thinking today about our expectations for ourselves.

It used to be that women were putting the pressure on ourselves to be a harder, better, faster, stronger version of ourselves. We looked at the Jones', our neighbours, the airbrushed women in magazines, the public faces of our co-workers and thought, why can't I have everything too? Why can't that be me?

Then it came to the point where other women were looking at each other and judging. Expecting both friends and strangers to keep up with this external ideal. It wasn't enough to embrace our internal shame, it then became accepted for women to point out another woman's lack of. After all, what better way to show that you're superior than pointing out that someone else is inferior?

We accepted it. How could a woman deny that she should be shamed publicly when she's feeling the same fear and humiliation internally?

In recent years, I've noticed that we have been chasing this impossibility for so long, and, sadly, achieving some small measure of it, that men now expect this SupermomWonder-WomanBarbieDoll of us too. And we have done it to ourselves. We have changed their expectations to the point where it's not enough to be ourselves - we show them the glamorized version, and they now think that's normal.

Honest to goodness, there's so much more to being a woman than:
going to work - and building a career,
making enough money to support yourself and possibly the family,
taking care of the kids,
doing the laundry - no wrinkles, folded and put away,
cooking dinner - and breakfast and preparing lunch (all organic, healthy and prepared from scratch)
exercising regularly,
maintaining strong, healthy ties with your friends, parents, siblings, and grade school alums,
pursuing fulfilling hobbies,
managing a 401k,
paying the household bills,
dressing like a fashion plate, (on a budget,)
wearing the perfect shade of make-up (that's healthy for your skin),
being a chauffeur to the kids,
a sexpot for the man in your life,
taking care of the pets,
getting eight hours sleep - no bags under your eyes,
cleaning the bathroom (and kitchen and living room),
shaving your legs and any other body hair that society deems unacceptable,
maintaining our high school figure,
volunteering for a few charities,
getting the family to church,
tending the health of your romantic relationship,
planning and running the vacations (and birthday parties and anniversaries),
hitting the salon once a month (at least) to maintain hair, face, nails and waxing
and, you know, doing it all with a smile on our face.

I'm sure your personal list includes about a dozen more things.

And you know what? It's not that any of these things is unattainable individually, but expecting all of this, every day, of every woman is beyond ridiculous. Ever expecting it of ourselves in the first place was a sad commentary on our lack of faith in ourselves. We are good enough as is.

Pointing and calling out other women for being less than perfect was never going to make us feel better about ourselves. It may have felt good in the short term, but it was never going to sustain our need for acceptance and admiration.

But, letting men think that this level of balls-to-the-wall, full-throttle, never-a-hair-out-of-place energy is a normal and sustainable was detrimental to us all. There used to be a time when a man was happy to have the love of a good woman. Now, more and more I hear, "Is that all you've got?"

Currently reading: Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra
Currently reading: The Groom Came Back


Erika said...

Yeah, I'm not that motivated. Thank goodness I have kids to pass off all the really yucky chores to! :D

Venus Vaughn said...

I've never been that motivated either - it ticks me off that I feel guilty about it though.