A Letter to My Fellow “Man”

Dear “Sirs,”

I walked into a pizza parlor today & immediately I felt your eyes upon me.  As I made my way to the counter to place my order I could feel your stares just as strongly as if they had been your all too grimy hands.  And just a few days ago I had a similar experience at another restaurant when I stopped in for breakfast on my way home from work.  That time you had me surrounded.  Two of you in front of me in line, two of you behind me.  Then you found your way to a table & I found your leering eyes upon me every time I looked up from my own table.  I left feeling dirty & used even though you never touched me or even spoke to me once.

These are just the two most recent episodes of such behavior that I’ve observed.  Sadly these things happen far too often & not just to me & not just in America, but in every tiny town & every major metropolis & every culture in every nation on this planet.  I think it’s safe to say that women all over the world will concur with me that such behavior is offensive, intimidating, & simply degrading.

'BOY that REALLY makes my skin crawl when MEN undress you with their eyes!...'

I’d find all this unwanted attention a bit less shocking if I were dressed in clothes that scream “Look at me!” but I never dress like that.  Miniskirts, booty shorts, & low-cut tops have never been my style.  While I firmly believe both men & women have the right to dress however they choose within context, there is no doubt that our attire does send certain messages about ourselves, whether we realize or want to admit it or not.  (When I say within context, I mean that wearing a bikini to work is clearly unacceptable, unless maybe you’re a model.)  This is not to say that leering at women who choose to dress in more “provocative” attire is acceptable, but at least it is a bit more logical.  In the end though, the burden of responsibility falls on the person who is committing the crime.  And in this case that burden falls squarely on the shoulders of you “men” who have probably never stopped to think twice about how your leering at every unfortunate female who crosses your path might make said female feel.

Maybe this situation wouldn’t be so distressing if I had some means of seeking revenge upon you.  If I could make you as uncomfortable as you make me with your leers & snarky smiles, I’d be happy to try to turn the tables on you & give you a taste of your own medicine, so to speak.  But sadly if I were to leer at you with even half the lust with which you leer at me, you’d probably just be flattered & text your equally sadistic buddies all about it.  Let me be clear in saying that I do not buy into the age-old argument that sex is inherently demeaning or degrading to women.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But your eyes tell me quite plainly that you view me as nothing more than a sexual object who exists for your pleasure, & this too could be nothing further from the truth.  In reality I am a human being with dreams, hopes, goals, aspirations, & yes, even sexual needs & desires, just as you are.  But that last bit doesn’t justify your treating me as nothing more than a walking vagina with tits & an ass.  Trust me, we females enjoy checking you guys out too, but by & large we don’t view every man who walks by as a piece of meat to feast our eyes upon.  And even if we did, we could never threaten & intimidate you the way you can us because biology is pretty simple & we are as a whole not as physically strong as you are.

women not pieces of meat

I know you probably think you’re doing me some kind of favor by paying attention to me, but your twisted logic isn’t fooling anyone but yourself.  The only thing you’ve accomplished is making it very obvious that you’re so far below my taste in men as to not even be a blip on my radar (not that I’m looking since I’m married, but that’s beside the point in this scenario).  You’re probably not so self-aware as to realize this, but your leers are just a power-play, a way to make you feel stronger when deep down your sense of self is weaker than you’d like to admit.  Real men who are confident in themselves & their ability to win an intelligent well-rounded woman don’t need to stroke their ego by intimidating women with lustful stares & winks at their friends.

And just in case any of you guys happen to be smart asses, no, the answer to this predicament is not me staying at home or putting on a burka to go out in public.  The answer lies in you learning to have some self-control & self-respect which will then enable you to show respect to others.

End message: We’re all human beings here.  Yes, we all have sexual desires & needs but that’s no reason to be disrespectful.  Get over yourselves.  Get your own act together.  And get your dirty eyes off me.


A woman with too much self-respect to put up with your BS any longer

The Curse of Masculinity

*In case the title has put you off, this isn’t a rant against men.  If anything it’s a plea on their behalf.*

I’ve written quite a few posts lately about the struggles women face in modern society & how feminism still has quite a bit of work to do in this world.  However, today I’ve been thinking about how, in the Western world anyway, women actually have a lot of advantages that make me quite grateful to be a woman, despite some of the other problems faced by my gender.  I started thinking about this when my husband was playing a video game this past weekend & getting really frustrated with it.  I asked him, as I have many times before, why he plays games that just seem to make him angry & annoyed.  His response was “Well, this is how men relax.  For thousands of years we went around killing our enemies, or at least our food, with axes & other such weapons.  Those aren’t accepted civilized activities anymore, so we play violent video games.”  This led me to think about the different ways in which women & men choose to spend their free time, the hobbies we tend to pursue, & the seemingly greater freedom women have in such areas of life.

For most of recorded history women were very restricted in all manner of things, but in the modern  world women can do basically anything we want.  I don’t just mean legally; I mean it is societally more or less acceptable for women to pursue almost any career or hobby they desire.  While it is true that women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as police work, finance, or law often face greater obstacles than do their male counterparts in those roles, in general women who choose a career that is traditionally outside the “feminine scope” receive far more praise & encouragement than men who choose more traditionally feminine careers such as nursing, teaching, or working with young children in any capacity.  Stay-at-home moms certainly face a fair amount of prejudice in our society (perhaps most from other women), but consider how much greater prejudice stay-at-home dads must face.  While one could certainly argue that most men would never even contemplate such a choice, consider how much harder that makes it for a man who truly desires that role?

For further discussion, contemplate the following scenarios:

tony porter quote boy girl

A little girl wants to take piano lessons.  Assuming her parents can afford it, almost all parents would agree that this is a lovely activity for their daughter to pursue.  Plenty of parents would encourage their son to do the same, but as he gets older, consider the societal pressure a boy will face to choose a more “masculine” activity such as football or basketball over band, drama, or anything at all “artsy.”  Girls may face this pressure too, as athletics are always “cooler” than the arts, but I think most of us will agree that the pressure is greater on boys in this arena.  Furthermore, a girl can choose to play most any instrument without fear of embarrassment, but a boy who chooses to play something more “feminine” like the flute is basically asking to be ridiculed.  While women who seek to be rock stars may have a harder time in some ways than their male counterparts, consider that plenty of guys will find them ridiculously hot for choosing such an activity, & more importantly the novelty of a female rock star can actually work in a woman’s favor.

I think it’s safe to say that almost all straight-A students & other “nerdy” kids have a hard time being socially accepted in school, but in general I think smart girls are considered far more acceptable than smart boys.  I know that the girls in my advanced placement classes from elementary all the way through high school fared much better socially than the few boys in those classes.  Many of us girls were still nerdy for sure, but I’m quite certain we all had boyfriends at some point & were generally much less likely to be true pariahs than the boys.  Overall it appears that boys who make good grades & think ahead to college are far more likely to be made fun of than girls who do the same.  Neither gender is going to win any popularity points for being a bookworm, but the fact that college admission & graduation rates are now considerably higher for women than men tells us something is wrong here.  I’m not advocating for the reverse of course.  I’m just saying that a successful society needs leaders & scholars of both genders, & there’s something fundamentally wrong with a society that degrades anyone for a love of learning, regardless of gender.

On a lighter note, say a woman decides to play video games.  While plenty of other women may find this odd, the average man is probably going to think it’s hot.  But say a man decides to get regular manicures (with actual painted nails); the average woman is NOT going to find this hot.

On a similar note, say a woman chooses to dress in a more masculine fashion, maybe even wear men’s clothes from time to time.   This may not be their preferred look, but most guys probably won’t be truly offended by it.  However, if  a man chooses to wear women’s clothes even occasionally, most people, of both genders, will find this quite offensive & weird.  I’m not arguing that men should wear women’s clothes, though if they want to, that’s certainly their prerogative.  I’m just trying to show how women really do have greater freedom in some areas.


If a woman does something that makes her look silly or weak, for better or worse she probably won’t be viewed much differently because of it, provided it doesn’t become a habit.  For example, say a woman can’t remember where she parked her car.  While men & women alike may laugh at her forgetfulness, they’re unlikely to really think less of her as a human being unless this is something she does on a regular basis.  A woman who is klutzy like me may never be able to wear stilettos but it’s unlikely to make men actually consider her unattractive.  If a woman is struggling to pick up a weight at the gym or a heavy box while moving into a dorm room or new apartment, you can be reasonably sure that someone of the male persuasion will be happy to help her out without thinking any less of her for needing his assistance.  On the other hand, if a man is struggling to carry something heavy, not only does he have to worry about hurting himself physically but furthermore he has to worry that both men & women may view him as weak & therefore less “manly.”  On a similar token, if a woman cries at a movie, so what?  More than likely no one will think twice about it, but not so for a man.

While everyone has their preferences, women in the modern world can choose to be as traditionally feminine as we desire- or not.  No matter what we choose we are quite likely to be generally accepted by society as more or less normal or at least “ok.”  And for better or worse we will probably attract a fair amount of the male species regardless of what choices we make.

While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m naturally attracted to a fairly traditional type of masculinity (broad shoulders, capable of working on basic machinery/cars, disinterest in clothes & fashion), I’m smart enough to realize that the qualities that define a good man are essentially identical to the qualities that define a good woman: honesty, respect, a strong work ethic, intelligence, a thirst for knowledge, & an open mind.  Furthermore I am comfortable enough with myself & my relationship to understand that not all men will fit my “ideal,” nor should they, just as I will certainly not fit every man’s “ideal,” nor should I.  Just because I prefer a certain type of man doesn’t make that the only type of man worth celebrating in this world.  I think far too many people in this world are threatened by “gender-benders” or by those who don’t fit their own stereotypes about how men or women should behave because they aren’t secure in their own humanity.

gender bird

In my sociology class freshman year of college, we watched a documentary that discussed the ways in which boys are societally trained to suppress their emotions & generally be “manly,” & how in many ways this is ultimately damaging to both men & women in our society.  I for one know that if my husband & I have sons & daughters some day, we’ll be raising both genders to be well-rounded & self-sufficient individuals who know how to take care of themselves (everything from doing their own laundry & basic cooking to mowing the yard & changing the oil in the car) as well as how to express themselves emotionally in healthy, mature ways.  We’ll encourage both genders to play sports as well as to play music or be involved with other artistic endeavors.  If our son wants to play with dolls, we’re not going to stop him (yes, this is something we’ve actually discussed).  If our daughter wants to play in the dirt & hunt for worms, we won’t stop that either.  In case anyone thinks I’m saying traditionally masculine play, such as little boys wrestling or playing with toy guns, is bad, I’m not.  I think those are perfectly normal activities for both genders, though I certainly acknowledge that more boys will participate in them than girls, & I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that.  The point is that we will try not to impress upon our children that they need to fit a certain mold just because of their anatomy.

To be clear, I’m not saying that all gender roles are bad.  My husband certainly takes on a fair amount of the traditionally masculine roles in our relationship (mowing the yard & filing taxes for example) while I take on a fair amount of the traditionally feminine roles (sending Christmas cards, buying birthday gifts for our families, doing laundry, etc), & I have no problem with that.  The wonderful thing about our relationship is that we are very comfortable taking turns with the roles we play.  For example, while I do more of the laundry, dishes, & other housework than he does, he is more than willing to help out, especially when I’m working several nights in a row.  When the dishes start to pile up in the sink, he’ll take care of them without me even asking.  Additionally, we split the bills & take turns paying for groceries, meals, & other expenses.  The point is that our roles are not rigid & unchangeable like those of many relationships of previous generations.  I for one firmly believe that this engenders a higher level of respect, friendship, & camaraderie between us than if we stuck to rigid gender roles.  Furthermore, we understand & respect that not all couples will approach their relationships like ours; many will have different variations on gender roles, & as long as both parties are happy, that is totally ok.  

self comfort

Overall, when I think about how society views gender roles nowadays, I can’t help but feel that women are now afforded greater freedom than men in many ways, as I’ve listed above.  I’m not saying this to lessen the argument that feminism still has its place in modern society.  If anything perhaps this lends greater credence to the notion that feminism is still relevant today.  In my view, feminism promotes the acceptance of both genders as intellectual equals & the equality of opportunity for all people irrespective of gender.  While men may still experience greater success/freedom in the career world, at least in certain fields, I for one wish men experienced more freedom to express themselves emotionally & artistically.  I’m not saying I wish the average man spent his leisure time getting manicures or shopping for new suede boots.  (Frankly I think those are pretty inane activities for either gender.)  What I am saying is perhaps we women should celebrate the freedom we have nowadays to be just about anything without the fear of “losing our woman card” because no such thing really exists.  I just know I am grateful that I don’t constantly have to evaluate whether my life decisions are “manly enough.”  Yes, I realize that “real men” don’t cave to societal pressure & will choose to do whatever makes them happy even if it isn’t societally accepted, but even so I wish the pressure wasn’t so great for men to always protect their “man card.”

 I think in the end this kind of thinking is ultimately limiting & hurtful for both genders because it denies the underlying humanity & sameness that connects us all.  One of the greatest things I’ve learned in life is that people are people regardless of gender.  For example, the friendships I’ve had with guys haven’t been that different than the friendships I’ve had with girls.  Because at heart we are all really the same.  We all have strengths & weaknesses, likes & dislikes, dreams & goals.  And someday I hope we’ll all experience even greater freedom to express & pursue all of our hopes & dreams without worrying about how we’ll be perceived because of the chromosomes we happen to carry in our DNA.


Can We Please End the Gender Wars?

I must preface this post by saying I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone else.  I’ll explain why later.

I’ve been coming across a lot of articles lately talking about female privilege/disadvantage vs male privilege/disadvantage.  See this: http://thoughtcatalog.com/isla-sofia/2014/04/18-reasons-why-the-concept-of-female-privilege-is-insane/

& this: http://thoughtcatalog.com/mark-saunders/2014/04/18-things-females-seem-to-not-understand-because-female-privilege/

These articles are both a bit superficial to be sure, but they are excellent examples of the genre so to speak.  If you don’t feel inclined to read the articles, what the whole idea boils down to is this: grown adults are arguing over whether being male or female is harder.

The reason I started this post by saying I’m writing this to myself as much as anyone is because this past weekend I was quite literally in tears telling my husband that I wish I were male so I wouldn’t feel the insane pressure to choose between family & career when thinking ahead to having children in the next few years.  And the sad truth is in those moments I truly meant it.  My generation of women was sold a great lie when we were told we could “have it all.”  No, I’m sorry, we really can’t.  Yes, we can have great careers & also be great moms, but do not think for even a minute that no matter which option(s) you choose you won’t have to make tremendous sacrifices that your male counterparts more than likely will not have to make as parents.  For example, if a man has a high-powered career & decides to have kids, it is unlikely to have a huge effect on his job.  Yes, he may feel greater pressure to come home earlier to be with his children or to stay in one city rather than move around from place to place in search of promotions.  But overall I think it’s safe to argue that having children is less likely to have a net negative effect on a man’s career.  (I know some women who are reading this are probably thinking “But aren’t you happy that you’re the one who gets to create life, nourish it in your womb, & quite literally feed it?”  Umm, on some level I guess I am, but mostly I just think about how painful & distressing that sounds!  I guess I am too practical for my own good.  I know in time my motherly instinct will kick in & I’ll probably laugh at myself for ever wishing I were male.  But I’m not quite there yet.  Be patient with me.)

gender scales

Aside from raising children, there are other situations in life in which I think quite seriously about how I wish I were male.  The times when I’m standing in line at a restaurant & some creepy man behind me is checking me out & making me wish I were not only male but invisible.  (It doesn’t really matter what I’m wearing, by the way.  Certain men look at all women like meat regardless of their chosen attire.)  Or when I can’t open a jar & my husband isn’t home to do it for me & I feel so incredibly weak & ridiculous.  Times like that.

However, I’ve said all that to say this: Can we stop fighting over who has it harder in life?  The reality is that life isn’t fair.  But it’s also not a competition.  Life is hard for all of us, regardless of our gender, race, or anything else.  As one of my favorite high school teachers used to say, “Life’s not fair, I’m not nice, get used to it.”  (Or maybe that last part was “get over it.”  But the point is the same regardless.)  I am wary of writing this because I don’t want to sound like I’m saying we shouldn’t discuss the issues brought up in the kinds of articles I referenced at the beginning.  Reproductive rights, divorce, victim-shaming/blaming in relation to rape or sexual abuse, & other such issues are extremely important & should not be tossed aside just because life isn’t fair.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to rectify some of the inherent unfairness of life.  Indeed I think it is the ethical thing to do as truly alive, enlightened human beings.

life isn't fair

However, in the end there are some things men & women will always be inherently better at or more capable of doing than the other gender.  For example as much as it grinds my gears that teenage boys half my age are stronger than me even though I might work out just as long/hard as they do, it’s just biology.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  I’m sure very few men would admit it, but to a certain extent some fathers must be jealous of the fact that women share a certain closeness with their children that men never really can simply because we’re the ones who give birth to them.  Furthermore even good men have to deal with the fact that women often see them as inherently dangerous.  A friend of mine told me a few months ago that it really bothers him that when he is jogging he’ll often cross paths with women who give him this desperate “please don’t rape me” look.  On the other hand I’ve been one of those women (in similar scenarios), & it sucks to know that there are plenty of situations in life in which you’re dependent on the man or men you’re with being decent individuals in order for you to not get hurt.  I know that must sound melodramatic but it’s true.

Basically what it comes down to is exactly what I said before.  Life is hard.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female.  There are certain inherent advantages & disadvantages to both genders.  Actually I would argue there are probably very few that are truly biologically inherent.  Most of the privileges & disadvantages both genders experience are things society has constructed & therefore can theoretically be changed over time.  This is why I remain hopeful that the world can become a better place for all of us, even in the face of the horrible situations that women (& to a certain extent men) face in certain parts of the world in which equal rights for all is far, far from the reality.

life ins't fair but it's still good

So my plea today is simply this: can we please stop the battle over who, men or women, has it the hardest in life?  (At least in the Western world.)  Life isn’t a competition, belive it or not.  Instead of whining, can we focus on the real issues at hand like poverty, raising children, & reducing sexual violence?  Like I said, this post is as much for me as for anyone because I know I am quite guilty of whining about my gender from time to time.  After all I spent half this post explaining why I sometimes wish I were a man.

However, in the end, life is hard for all of us.

But it’s also beautiful, thrilling, & way too amazing to spend whining about something so completely beyond our control as our chromosomes.

(As an addendum, this post is in no way meant to be insensitive to those who are born feeling they are the “wrong gender” &/or are transgender.  That is an entirely different scenario which is not at all pertinent to what I’m discussing here.)