Want to know why these women of Mad Men are so unhappy? It's not the patriarchy, silly! It's J-E-A-L-O-U-S-Y.
Despite humanity’s many advances as a species, there are still some basic fundamentals we fall down on. Things like perpetuating unfounded evolutionary biology, or allowing straw polls run by FM radio stations to count as ‘research’.
But perhaps one of the single greatest continuing crimes against intelligence is the frequency with which lists are compiled in order to superficially categorise the gender binary as we know it: men, women, how they feel about each other, what they uniformly are attracted to and whether or not tattoos make someone 'not marriage material'. (Be warned: that last link is birthed from the warped brain of a certified MRA. Read it, so you know what they look like.)
Now, in an almost-year of being kept on my toes here by the conscientious male readers concerned feminism has Gone Too Far (and hey, thanks guys - your commitment to the cause has been nothing short of mind-blowing), I’ve noticed a few arguments that keep popping up. They go hand in hand with some of the wider assumptions about women shared by sagely nodding television hosts and demographers whose names rhyme with Blernard Malt. And the only thing we can say that is remotely true about any of them is that they all start with the word ‘women’.
A lady success story: marrying a man without a face.
So let’s take a look at them.
1. Women are waiting for Prince Charming to marry them and put a bun in it.
There’s a persistently irritating idea that careers, travel and an interest in the wider world are just the things a woman does to fill her time while waiting for her real life to happen - being proposed to in a restaurant, marrying in front of 200 of her nearest and dearest and giving (natural) birth to a baby called Ingenue.
Alas, some women don’t know that this is what they want. They spent their 20s thinking the days of wine and roses would last forever, and now have only to lubricate the dehydrated vaginas of their 30s with the tears cried for all the Nice Guys they rejected way back when. Poor Imaginary Woman - she only has herself and her picky pickiness to blame. If only she’d settled when she was 23 for the guy who liked having sex with her but didn’t want his friends to know, or the 45 year old who thought age was just a number. If she had, she might be settled down now and experiencing the simple joy of child-rearing rather than being ‘single-minded and career obsessed.’ Which leads me too...
2. Women choosing things - anything - is a feminist act and can't be criticised.
But wait a gotdurn minute, I hear you cry! Wouldn’t being a stay-at-home be her choice? And isn’t choice what you bra-burning feminazis are all about?
A gold star to the chap in front! Yes, choice is very important. It is, in fact, vital when it comes to things like child-rearing, abortion, sex, work, life, the universe and everything in between. But ‘choice’ and the ability to exercise it in and of itself is not a feminist act; rather, it’s the result of demanding women be entitled to autonomy the same way men are. More importantly, defending women’s right to choose whatever they like doesn’t mean other women have a duty to agree with those choices or even respect them.
It’s a sad outlook for us women indeed if we’re seen as so powerless that undertaking choice itself - any choice - becomes an act of rebellion and bravery, immune from criticism lest it be seen as some kind of betrayal of the sisterhood. Being able to exercise our right to choice is liberating, yes. But so too is being entitled to engage critically with the world around us; to challenge the actions of others and the environment we live in. Deny that, and you may as well deny choice altogether.
3. Women are all jealous of each other.
This is a thorny one. Because sometimes a woman is jealous of another woman, in the same way that sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel like eating white bread with Nutella for breakfast and opening a bottle of wine “because it’s holidays”, even though I know the former isn’t okay for anyone over the age of five and the latter signifies that the random family get-together I’ve been invited to might involve less Cranium and more ‘Welcome to your intervention!’ We’re all entitled to a little irrational behaviour every now and again, and having a momentary surge of envy towards another woman because she doesn’t have to wrestle with a cowlick or gets to touch Ryan Gosling on his down-there seems to fit squarely in that bracket.
But the idea that women engage solely with the world from an established position of envy and competition isn’t just ludicrous, it’s damaging. It assumes that our judgment is illegitimate from the get-go, because its only goal is to tear down another woman and thus take her spot at the table where the best crumbs fall. And while this kind of thing does happen, it’s part of a whole ‘nother problem with the limited paths to power that are available to women in our society. Reinforcing it with a casual, ‘what can you do?’ shrug of the shoulders undermines the efforts of women to break out of that mould. Sometimes - often, in fact - women are legitimately critical of other women because we are able to intellectually disagree with something a woman has said or done. It doesn’t make us jealous, or bitchy, or juvenile - it makes us fully formed human beings with the ability to make critical assessments of the world around us. You know. Kind of like men.
4. Women lose their shit over cleaning products, yoghurt and K-Mart.
I swear to dog, if I have to see another advertisement of a woman wearing pearls smiling while cleaning her toilet, or talking about how fat free lemon cheesecake yoghurt is kind of the same thing as not hating yourself, or gesticulating wildly about how the new Schticky appliance has made mopping really, really fun then I am going to bulldoze my way down to the Mart-of-K to round up all the Stepford Wives that apparently live there and deactivate the bullshit chip that lives in their brains. Except that there won’t be any, because no one likes cleaning, yoghurt is dumb and even though K-Mart is a good low-cost option, no one ever rode a bike through its aisles as if this were what life had been building up to.
Also, I wish they’d stop using dudes to try and sell said cleaning products to women. If you’re so impressed with the sparkly porcelain power of Toilet Bam, clean the damn bowl yourself.
5. Women aren’t visual.
An article was published recently to coincide with the release of a new book exploring the most popular forms of internet pornography. In it, the authors blithely reiterated (‘scientifically’, of course) the oft repeated myth that women are more invested in storylines rather than visuals; they’d much rather read a romantic novel with established characters than spend a quick two minutes cruising You Porn.
“Women prefer stories to visual porn by a long shot,” said the authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire. You know, like, they would probably just prefer to not look at things at all.
Funny, because other casually offered stereotypes pillory women as being obsessed with shoes, constantly comparing their bodies to other women’s and looking at engagement rings from Tiffany - all fairly visual activities.
So the idea that women don’t get into sexual voyeurism ‘because they’re just not visual’ is pretty lazy. Could it be that, rather than being unable to get a blazing hot lady boner over some filthy-as-f--k home videos, they just find it harder to get off on the predictable denouement that shows the only woman in the room being penetrated?
Not that that won’t work for some women. Different drinks, different...needs.
Ain’t diversity grand?