Watching Hillary being treated like a dog (well actually, far worse than any dog I know) throughout her campaign was incredibly disheartening. If we had an idea that we live in a country in which women are respected, all we have to do is look at what she went through to know it isn’t true.
And all I have to do is look at my inbox—at the sexist jokes and cartoons that come in weekly from various family members. Today an uncle sent me an email that began ” With all the political stuff, gas price woes, Iraq war, etc., hitting from all angles, the following cartoons are a breath of fresh air.” The “fresh air” was a host of largely sexist “jokes.” (And yeah, the answer when we get upset at these jokes is either “It’s just a joke, don’t take it so seriously” or “You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”) Sorry, but these “jokes” represent the way women are seen in this country and the fact that they are forwarded around and, apparently, found humorous, by so many, is a clear, clear sign.
At Linda‘s earlier in the week, I found this link to an article explaining to us why so many women are depressed. It’s because (as the conservatives never tire of telling us) the feminist revolution failed us. It’s because we women bought the lie that we could have it all and now we’re paying for it. This man is happy to tell us stupid women why we’re unhappy: too many of us work, when what would really satisfy us is staying at home with a few children, cleaning and cooking. (He explains, “The feminist emphasis on career has been an obstacle to many women’s happiness.” Isn’t it just like some men to blame women for creating our own unhappiness?)
If we buy that lie, we’re back in the fifties. Anybody who is buying that lie ought to go read Betty Friedan’s eye-opening book, The Feminine Mystique, about women who were depressed precisely because they were trapped with no way to fulfill themselves outside of the home. (Read the first chapter here.)
Working isn’t what’s depressing women—it’s the empty, sexist society we live in.
Firstly, we go to work and are lesser than the men there. Doesn’t matter if we’re smarter or more capable, we’re automatically several rungs lower on the ladder than just about any man around, no matter how incompetent he may be. (Read about my own experience, if you’d like.) If this isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is. Even when there are corporate rules in place to combat blatant sexism, women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men and are not promoted to the upper echelons of management as readily.
Second, we live in a country that doesn’t support mothers, whether we work or not. And by support I do not mean supporting the idea that we should be at home with our children 24/7. I did prefer to stay at home with my daughter, and did for many years, but that doesn’t mean all women want to, or can. See this report, that ranks countries according to how mother-supportive they are. The U.S.—this great superpower—ranks number 26, tied with that other superpower, Hungary. (H/T to Charlotte.) How about, for instance, decent, affordable daycare, so all the women who have to work (yes, for many women, it simply is not a choice) don’t have to worry all day about their children? Maternity leave? Health insurance and decent health care? Supporting mothers does not equal saying they should be home.
Third, we live in a society where our appearance is the most important thing about us. I’m not an unattractive woman and I find this depressing (my answer to those who say only “ugly” women resent it). I don’t watch t.v., but on Charlotte’s blog I read about a new show called Beauty and the Geek about smart young men and beautiful bimbos. Excuse me, are we back in the seventies? And I find it endlessly depressing that women participate in debacles like this. Where is your sense of self worth? Trust me, chasing after male admiration isn’t as gratifying as you might imagine, even though you may be nineteen and have heard your whole life that it is what matters most. Depressing? Heck yes.
More than one person seemed to think the greatest compliment they could give my very bright daughter when she was in high school was that she could be a model. I heard this from several women—oh, she could be a *model* (ooooeee! what an amazing achievement that would be!). Depressing.
Yeah, women aren’t depressed because they’re treated worse than dogs, or like children or like meat, it’s because they work.
It’s not feminism that let us down, it’s the backlash against it and the fact that we still live in a very sexist society. Look around! When half the people are treated—yes, here’s the cliché—like second class citizens, why the surprise that they’re depressed?
Here’s a quote from the article mentioned above:
Feminism raised women’s expectations beyond what life can deliver to the vast majority of them. It was hard enough for women in the past to realize their far fewer expectations of marrying a good man and making a happy family. But feminism told a generation of women that they can not only expect to have that but, perhaps even more important to feminism, they could also expect to have a fulfilling, financially rewarding, society-honoring career.
He asserts that women are more clinically depressed than ever and that proves that we were led, like stupid cows, to our own slaughter, not smart enough to see what was happening to us. What I find most insulting is that condescending attitude: let me—the male—explain it to you because you women just don’t get it. His logic is so simplistic it’s laughable. Even I, mere woman that I am, can see through his arguments.
My grandmother was depressed and I am quite certain she was depressed at least in part because she was an intelligent human being not allowed fulfillment outside the home. My grandfather was a good man, but he was a product of his time and believed he should be the bread-winner and she should stay at home. Now, she wasn’t, technically, clinically depressed, because she was never diagnosed by a doctor. How many women in the forties and fifties went to a doctor and got a diagnosis of depression? (Or even well into the seventies and eighties?) If they went to a doctor, they were likely to be given tranquilizers or told it was all in their heads! (What you need, little lady, is to scrub the floor a little harder—maybe twice a week instead of once. You must accept that this is all the fulfillment you’ll get in this life.)
Brilliant—take two facts (the feminist movement started in the sixties and women have since been diagnosed with depression at higher numbers), create a connection and twist it to suit your own bias. I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings and I enjoy walking my dog—therefore, oatmeal eating leads to enjoyable dog walking (or, if I feel depressed, was it the oatmeal? or could it have been the walk?).
While his argument is obviously based on very bad logic, I know that a lot of women are depressed.
We all understand (well, all of us except the man who wrote that article) that depression is multifaceted. While I do believe sexism plays a part, there are other culprits, including the inherent emptiness of a society obsessed with, no—not only women’s bodies—but with that great delusional pie in the sky: money. We live in a society that puts money above people at every turn. Corporate profits are more important than education, more important than public health, than the well-being of the earth we live on, than families (no matter what Republicans say—read their votes). Don’t believe the lie that women are our own worst enemies—feminism did not fail us, conservatives did.
The greatest lie we have been told is not that we can have it all but that it’s all about money. No—it truly is about family, about people, about love. Sending women back into the home one by one will not solve the basic falsehood that lies at the heart of our society. It doesn’t matter who is doing the earning, it matters what we put first in our lives, and in our life-in-common. We have forgotten the truth.
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P.S. Just checked my mail; lo and behold, my dad thought the sexist cartoons were such a breath of fresh air that he forwarded them, too. (We live in a society in which fathers send sexist jokes to their daughters—yeah, we’re all equally respected here.)