The Price of Being a Woman – Seen Through the Eyes of a Man
So, first and foremost, I cannot begin to comprehend the actual price of being a woman. I speak academically and anecdotally. I have spent a lot of time doing research and a lot of time focusing on fitness and health. More importantly, I read a lot of everything just to try to stay well-rounded. In my 43 years, I have seen and experienced a lot. Thus, I am taking a risk with this post and talking about something that many women find sensitive. But, I am trying to show that I do not just dimiss this issue and that it carries weight for me.
For the Guys – Framing
First and foremost for the men that will take the time to read this. Let’s be honest – we have objectified women. I would like to say that we are more evolved and more considerate and compassionate. But, we have used terms like smoking, balls hot, hottie, sexy, fuckable, and so many others. Conversely, we have used terms like brown-bag special, fugly, and so many other pejorative terms that it really makes us look bad as a gender. Even now, I find it a real challenge to break from those bad habits. You see, we have been just as conditioned to expect something as women have (which I will discuss momentarily). Now, if there is a guy out there who has never used any terms that objectified women in any way, I will be truly shocked. Is this wrong? Yes. Does it happen? Oh hell yes…all the time. I am lucky though, I have sons. I am not forced to face the reality that men objectify my daughter because I have no daughters. So, we do this….and worse yet, some of us that do it have daughters. It is like women are open territory, but those people with daughters can exempt their little girls from that reality (and I say little girls because to a parent, regardless of age, they are out “little” children).
But, we do not learn. I myself struggle with this still. It is something that men in general grow so comfortable with, they do not realize they do it. Think about this – at the gym, the store, a park, the mall, wherever you may be, you will naturally gravitate towards the woman who is attractive versus the woman you perceive to be unattractive. She gets ignored. Don’t believe me?
Try this article from way back in 2002:
Or take this one from 2011. This is interesting, it basically is the old prettiest girl at the dance may actually not be asked to dance theory. It is mathematically calculating that there is a probability that women who are more attractive are often less engaged or messaged because men think they have more suitors than they really do. It suggests that women who may have some slight imperfections may 1.) be attractive to some folks who like those imperfections and 2.) may be seen as potentially more available because fewer men will be contacting them as they are not rated as highly as “hot” women. Wait what? That is real???
At the end of the day, women are forced to deal with a lot by society. Notice, not just men. But society in general.
Imagine all this crap that women have to deal with and then you add the insult of pay. Women make less pay than men. Now, you toss into this equation that women perceived to be “beautiful” will make more than women perceived to be “not beautiful”. Man…this really sucks. The least we can do is try to understand it from a woman’s perspective. It is a real drag to know that your wife, sister, female friend, daughter, or really, any woman out there has to deal with this. And holy hell Batman, let’s not even start talking about it if you are some type of minority or exist outside the norms. Here is some data for you:
So that was for the guys…..
For the Women – Framing
Now, my observations for women. When I was being the typical guy I had no idea or paid little attention to all you faced. Now that I am trying to undo years of programming and terrible habits, I am seeing so much that just shocks and annoys me. Let me see if you all think the following challenges are real. I will just list the things I see (and I know this list is not all-inclusive):
- Magazines – what the shit? Every magazine cover I see has some completely photo-shopped woman on the cover. She is in a bikini, the perfect dress, or something incredibly cute. She looks like someone who is completely happy, gets a perfect night’s sleep, and has not one care in the world. I mean, seriously. What the hell? I saw the cover of women’s health at HEB and I photographed it for you all. Get. Her. Abs. Just three moves. Really? Just three? I am going to guess the three moves:
- Be rich
- Hire a trainer
- Hire a chef
Ta-da….you too can have Gywneth’s abs. And Sexy, easy hair. And hotter orgasms. But, if you have jobs, kids, bills, stress, no time for the gym, no time to cook super healthy meals, limited budgets, and shitty relationships, well, you may struggle just a bit to get her abs. But seriously, that probably only impacts like 1% of you all.
- Is it just me or are all the sizes getting smaller? I see super cute stuff in the petites and smaller sizes. Then I got into the bigger sizes and it just looks like you went from being a young and happy dresser to dressing for church or an office luncheon. And seriously, even stores like Sears and JC Penney seem to glorify ridiculously over-sexed clothes for girls at a younger and younger age. Listen, I am no prude, but at a certain point (and maybe this is just me aging or something) it gets exhausting just trying to find something nice looking that is attractive and fairly modest and affordable. And yes, I look weird walking through the ladies clothing section at stores, but I have to do my research.
- Toys – Barbie. Bratz. Or whatever popular toy exists out there for girls. Seriously. How about end of a work day and frazzled Barbie? Or how about dealing with the kids all day Barbie? Maybe the just left the mammogram Barbie? These toys promote an unrealistic expectation of body image. I mean, you ladies are getting hit over the head with this from an early age. Every doll seems to have a thin waist and big boobs. Oh yes, tons of makeup too. And seriously, why does it look like every toy doll has the perfect life?
- Mall mannequins – is it just me, or are you all noticing a disturbing trend with mall mannequins. I mean, now they have nipples popping out and looking all sexed up. At least in this regard, guys get it too because I see male mannequins that look like NFL players. But seriously, you ladies really get clobbered over the head with this one. Super small waist. Rather large and perfect mannequin boobs. How about the mall mannequin that has had to breastfeed? Or the mall mannequin with boobs that are too large but she cannot afford a breast reduction? Or maybe the “she lost a lot of weight and has some excess skin” mannequin? These are real challenges that women face. But no, it is always the perfect mall mannequin.
- Makeup section – I have seen so many women get inundated with requests to give them a free makeover. Or let me help you look better with our new product. Or you walk through a mall and someone accosts you telling you I have this perfect cream to help with the bags under your eyes – but I will just do one eye so you can see the difference (translation, buy my products so you do not look like an older than you should be woman). Wow, I mean I never really noticed it until I started to really pay attention.
- Nightwear and underwear – sweet sassy molassey. What the hell? If you are not wearing something lacey and cute, it is basically considered granny panties. Gee thanks for making me feel good. Oh yes, that stuff is at the very back of the area…hidden behind four trap doors, and pretty soon will require you to sign a waiver to buy it indicating that you acknowledge you are old and beat. You need thongs! I mean, I guess they are comfortable. Sure, they look great with pants, but is having a piece of material crammed up your ass really comfortable? Someone please tell me….because it does not look comfortable to me.
These are just the things I see that are obvious. How much more do you all face? I mean, there is probably a ton of stuff that I have overlooked. And worse yet, I have been part of this problem. I am a part of this problem. I am working hard to break these bad habits, but bad habits are hard to break and like all things, you will find yourself having setbacks.
As I thought about this for my blog, I also started thinking about the why behind it. What is the driving force that pushes women to do what they do? You see, for years, I wanted to be fit because I wanted women to look at me and want me. Yet, I always failed. I not only failed, I failed spectacularly. But, one day I just let that go. I stopped caring what other people thought and just focused on fitness. I focused on myself. My mental health. My physical health. My state of mind. I applied discipline and consistency to myself and one day I woke up and not only did I have the body that people admired, I was actually healthy. I stopped caring how I looked. I was okay with a breakout. I was okay with being hot and sweaty. I was okay that I looked like crap in the gym. I tuned out all the noise. And it happened. Now, funny enough, I talked to a lot of women in my gym and the ones that are the most successful tune out the noise. They do it for themselves. They grind it out. They are not doing it to meet any societal standard or expectation. They just do it to say they can. Now, this is not to say that the woman who does it for the sake of looking good when others see her does not make progress, but I see those girls come and go. They drink hard, party hard, play hard, and live hard. I respect that. Nothing wrong with living the way you want to. But, the ones that do it for themselves are consistently in the gym busting their asses. I see them putting in the work….the effort….and the time.
So, as you ladies look to start your health and fitness journey, ask yourself why you are doing this. Take a moment to truly check in with yourselves about your motivation. You can make strides for any number of reasons, but it is my hypothesis that those of you who do it for yourselves and remove any of the bullshit distractors (i.e., societal expectations) will truly have the most success as you move forward.
So, as I ponder this and think about this far more than I should, I had some thoughts. These are general thoughts and suggestions for both men and women.
- Ignore the media and the hype – it only serves to distract you from your true goals of being healthy and happy.
- Treat yourself – not just mentally, but physically. Exercise is not punishment. It is a reward for your body. You will feel better and be healthier (but it takes time).
- Remove negative influences – cut out people who would doubt you and your ability to succeed. Family…friends…all of it.
- Stop searching for affirmation – insecurity is a real challenge. To compensate, we try to seek affirmation that we look sexy or fit into some expectation. Post pictures because you are proud of your accomplishments and to prove to people that they too can reach a goal they set, but do not do it because you want people to think you look great.
- Not all attention is good attention – remember, the attention you seek is not always good attention. You are always free to want what you want, but sometimes, what you get can be far worse.
- Confidence is sexy – believe in yourself. Do not doubt yourself. You may not be perfect, but none of us are. We all have to push ourselves to be better.
- Compassion is the best – be kind and considerate to others. Help each other reach goals. It is not a competition with anyone but yourself. Do not tear each other down. Lift each other up. Support each other. Lend a hand. Share a kind word. Be humble.
Most importantly, I think we should understand that men and women are different (not that we don’t get that). But men, for the love of God, chill out. Stop looking at women like they are meat and you are hungry. I know this is easier said than done. But take a moment to get to know them. Right, like that is not obvious, but I mean really get to know them. There is a study that shows that woman are pretty much willing to overlook all flaws in a man (except for height, women love height). Obesity. Baldness. Skin problems. Women look for your best qualities and try to love you for that. But we typically look at their looks. Great…..they are willing to overlook our flaws and we sell them down the river for theirs. So yeah…come on guys.
Women….you are all beautiful. Yes, some of you have better external looks than others and societally we need to change how we treat women in that capacity. But, do not lose sight of your beauty. Do not let yourselves be defeated by despair and self-loathing. Love yourselves. Know that you give life. Know that you nurture and provide comfort and shelter. Know that your kindness and compassion is necessary for children to flourish and blossom. Know that if your kids become the typical guy, it is not your doing, but the impact of society putting pressure on boys to act like idiots. Do not lose hope because of a scale or because you are being marginalized by the patriarchy. Do not let media advertising fool you into thinking you are not good enough or amazing enough. Embrace who you are….and simply work to make yourself the best you possible without trying to conform to any expectation that people have of you…especially us men.
I still think to this mother who wrote about the whole bathroom debate some time back…and though her thoughts were about the issue of who uses what bathroom, her message about women and girls was loud and clear – you are warriors. Take a read….
Yes, it is extreme and blunt and uncomfortable, but I can tell you that it is very real…even more so in this day and age. I do not think all men are bad or that all women have to be preparing for a complete gender war….but I think that we all can learn a little something from each other. I think we can all work to better ourselves. My focus is on health and fitness, for the sake of health and fitness. But I do recognize the challenges that we all face to be better.
Hopefully I have not insulted any women. I really am trying to look at it through your eyes. To see my faults as a man. And to try to raise my boys to be men that are better than me so that they can in turn pass it on one day. And, I do this by framing health and fitness as a body and mind positive experience. Good luck on your journey…and please share your thoughts. I do not mind being wrong and I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Keep in mind, these are just my observations…I could never know the full depth of all you go through.