What's hard about being a woman?
In a previous thread, we discussed "What's hard about being a man?" The responses were, I feel, incredibly valuable (and that thread is still open, so please contribute to it if you want to answer that question!). I want to add to that thread by asking the same question relative to women and non-binary people. I'm wanting to do this not as an attempt to put responses or identities in competition but because I feel each question is valuable on its own terms for focusing on a specific identity and experiences related to it.
Non-binary folks, I'll put up your thread a few days from now, as I want to allow each thread to have its own lifecycle independent of the others.
For this thread, I want to ask the question: "What's hard about being a woman?"
As in the previous thread, I want this to be a place where people are able to share open and honest truths about themselves, even if those are difficult or revealing. Please be mindful of the atmosphere of the post and the lived experiences of the individuals posting and try to keep things not only civil but welcoming to them. The principle of charity asks us to interpret others' comments in their best light, not their worst!
Responses are open to all identities, as, again, I believe that anyone can have insight into this and I want the thread to be open to questions and discussion, but I am going to ask that anyone responding keep in mind the underlying demographics of Tildes which lean very heavily male. I think this thread will be most valuable if we elevate and genuinely listen to women's voices. It does not mean that only women are allowed to participate in the thread, but I ask everyone to consider how, without this in practice, a majority male population can produce a majority male view of womanhood.
Thanks for this very thoughtful reply, tindall.
As a man in a woman-heavy field (teaching), I have been on the receiving end of this phenomenon too many times to count. I'll affirm an idea proposed by my colleague and seemingly everyone will treat it like it's my idea. I've gotten in the habit of explicitly redirecting credit back to them by name when it happens.
I'm not saying this to pat myself on the back (again, I am NOT the one deserving credit here -- that's the whole point of the story!). Instead, I'm sharing this to raise awareness that men can (and should) learn to identify this imbalance and counteract it when it happens.
This may be slightly outside your wheelhouse, but what's the current state of the field with regards to the HPV vaccine and prevention of cervical cancer? I remember reading a bunch about it when it first came out, and then more recently (maybe a year? I think it was pre-covid...) something about how it was going to be recommended less widely for some reason. But I wasn't able to tangle apart how much of that was a) general anti-vax sentiments; b) general sex-negative sentiments about vaccinating against any infection that was primarily sexually transmitted; c) actual evidence-based medicine about the HPV vaccine not protecting as much as we thought it would against cervical cancer.
As a cis man I’m most interested in hearing about problems that women face from the perspective of trans people. Trans people that have transitioned understand the difference between life as a perceived man and life as a perceived woman better than most cis people do.
Sorry, I don't want anyone to get that idea from my comment. I think society is lucky to finally recognize trans people as they're an important mirror, but obviously our modern feminist movement pre-dates accessibility to hormone therapy and greater support for transitioning.
My wife and I discussed this recently. I was originally going to put more details here, but I don't want to derail the topic at hand.
It's an important and deep discussion that I think needs to be had and I never see discussed on public forums the way other trans and women issues are. I'll put it in a separate talk post in a few days.
This is a can of worms so I’ll try to be as cohesive as I can (no guarantees there aha). I would like to start off with the sexualization of women, and hopefully impart how fucking shitty it is growing up with it. When I was probably 11 or 12 and I would be walking places with my sister or taking the bus, whatever, we’d be getting cars honking at us or people would whistle at me and it made my skin crawl. My sister would “bask” in it, I say “bask” because we never really discussed how she deeply felt about it, but I always fucking hated it. I hated that I was simply existing, I just wanted to go to the mall and watch a movie or get a pretzel and these fucking grown ass men have the gall to harass people. The thing to surely fill me with unbridled rage is cat calling. Leave me the fuck alone! It’s not ever a compliment and even if some women take it that way, a lot fucking dont.
I was in high school when a car full of grown men cat called me, they whistled at me when all I wanted to do was get home. I gave them a nasty look and stuck my tongue out at them. That made them mad so they passed me, turned and came back around to pass me again, this time with nasty looks on their faces. The threat was there and implied. But who the fuck did they think they were? To think they have some sort of right to look at me like that and then express that in such a vulgar way and somehow get upset at ME because I wasn’t taking it??? This is why women say fuck men! I hate men! Because this is just what happens when you exist in a space. There are so many more women who have to deal this on a regular basis and more frequently.
I’ve had men try to hit on me on the bus, corner me because I can’t go anywhere and there is damn near nothing scarier than being cornered or knowing that if you upset this person, even by just ignoring them, they can turn violent. I know that there’ll be nothing I can do. And if you don’t play along, they’ll get upset and call you names as if I asked for any of this. I just wanted to get home. I just wanted to be safe. This happened all throughout college, since I commuted to campus. I always had to keep on my toes and suffer through people thinking I owe them something because I’m existing. It is so, so exhausting to be seen as an object, to be shown that MY WILL AND WANTS don't matter.
Because the majority of my random interactions with men I don’t know at all aren't positive, it’s something that makes you weary. The majority of times men have approached me out of the blue, it was an uncomfortable interaction. It genuinely sours things and I had built up a weariness for men especially as a young college student because that was safest. To have been sexualised from such a young age makes you jaded, when all you want to do is exist in peace. Genuinely, it’s better now but I’m older and definitely care less but so much of my youth and so much of my college memories are mired by these interactions.
Other hard things about being a woman: the expectation to have kids and being ignored if you say you don’t want them. I have known since I was like 20 that I really and truly likely will not be having kids. But whenever the conversation of kids comes up, and I say no I don’t want kids, someone always dismisses MY Will (common theme here), and says “Oh you’ll change your mind when you get older.” Alas, here I am almost a decade later and I still don’t want them? I want them even less because I have 7 niblings!!! I am perfectly content with my role of aunty. Am I curious what a child of mine would look like? Yeah, but not enough to go through with it lol. It’s very frustrating to have personal choices be so heavily ignored and dismissed outright. It’s dumb that the will of Mother-Wanting-Grandbabies dismisses my autonomy (and my SO’s, this is a sticking point with his mom).
Overall, I just want to be able to exist in a space and be left in peace. I want my choices to be acknowledged and not dismissed. I wish I could have gone to college and not worry if someone was following me because during winter it got dark out before classes ended. I wish I didn’t have to experience grown men seeing me in a sexual/desirable light as a 12 year-old. That shit really fucks with you as a kid. It’s damaging and it hurts and it leaves things that last.
The hardest part about being a woman is not being left the fuck alone.
Yeah... And honestly, even if you don't have many experiences like this growing up (I was sheltered, I guess), seeing other girls and women treated this way has almost the same effect on how you interact with the world. I am wary when strange men approach me even with very few experiences of it...
Your post reminded me of two instances where I felt intensely aware of this dynamic. The first time was when I was on a college campus waiting for a ride. A guy sat down next to me and started bothering me. He said I'd be pretty if I cut my hair, which I think even at the time I recognized as negging. He kept talking even when I tried to pay attention to a game on my phone. He started trying to impress me with stories about him punching people, and escalated to telling me about the time he stuffed someone into a trash can and set it on fire and rolled it down a hallway. (What the fuck!?) He said he was still on probation for it, practically bragging, and I felt rooted to my chair. Eventually he asked me for my number, and I declined. He blew up, called me a bitch, and said I should have given him a fake number to spare his feelings. Cool.
The second is maybe a bit subtle to some. A guy approached me on his scooter as I was walking home from college class and asked me if I needed a ride. Friendly, right? But I was older, with the first experience coloring my interactions. I was also in a neighborhood, logically not far from my apartment, so it felt like a weird offer. My immediate thought was, "Don't let him see where you live." My second was, "Don't turn him down outright." So I laughed, said he didn't have a spare helmet so it wouldn't be safe, but thanks anyway, and I waited until he drove off to turn down my street. Does the fact that he took my soft no as an answer (relatively quickly) mean he wasn't a threat? Maybe. But I had no way of knowing when he asked.
This is a hard question for me, because I often second guess myself. While the blatant sexism and hardship is usually easy to point out when I encounter it in my life, the more common, subtler hardships are trickier to identify.
For example, "did I get overlooked for [X] job interview because I have a female name, like what happens in those various studies, or was it because of my chronic illness causing a patchy resume? Or was I just not a good fit?"
@tindall mentioned that some people don't like it when she talks about sexism, but personally I find it really validating when trans women and men talk about it from their experiences. They're fundamentally the same people, with the same or better skills/education after transition, so the differences they describe in how they're treated and how their career progresses are much easier to attribute to sexism.
I'll try to think of something tangible to contribute to the discussion, though...
(disclaimer: I'm a cisgender man, and a staunch feminist ally)
This question reminds me of a post from /r/TwoXChromosomes about a week ago:
I wonder how much faster appendicitis diagnosed in people who don't have a uterus.
I dare anyone, of any gender, to read this, put themselves in the author's shoes, and not feel outraged:
That's only the first half or so. I'm not going to quote the rest, because you should go to reddit and read the whole thing, including the comments where many women share similar stories. The TwoX sub is one of the few subreddits that is both a) large and b) good.
In general, I think women have a much harder time getting the healthcare system to take them seriously.
An anecdote from my own life about this - I'm a man who doesn't want kids. One of my best friends is a woman who doesn't want kids. Both of us have not wanted kids our entire lives and never had any real doubt. She's told me horror stories about trying to get a tubal ligation - doctors saying she was too young for it; that they wouldn't even consider it unless she'd already had kids and didn't want more; that she would need her husband's permission - and when she told them she wasn't married they told her she'd need to wait until she got married and then get her husband's permission.
I had a vasectomy a few months ago. The doctor did a very thorough job of making sure I was informed of all the possible risks and ramifications. But, there was zero attempt to talk me out of the procedure or suggest that I wasn't capable of making up my own mind about it.
I am a cis woman and this really scares me. I've had a couple poor experiences with medicine and I am almost certain that being dismissed by a doctor will be what eventually kills me... especially as I am kind of a taciturn person normally, so I think that contributes too.
The worst was when I had what was very clearly a gallbladder issue. I did not get diagnosed until I threw up a litre of yellow bile in front of the triage nurse when she asked me to rate my pain. I needed emergency surgery by that point.
At one point a doctor told me that it was constipation that was causing me so much pain, despite me having told him before that that had never been a previous problem for me and that this was a regular issue that did not align with my, uh, movements. He literally said "you're full of poop!" as a joke and seemed annoyed with me as if I had stopped by the emergency room because I got bored or something.
I have two male friends who were diagnosed and got treated appropriately within a week or two; I suffered for months. It was a nightmare, an attack would have me spending hours curled on the floor of my bathroom absolutely delirious from pain and puking my guts out. If you've ever had a kidney stone it was quite similar in severity and locale - if a kidney stone is the most painful thing I've experienced, the gallbladder attacks were probably about 90% of that, plus vomiting, plus they would occur as frequently as twice a week. (Apparently, it's also similar to the referred pain, nausea, and dizziness from being kicked in the nuts, though I have no point of reference for that. They are both "visceral pain" - referred pain occurring in your viscera.)
My mother (a very experienced nurse) was absolutely furious when she found out just how long it took me to be diagnosed. Said it was a no-brainer. I think it was just that nobody took me seriously when I tried to impress just how blindingly painful it was.
If this was in the US, I can believe that some doctors today would actually say that. But still, that sounds like something from the 1800s.
You wanna go down a rabbithole of the poor treatment of women in healthcare? Look no further than how childbirth is handled in a typical setting. I learned a lot about this for the birth of my kid.
A modern hospital birth is basically setup from the get-go to make the doctors' lives more convenient than for the woman+child to have a safe natural childbirth. It results in far more c-sections than are needed, exponentially increasing risk for the mother and providing yet another opportunity to get hooked on painkillers.
The TL;DR of how is because many staples of hospital birth disrupt the natural hormone cycle that mitigates pain and progress through labor.
Borat also qualifies. :P
I've been trying to stay out of this thread because I do not identify as female but also because I've been hyper-aware of a recurring problem I have seen on Tildes (and the internet as a whole) in which minority groups are passively discouraged from participating in discussion through the means of their voices being drowned out. They are drowned out by a counter-opinion being restated pervasively throughout discussions involving these minority individuals. However, a female friend of mine has recently gone through something that I think deserves to be posted in this thread. I will do my best to retell their story and my own perception of what has occurred in the hopes that it will provide a glimpse into something that many women deal with on a regular basis.
This all started about two weeks ago when a mysterious note showed up on her door. I don't know the entire contents, but it essentially was a note that said something along the lines of 'I've seen you around the complex and found you attractive, would you like to meet sometime'. To be fair to this individual, the letter was respectful and didn't cross any boundaries. It respected her ability to say no, but unfortunately did not give an easy way to signal this - his request was to leave a letter on his car for a response, rather than something a little less passive like say a cellphone number and didn't offer any insight into who this person was other than someone else who lived at the property. At first, this seemed somewhat sweet, if nontraditional. My friend was excited as there were a few cute male individuals she had seen at the complex and theorized about who it might be.
Flash forward about a week and the man showed up at her door once while she was home and she answered. The man turned out to be in his late 60s or early 70s, with graying hair. For context my friend is 35, but hardly looks much more than 30. She takes her appearance quite seriously, which makes sense given how good she looks. I've had friends ask me if she's a model and unsurprisingly she has a fair deal of extremely high quality professional photos which have been offered to her for free by male photographers looking to expand their portfolio or perhaps simply looking for a chance to strike up a conversation. My friend does her best to be nice to the man and while she does not directly address the forward advances (unsurprising, given that he is in her doorway and a potential threat), she does her best to show that she is not interested by avoiding the question and letting him know that she is in fact quite busy right now and cannot respond. At some point he leaves and she stays shut in the apartment for the rest of the day in order to avoid running into him.
Since this point he has left not one or two, but three notes on her door asking for clarity on whether she is interested or not. The most recent of these notes is a full page, typed, in roughly 12 point font. It is roughly 2-3 times longer than this post. He continues to bemoan the lack of a response on her behalf and continues to hold out for increasingly odd signals of interest, such as
For anyone that is worried, the land owner has already been contacted about this and I have volunteered to offer my services to her in whatever way makes her feel most secure - whether that be sleeping on her couch, confronting this person, talking to the police, or simply being an ear for her to vent to. But this entire endeavor makes me very upset for her and the state of the world. While I'm not discounting the possibility that I may be harassed in this fashion in the future, it certainly seems like an apt description of something hard about being a woman and I hope it can be food for thought for anyone who is not a woman and wants a glimpse into the difficult parts of their lives.
Okay... this is going to be rather meta, and I honestly don't know how to express my thoughts/feelings on this matter without coming off like a bit of an ass... so please tag this as offtopic no matter what, or even as noise/malice if you feel like I deserve it. And also please keep in mind I am not a TERF, and so when I refer to "men" below I am not including trans women, who are women, and not men! Now caveats aside, here goes:
IMO all the men on this site (myself included ignoring my own gender confusion/uncomfortableness issues) really need to STFU when questions like this are asked, and should even abstain from voting (see why below). It's my firm belief that it's better to have no replies at all than a bunch of "as a cis man" comments, no matter how supportive those comment are. And the reason I believe that is because (again just IMO) part of the reason this place doesn't have many vocal women in the first place is likely because of topics and comment threads exactly like this which highlight just how outnumbered they are, and how willing all the men here are to reply to them (and vote on those replies made by other men) even when men aren't the subject, and aren't being asked any questions.
I have noticed a similar thing often plays out on LGBT and other minority group related topics, not just here but on other social media sites as well. And as someone who identifies as part of the LGBT community, at least for me, it's honestly not a great feeling seeing people who don't truly represent me being the majority of the people speaking up and being upvoted in such topics... even if those people are all allies with good intentions. A big part of the reason why is because when that does happen a lot of nuance and focus on the emotional struggles we face are often still lost, no matter how well intentioned and well informed the cis/straight people answering are. That and misconceptions also more often get spoken, and even get highly upvoted, so long as the statements of the cis/straight people commenting appear reasonable and informative enough to all the other non-LGBT people who read them.
Thankfully we at least have a dedicated LGBT group here on Tildes, so we can enforce at least a modicum of necessary cis/straight exclusion there (when it's required), and we actually do seem to have decent LGBT representation overall. But women here don't seem to have the same luxury... which is another reason why I think us men still need to STFU on these topics, and why we also desperately need a dedicated group for women here in order to give them their own space to discuss things, with all the moderation derived protections that come with that.
Sorry if this comes across as too harsh, especially to the well intentioned users who replied in here "as a cis man", but as I said, I honestly don't really know how to express my thoughts/feelings without being at least a little bit of an ass (and hypocrite). :/
And since I am not a women, any women please feel free to correct me on anything, and/or tell me I am totally off base in how I am equating your situation here to my own feelings as a member of the LGBT community.
Always a tricky situation. There's definitely a chilling effect, but trying to eliminate it will drown out some valuable conversation too,depending on particular context.
I have higher hopes for here on Tildes than most other places, and I hope this discussion doesn't die on the vine with only one non-meta post from a woman.