Friday, March 8, 2013

Woman fail? Choices?

 I am part of a generation that grew up being told that “women can do anything they set themselves up to”. This is the generation that could finally enjoy the fruits (voting, an education, birth control…) of years of struggling and fighting that started with our grandmothers, if not earlier. From grades 5 through 9, I went to an all-girls hardcore catholic school where we were led into believing that we were going to be “agents of change”, that it was our calling to make a difference in the world. We had classes and conferences by empowering role-models, successful, worldly ladies, explaining how women, by their own psychological complexion were ideal candidates to reach the very top of all kinds of businesses and professional roles, as values such as compassion, empathy, connection and our innate ability to communicate were natural to us girls. At the same time we received parallel messages telling us of our important role in the home, how we were meant to be the pillars of our families, how a feminine touch (like leaving flowers by your husbands’ workplace or knowing how to cook a perfect meal, complete with sauce hollandaise) could make the difference in a bad day. How we were to be the rock of our husbands and families. They went on to explain that all of these things were our duty along with other things like managing the household’s budget frugally and efficiently, and yes, emphasizing how our main and most important mission along with all of the above was to procreate and take care of all the children that would be sent to us (those were the words they used!!!). 

Trying to succeed at all of those spheres at the same time sounded contradictory. We might be super girls, smart and funny, tough yet romantic, but I have not yet discovered my own superpowers.  I cannot be in two places at the same time and I certainly don’t have any control over my crazy hormones. There are so many cultural messages, coming from media, literature, our education, telling us what we are supposed to do. If you take a dip in Art history, starting with the earliest civilizations, one of the first pieces that you study are Venus statues. Those big stone women with a huge belly and big breasts, the earliest dating back to 35,000 – 40,000 years ago, were already telling us that our uttermost important role was (and is?) to bring new humans to the planet.  From them on, the role of women in society has very slowly changed, but has, overall been limited to the backstage scenes. Through high-school and university I really enjoyed reading “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir. Her in depth study about the female condition along time and history is so clear and straight forward that I formed my own ideas and ended up convinced that yes, against all odds, us girls were ready to join Pinky and the Brain and take over the World. 

So what does being a woman mean in 2013? Apparently it means that we can finally “have it all”. When I hear such claims I can only laugh. And when I see women discussing these issues  and tearing each other down because apparently whatever you do it will be wrong,  I can only conclude that we haven’t quite figured it out just yet. It is so sad, this fight between "women”: it seems that whatever choices are made someone will come to tell you how you are not doing it right. And one can only assume that we are all intelligent beings, making the best choices that we can, with the resources, possibilities and information that we have in our hands. We are all just trying to make our best. 

As I go through life being unemployed regardless of the fact that I have two scientific degrees, while, at the same time I struggle with what the medical community refers to as infertility (though I refuse to use that term), I think of my junior-high school days and wonder what I did wrong, and when. If I am to judge myself according to the standards I was taught I am clearly failing in all womanly spheres at the same time. 

And then I read the news and it breaks my heart (not to mention enrages me) to learn that little girls are sometimes not even allowed to be born, and when they are, they are mutilated, they are  forced to work, forced into arranged marriages, are not allowed to study or pursue their dreams, cannot be independent or get positions of power.

It is international woman’s day and I think there is still a fight to be had. We have to fight so that every girl and woman gets the choice to live the life she wants. We have to change the structures in society to ensure that professional success and a family can finally be compatible. And among us girls that have been lucky/blessed enough to enjoy such luxuries as an education, the right to work and develop careers, the choice to have children (or not) to stay at home (or not), to go and work in the world (or to do so from the living room, while dressed in pajamas), to be scientists, lawyers, politicians, doctors, writers, to make a difference… so much kindness is needed. I seriously wish we would just start being nicer to each other, we would stop the judgments, because the beauty of feminism, is that we can *choose* who we want to be.  This fight is not over and we should make it possible for every woman and girl in the planet to be able to make these choices for herself. 
It's International Women's Day. Over at 'Any Other Woman', there will be a day long extravaganza of posts, where many of us will share views and stories (or art, poems, photos) on what it means to be a Woman, today, in 2013. Head over there, I am sure there will be wisdom galore.

Images via here here and here. 


  1. taniabeth (

    Uhm, by society's standards I'm ALSO failing at all womanly things... 28, but still single and unemployed. Just today I was told I need to hurry up if I want to have kids, "What are you waiting for?"

    It is a lot of pressure for sure. I wish people realized that life takes us all in different journeys, not everyone travels the same way along life. If marriage, kids and a successful career are going to happen for me, they will in due time.

    1. Yes exactly... so much pressure. But I hope you know / feel that we are so much more than what society says we should be doing. Most of all, you are a person and that should be enough. The rest as you say, will come in due time. (Though with the media bombardment it is easy to fall in the trap). Do what you can for the things that you want, give it your all, and for the things that you can't control... well leave them for the Universe.

      Like Abi said (at AOW):

      "You should have: a wonderful, clever, professional career, lots of fulfilling hobbies, pretty little smiley babies, stylish houses, a cake in the oven, a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine.

      You should: look hot, support your husband, listen to your friends and socialise, help the world and volunteer, travel regularly and in your spare time run a small ‘art/craft’ business…

      Oh and you should have sex with your partner 5 times a week. Give me a fucking break."


  2. Sadie (

    Happy Women's Day Amanda!

    I'm looking forward to reading your whole piece...I must say, my (always convoluted) relationship to feminist has become so complicated since I started this journey to motherhood.

    You pic at the top of this post reminds me of that amazing little girl who went on an adorable three-year-old's tirade about marketing. Have you watched it?

    I love Riley!

    1. I love that little video ! It is so cute. Our little neighbor likes my pink glitter nail polish (and it does not mean anything other than he is attracted to shiny stuff, like most kids with).

      Feminism and motherhood , and motherhood not coming to you are very difficult to make sense out of. Specially if you star thinking in biological / evolutionary terms. What is this supposed to mean? Why?

  3. You are so right, why is it so hard to be kind to each other? During my first days at uni I have been looked down by someone because well, I am married, as if that made me a weird boring uncool person. I had no idea that married and single women where kind of enemies in some women's small minds. There is so much judgement going on and the worst part is when it comes from someone who grew up in more or less the same conditions as me (I am talking about another mexican girl I met here). Have you ever ecounter yourself with this situation?

    1. It has not happened in that context, but it definitely has. I was one of the last girls in my high-school class to get married (at the time I was still studying, living alone...) and now of course they all have kids, some even 3. And they look at you like you are weird or something is wrong.
      At that point I had not even met Mark yet and I was determined to be happy even if I did not meet a man, marry and all of that. Of course I wanted it, I wished it, but it was not something I could control. The only thing I could control was my happiness, so I focused on that.
      It's awful, this competition kind of thing. And if you take a look at discussions among mothers' it gets worse (I don't read lots of those, but I have stumbled upon them: it's like a war between the breastfeeders and the formula givers, those who had natural births, and those who wanted anesthesia, those who choose (or have no other choice) than to use daycare and those who do not feel it is an option for them... it's all judgement.
      Why can't we understand that there are different ways to do things, and that everyone is trying to do their best.
      So sad.

  4. Posibilidades esa es la idea... Y una educación sin prejuicios de género e ideales preconcebidos, tampoco nos caería mal.

    1. Sí, poco a poco. Creo que vamos en esa dirección, aunque sea 1 familia / persona a la vez.

  5. creo la emancipacion de la mujer es un arma de doble filo, nos creamos trabajos que no nos correspondian, dejamos atrar valores espirituales que de una u otra forma mantenian el equilibrio d ela familia. ahora se nos exige tanto y nosotras mismas lo hacemos, el pensar en el ideial de mujer actual me genera estres por que estaria muy lejos de serlo, tener hijos ( situacion economica o miedo a ser esteril), un trabajo bien remunerado (con esta crisis y la lucha de ser extrangera -mi caso- se crea una pesadilla) tener una casa linda y limpia, relaizar ricas comidas y atender bien a los invitados, fisicamente estar sana y en forma, comer bien y tener un cuerpo de modelo, esta muy bien vestida, peinada y con ropa actual ya que si no lo haces te dejas trascurar, criar hijos bien educados y proeeverlos de todo.

    Bueno me pregunto por que tiene que ser asi, por que tenemos que sentirnos menos por no tener un trabajo ( a menos que sea una necesidad) por que tenemos que parecer modelos de revistas, por que TENEMOS QUE SER DESCRIMINADAS EN LOS TRABAJOS POR QUE PODEMOS QUEDAR EMBARAZADAS ( lo odio).

    Nuestro problema es que no nos dimos cuenta de que debimos colocar limites..ahora es tarde

    1. Perdón a qué te refieres con trabajos que no nos correspondían?

    2. Es cuestión de equilibrios, lo que es irreal es esa idea de que tenemos que hacerlo todo al mismo tiempo, todas. No sólo eso sino que nosotras mismas nos ponemos esos estándares tan altos.
      Cuando en realidad se trata de que cada mujer pueda elegir lo que quiere hacer, que tenga esas opciones, que pueda luchar por ellas y que no se le impida desarrollarse, buscar su felicidad, personal, profesional.... Que si quiere ser científica, o ejecutiva, no sea discriminada por su sexo, tal como mencionas que sucede. O si quiere ser ama de casa, pues también. Todas las elecciones deberían ser válidas.
      Y poodemos ser tantas cosas.
      Pero pretender que seamos TODAS LAS COSAS es absurdo. Y aun así pareciera que es el ideal...

  6. I want to just comment with "yep." But that would be a cop-,out wouldn't it?

    So I would say, this post is powerful. Women have so many pressures to fit into so many roles and now, when you choose one over another, there are labels that go along with that choice. For example, career or children? Traditional or untraditional roles in your relationship? How to display femininity?

    I think fertility is just an added layer of pressure that is out of our control to "choose." But a layer that has the most pressure because it is embedded in every single culture.

    Men have it easy, don't they? ;)

    1. Yeah it does seem easier to be a man. They can do so many things, they don't get judged or discriminated from jobs because of their potential to have a family, they are not potentially at danger (or not so much) for walking alone at night, everything really is made for them to grow and be fulfilled.... Regarding fertility issues though, I think men are not spared. I have recently read about cases of male infertility and it is also awfully hard on them, precisely because: 1. society tends to blame women by default, it's an even bigger taboo and 2. it's also their "virility" which is at stake. These are just difficult waters to tread in.


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