Thursday, August 02, 2018

Women: never the right age, and always shopping all wrong

-When I see Catherine Nichols has a new piece out, I always click, but I especially recommend her latest for Jezebel, about "dead girl" narratives supplanting romantic comedies. The argument itself is compelling (read it!), but it's the rom-com part I seem to have honed in on:

This is the post-pill chick-lit situation: a young woman’s life is not like her mother’s specifically because she can have a job and she can move to the city and have fun with her own money. On the other hand, even with access to this realm of dignity that was, until recently, only for men, she has a new indignity of having to persuade one of her shitty boyfriends to marry her before she runs out of eggs. She’s stuck in this neo-Victorian position of having to advocate for the hearth and home—for family, commitment, cooperation, children—when the promise of the Pill was that she could have other priorities.
This is something I've also written about, from a different (and less precise, I'm now realizing; it really is about the pill!) angle. There's this false feminism of a society that presents women's professional options as infinite, except for the small matter of, the options are to stop abruptly at The Age (exact age varies by region/subculture), at which point pre-feminist requirements not only surface, but get treated as an emergency situation. Meanwhile a woman who sees what's on the horizon and leans out, even marginally, before reaching The Age, is viewed as a regressive throwback, all for doing precisely what would have been demanded of her, from the very same milieu, five minutes later. Women can find themselves in the wrong for being ambitious or insufficiently so, if they don't get their timing just right.

The line that most struck me in Nichols's article was one about women "frustrated or humiliated by the need to find a man to marry before she runs out of fertile years—or, even if she doesn’t want children, fertile-looking years." That second part especially. If a woman does wish to have biological children, then yes, this means accepting that female fertility... is what it is. But this isn't every woman's goal, or priority. Yet all straight women are meant to treat various ages as deadlines, and, I guess, to ignore the fact that people of all ages pair off.

-I'll also belatedly WWPD-plug my first-ever piece for Refinery29! It's ostensibly about a Money Diaries column, from a wealthy 21-year-old student and intern, that went viral. But it's more generally about the temptation to view "privilege" as young women consuming (often fairly mundane, affordable) things, and to ignore the larger-scale (if less tangible) forms of privilege experienced by, oh, certain middle-aged men, many of whom (as several responding to my piece pointed out!) don't even know how much their day-to-day expenditures amount to, because someone else (a wife, say) is handling those trivial matters. Why — I continue to wonder (rhetorically) — do we not hear about how men feel about what they spent on each salad or taxi? Why indeed.

It's not that men can't make the news for materialism or aloofness. It just takes a wildly different threshold. It needs to be Paul Manafort, with his allegedly shadily-purchased $15,000 ostrich-skin jacket. Or Trump not knowing how grocery-shopping works. Meanwhile a woman can scandalize by spending $15 on takeout, or by buying groceries that aren't the absolute cheapest (or, conversely, on those that are; does she think about where her family's food comes from??), or by getting a latte at McDonalds.

1 comment:

caryatis said...

There's an old tradition, isn't there, of women managing household finances--in a way that tends to give them all the responsibility and none of the freedom that comes with money.

I've noticed this with online conversations about personal finance. Often when the husband works and the wife doesn't, the wife will take on the duties of managing household finances. Which is reasonable, but when they don't actively pay attention to equality, as most couples don't, it results in a sort of double standard for frugality: the man gets to buy whatever luxuries he wants, because "he needs them for work:" fancy car, lunch out, drinks with coworkers, golf, first-class travel. Meanwhile the woman doesn't feel entitled to do even as much as go to a restaurant by herself, and spends a lot of her time in high-effort/low-return financial strategies like making her own laundry detergent, cloth diapers, or visiting 4 or 5 grocery stores a week to use her coupons. She's picking his suits up at the drycleaners' and shopping at the thrift store for herself.