Reject the double-bind of female success

As should be abundantly obvious from this election season if nothing else, women are condemned if they are anything less than perfect, anything less than 120% or more of their male counterparts.

On the other hand, they’re also generally hated if they seem to be perfect, seem to be better than average, or seem to have their excrement together.

You see this on the political stage.  You see this on mommy blogs.  It, as part of the patriarchy, is the water we drink and the air we breath.

Woman are constantly calling “perfect” women out saying no, they’re not actually perfect.  They secretly suck but just don’t show the parts where they suck.

In order to not be hated, women talk about how no no, they’re imperfect too.  Their house isn’t always tidy.  Or whateverthef patriarchal standard they’re not meeting, no matter how successful they are in other spheres.

And other women are soooo grateful.  You are so brave to talk about your imperfections.  This makes me feel so much better.

It’s a common narrative and it sucks donkey gonads.

When you see someone is successful, here’s what you should try to do.

  1. Think about whether or not this is something you care about for yourself.  If you don’t care, then don’t compare yourself along that dimension.  Don’t hate the woman because she can bake or craft if you don’t care about baking or crafting.
  2. If you do care, first decide if this is something you really care about or if it’s just something that patriarchy makes you think you should care about (see: having a clean house).  If the latter, then refer to #1.
  3. If the former, then instead of hating on the other woman, instead of trying to cut her down to size, see if you can get tips on how to do it better yourself. If that’s something you want to spend time doing. Share your joy of doing whatever it is.  It’s not a zero-sum game.

Don’t get your self-value from comparisons to other people.  Work on yourself.  Value your progress.  Compare yourself to your ideal and work on getting there.  Don’t negatively compare yourself to other people.  Especially not along lines that have nothing to do with your own values and priorities.  Or even if they do match your values and priorities.  Move yourself forward, don’t push other people back.

We want the world to be a better place.  There’s enough pie for everyone if we keep making the pie bigger.  No need to force someone to take a smaller slice if it means a smaller pie.

Smash the patriarchy.

28 Responses to “Reject the double-bind of female success”

  1. towglow Says:

    Smash the system! Smash it to smithereens! And then let’s build a better world for all of us!

  2. First Gen American Says:

    I am happy to report that I do see much less of women cutting each other down in my industry these days vs when I stared 20 years ago and it was rampant. We help each other much more now and it starts with every one of us being a supporter and not a detractor.

    i do still see that a man’s 100% = a woman’s 120% in a bunch of cases but thankfully not all. I feel it now with my “special projects” I got nominated for.

    I have been really getting into all the politics in this election as I never did before. it saddens me that Hillary’s lack of stage presence is making this anything other than a slam dunk election. She needs some tips from the Obamas who’s speeches always blow me away. I did hear her speak at a local round table when she was in town years ago. In a small forum she’s quite charming and larger than life.

    Reminds me. Must double check that I am registered to vote. For the record. I am an independent. I like the fiscally conservative republicans but the social policies of the democrats. I do think you can do both. Like finances, you have to have the money first before you spend it. I see big differences in my rural town’s tax rates because of the build it and they will come mentality. It’s sad when you see towns near bankruptcy because of over borrowing and it was one of the reasons I moved to the town I am in. It is well run.

    • Debbie M Says:

      I felt this way, about a town being well-run, when I visited Oklahoma City. They had passed a law to raise the sales tax by 2% for, I think, 3 years, which they were going to use for several specific projects. At the end of the 3 years:
      * they lowered the sales tax back to where it was
      * the projects had all been completed
      * at least one of them won an award, so they weren’t all crap

      This was so shocking to me, in a good way, that I started thinking of Oklahoma City as a back-up place to live if I can’t afford (or otherwise don’t want to live in) Austin anymore. In Austin, the tax would stay raised forever, and the projects either would not be completed, would be ridiculously unusable, or would actually make life worse than life before the projects.

  3. Nanani Says:

    Yes. Smashy smashy!
    (Nothing to add but smashing)

  4. jjiraffe Says:

    Yes! I’ve never seen this better said. Completely agree.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    Mmm, baking. Can I go to her parties?

    Seriously, though, your #3 is my favorite, regardless of the answers to #1 and #2. One great thing about knowing people being good at stuff that I’m not good at is all the benefits I get. I can learn from them. Or I can be a guinea pig for them. Or we can trade things we’re good at. And I can admire their awesomeness.

    Of course I am the type of person to cheer for the other team when they do something awesome, so I clearly don’t get it.

    I am sorry about the poor donkey gonads. It does suck that minorities have to be better than everyone else just to be respected and that women can be hated for being too much better than everyone (also, Billy Budd).

    Yes, there is enough pie! We shouldn’t need to fight each other for it.

  6. Funny about Money Says:

    Nice post, nicoleandmaggie! It’s right on in so many dimensions. Even those who think they’re (make that “we’re,” I’m afraid) woman-friendly inflict conflicting expectations — often expectations that don’t even apply in individual cases.


  7. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    Yes, smash the patriarchy.

    I’m on my neighborhood association board, and a board member literally spent twenty minutes of our meeting explaining how things “used to be” the other night. For example, board members had to be men “back in the day” but they could invite their wives to association cook-outs. Also, the women were allowed to have input – just not present it directly to the board. Also, he thinks it’s neat there are women on the board now because they might “see things differently” and “add value.” The key were here is “might.”

    I just sat there and laughed because I was so uncomfortable and afraid I might hit him.

    Anyway, I don’t wish anyone would die BUT I will be happy when the older generations who accepted this nonsense are no longer able to perpetuate it.

    • chacha1 Says:

      Our challenge is really to effectively communicate with women *younger* than we are about the things they take for granted that were brand-new for us and our mothers, and which younger women’s assumptions, or complacence, about are putting in danger all over again.

      We are still living in a world where an insurance company can decide “no you do not get to have that specific surgery to address that collection of gynecological problems; we will only approve this other surgery which may or may not address all of them; you can always have another surgery later [pat on head].”

      (true story, friend of mine)

      • hollyatclubthrifty Says:

        Perhaps. In that vein,I would be really, really happy if I could get the younger crowd to stop using the phrase #girlboss. That’s the kind of thing I *think* you’re talking about – where the younger gals perpetuate patriarchy without realizing it.

      • chacha1 Says:

        #girlboss yes, and that “feminists” are gross, and that abortion rights are negotiable, and that it’s okay for your employer to decide which legal prescription medications the insurance plan the employer offers is allowed to reimburse for, and that it’s okay for a hospital or pharmacy that is open to the public to say “we will not treat you or dispense that medication if we don’t “believe” in treating that condition.” The array of patriarchal health-care oppressions is vast, and many young women don’t even seem to recognize them as oppressions.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The patriarchy runs deep, and isn’t limited by age or gender. We swim in it.

        (See also: fatshaming, mother shaming, childfree shaming, boys will be boys, men are all like that, etc. etc. etc.)

      • Cloud Says:

        I’ve been thinking a lot about the intergenerational communication gap lately. I confess that when I was a young whippersnapper I thought the cohort ahead of me had nothing to teach me, because I wouldn’t face the same problems. I was very wrong, and now actively seek out women 10-20 years older than me to learn from them.

        But I know that women 10-20 years younger than me often think they won’t face the same problems my cohort has. I wish I thought they were right, but I think we get confused by the fact that a lot of the sexism at work gets worse as you get more senior. So, we hear older women saying they’ve faced these issues that we don’t see in our own lives and think “aha! That is no longer a problem” when really we should think “Uh oh, I should watch out for that problem as I advance in my career.”

        On the flip side, I think my generation could learn from the current “kids”, whose approach seems to be more to confront than to sidestep issues, but that we don’t always listen to them well enough because we think they are just ignorant and time will teach them….

        I have no solutions to this. It is just something I’ve been thinking about lately.

  8. becca Says:

    I am always up for patriarchy smashing and pie.
    But part of patriarchy smashing means some women will get to be ultra competitive aggressive crazy persons, just like some men. I don’t mean we have to tolerate all forms of meanness in all things, just that “@IKick_Urface” is a perfectly acceptable twitter handle, and comparing yourself to other people has it’s place.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You can be ultra competitive without dragging other people down. Life isn’t boxing. Having a clean house isn’t a contact sport, unless you’re both playing chore wars.

      And lashing out at other people because you come up short isn’t feminist. Lashing out at women (or minorities etc.) whenever they dare to do well IS the patriarchy. It is one of the many ways the patriarchy tries to keep us in our place. And women have always been tools of the patriarchy, just as men have. We all are.

      Next you’ll be saying Trump is a feminist because he likes to tear women down.

      • becca Says:

        Hey now, having a clean house would be a lot more fun if it WERE a contact sport. Like, put swifter pads on your feet and slide around your living room bumping into your family members while trying to get a hockey puck in a net? My floor would be so much CLEANER!
        I didn’t advocate for lashing out at others, but *noticing* you come up short and having feelings about that is not to be universally avoided. Blaming others for their failures is actually something I’d rather see some women more often, inasmuch as internalized blame/shame can also be highly destructive. Though if you know more women whose primary issue is meanness compared to women whose primary issue is depression and self-esteem issues, I can understand why YMMV.

        Trump is anti-feminist in many ways, but not because he is especially mean to women. He is an especially nasty person who will use whatever tool is in his toolbox to wound whoever he perceives as his enemies, and since he has no scruples about anything whatsoever, he is in no way constrained by not sounding like a hideous genetic mutated product of the worst misogyny of Bill Cosby, Larry Summers, Ann Coulter and a circus peanut.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        All the post says is not to tear down women just because they are successful. The woman with a clean house has nothing to do with the state of yours. Tearing her down for being horrible in some imagined way isn’t going to make you feel better about yourself and is just reinforcing the idea that people will hate you if you achieve too.

  9. undine Says:

    Don’t forget the other side: if another woman gives you side-eye or shade or whatever, call her on it or lift your chin & give her the look that says either “how dare you!” or “I do not give the tiniest — what you think of me.” (This was the subject of one of my posts a few weeks ago.) Patriarchy smashing is good, but all the mean ones out there aren’t men.

    • undine Says:

      Trying to say: “it’s not just men that are the mean ones.”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I thought about adding a “what to do if you are the object” but so much advice is about how to swim in the patriarchy pool and so little is about how to drain it.

      Plus, these women who lash out because the patriarchy has made them feel inferior are also victims. They’re just aiming their anger at the wrong place. Love and learn instead, because the patriarchy wants us to fight each other– that’s how it keeps us down.

      p.s. The recommended response is to refuse to apologize for being awesome.

  10. Busy* | Too Many Fish to Fry Says:

    […] overall a good summer. This post is filled with good times and happiness, but that’s OK. When things are going well, it’s in our power to acknowledge […]

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