Much Ado About Nouns

There will come a time in every female human’s life, when she must make a choice.

Yeah, I wrote female human. Awkward, right? I can feel my agent cringing all the way from Boston. Luckily, there are better descriptors for our gender. Girl, woman, lady, bird, lass, and matron are just a few that come to mind. Of course, those aren’t really synonyms. Each carries its own connotation beyond gender. Whichever noun is applied to me speaks volumes – my age, marital status, and attractiveness can be summed up with the choice. Lately, I’ve been musing on the two biggest and seemingly most benign: girl and woman.

I’m in my mid-twenties. I’m way past puberty, perfectly capable of bearing children, and in possession of both a credit card and breasts. Technically, this makes me woman. I have all the working parts. And yet…I don’t feel like one. Maybe it’s that I’m still in school, because holy hashbrowns becoming a doctor takes forever, or that I’m unmarried. If I were asked to describe myself to someone, I’d probably say Grace is a smart, blonde, book-obsessed girl. However, does that diminish me? There is obviously an age difference between a woman and a girl, but there are also disparate connotations of maturity and accomplishment. A girl is still small, vulnerable, and unformed. A kid. Why would I identify more with that word than its older, more respected sister?

Well, because she’s older, of course. My entire life, I’ve been told “One day, when you’re a woman…” This sentence can end with any number of things: “you’ll get married”, “you’ll make Boeuf Bourguignon without a recipe,” or even “you’ll stop gagging during blow jobs.” There are requirements for becoming a woman. Proper women know how to dress, know how to cook, have sexual confidence, and – the biggie – meet nice men and wear white dresses down aisles. I am not that person.

My wardrobe is awesome, yes, but oral sex still makes me want to gargle with vodka. Women, fully grown-up ones, wouldn’t have irrational fears of Australia (everything there wants to KILL you) or know every word to “I Kissed a Girl.” Despite my age and accomplishments, my mind rebels at the label. Aren’t I supposed to be more equipped? Hilary Clinton is a woman. Maya Angelou is a woman. I’m just a medical student who watches too much BBC America. I’m not dealing with issues of international security or winning National Book Awards. My mother is a woman. How can we possibly have the same descriptor? It can’t be one day yet, can it? I’m so behind!

In the span of history, it’s strange to even ask this question. Not until the turn of the last century, did our society even have the concept of teenagers. One went from child to adult with no perceived period of maturation between. Which is, as I see it, precisely my problem. There is no definite switch anymore. There is no coming out ball to attend, no four-day ritual to endure. One day someone refers to you as That hot girl from the gym, then the next you’re that lovely woman next door. Congratulations! You’re may or may not be a grown-up! Y’all, I want a definitive moment. I want a ritual. Where is my poofy ball gown?

Luckily, I’m not alone. My friends still refer to each other as The Girls. When Kate meets a person of the male persuasion, she calls to say she met a dreamy boy. This needs no translation. She met an attractive guy our age, not an actual drowsy minor. Mae is dating a really nice guy, not a really nice man. Despite our age and maturity level, we haven’t switched our language yet. Nowadays, I don’t know when that change comes. Perhaps, it happens when we’ve all married or when we all hit thirty. Perhaps, it happens when we stop getting carded for beer. Perhaps, it just happens.

That’s the answer, of course. The requirements society has cast down are crap. Becoming a woman, that great thunderclap of supposed maturity, has nothing to do with whether I’m married or know how to glaze a ham. One day, when I’m a woman, I’ll be exactly the same as I am now. I’m a woman because my chromosomes are all fancily matched and I’m of a mature age. I’m also a girl, a lass, a chick, and a dame. Creating Italian topiary tablescapes has nothing to do with it. Now, just tell that to my vocabulary. Hopefully “woman” steadily weaves itself into my self-image. Quite frankly, I’ve decided not to care. They’re only words, after all. Girl, woman. Boy, man. Bread, sandwich.

Just in case, maybe I will start perfecting that boeuf…

– Grace

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Please Do Not Meow At Me So, Sir

Do not adjust your computer monitors, dear readers. I know you were expecting a post from the delightful Kate this morning, but today she’s occupied being not only A Very Important Businesswoman (her actual title), but also The Perfect Bridesmaid. I generously offered to take over today’s post, in light of this development. Or, you know, I begged and pleaded because – surprise! – I have something to rant about discuss.

You see, yesterday I was meowed at.

Not by, as one would expect, a cat. This sound effect came from a grown man. Unfortunately, he wasn’t doing his best Aristocats impression or training his feline for a cat agility competition. He was using it to make me shut up. The exchange went, thusly:

Man (Also known as my younger brother, Paul the Fratboy, who was over at my house watching Center Stage, an acknowledged cinematic masterpiece): Dude, I can’t believe you’re watching this movie. This is so gay.

Me: Um. No, it’s not. Does this movie think other movies of the same gender are attractive? Oh wait, or were you calling the men in the movie that, just because they’re dancers? Yeah, that makes sense. Everyone who puts on tights must like boys. Just look at Mikhail Baryshnikov or Gene Kelly. Oh, wait…

Man: I’m just saying, it’s stupid.

Me: Well, that’s not what you said.

Man: Meow!

That was the meow. It was not a placid I’m imitating a submissive cat noise. It was the sound a cat makes when you’ve just stepped on its tail or introduced it to a chihuahua. It was the sound meant to tell me I was being a ridiculous woman. I was meowed at, because my brother didn’t like what I was saying. I was meowed at, because I dared argue my point in a vehement manner. My taking issue with something offensive is, in fact, me just being catty.

I wish this were limited to twenty-year old frat boys. It’s not. My brother learned this behavior from my father, a man who proudly cries at human interest news stories and who has always believed I could rule the world. And yet…I’ve been meowed at in this same manner, when arguing with my normally enlightened father. Worse still, I know this isn’t just our family. Women are meowed at all the time. It even happens to powerful female politicians in Australia, during official government discourse. (If this has never happened to you, because you live in a paradise of common courtesy, click that second link to see an example.)

This is a thing, y’all. When women are angry or in the middle of an argument, apparently it’s okay to compare us to pissed-off housecats. Even the word “catty” is used mainly for women. While it means slyly spiteful and has no gendered language in the official definition, it’s still considered a woman thing. Think about it. Even if a man is talking smack about someone, exhibiting sly spite in all its glory, he would be called judgmental or an asshat, but never catty. When men get angry, it can’t be so easily demeaned with an animal noise. A man-to-man argument will never end with a meow.

What the hell? Where did this even come from? It’s not like we bark at men, when they do something stupid like chase their tails or watch Jackass marathons.Why have we tolerated this notion that an enraged woman is nothing so much as a pissy, hissing feline, easily swatted away or placated with tuna?

If my opinion doesn’t match yours, that’s fine. Let’s have a discussion about it. Hell, yell at me, if you must. But when I yell back just as loudly, let’s set a rule, shall we? There will be no more damned meowing. I do not want canned fish. I want my voice heard.

– Grace

Was This Some Sexism?

Sexism

Yesterday something happened. Something weird. Something that left me befuddled. What was this bizarre and perplexing occurrence? Well, that’s what I need your help in figuring out, because I think it may have been some sexism….but I’m not entirely sure.

Picture it: A very busy restaurant at lunchtime. I’m trying to fill up my cup with unsweet iced tea (my favorite) but the drip is running awfully slow and there is a line starting behind me. An employee of the restaurant comes over, asks me to move aside, and then tilts the tea maker so the flow of tea is heavier….then, this employee (a man) says “Sir, if you bring your cup over here I can fill it for you.”  Cue confusion on my part. At first, I thought he was talking to me, after all, I was the first in the tea line trying to fill my cup, but then I realize he is gesturing to the man behind me. BEHIND ME. He asked the man who was second in line to fill his cup before the woman who was first in line. Um, what the hell? I was so flummoxed, I didn’t know what to say. The man behind me stepped right in front of me and filled his cup and then went back to his table, then the employee says “Mam, you can fill your cup now.” That time, he was talking to me. Again, what the hell? Why did he give the man behind me cup filling preference? After all, I was the one who had been trying for a hot minute to fill her cup, I was first in line, and I was the one who brought the problem to the employee’s attention. What. The. Hell. Was this some sexism?

I looked up the official definition of sexism and it’s “attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles; discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.” I can’t exactly figure how my cup filling incident plays into this. I mean, there isn’t a gender stereotype that I’m aware of where men prefer iced tea more than woman. And being passed over to fill your cup doesn’t even come close to measuring up to job discrimination or sexual harassment. So, I’m left still feeling baffled. Was this or wasn’t this some sexism?

I turn to you, the gorgeous and all-knowing reader for the answer. Please save me from the over-analyzing that’s happening in my brain right now, my ears are starting to smoke…..

– Mae

The Case of the Tiny Knickers

Ladies, we have a problem. Someone has shrunk all the underwear in America. I suspect Lex Luther, that pervy rat.

This treacherous crime was most recently observed yesterday, while I indulged in a bit of post-holiday shopping. Victoria’s Secret, that haven of polyester lace and sweatpants with gendered colors stitched across the bum, was having a sale. A great, big, Please Back Up The Truck For Our Cheaply Made Underwear sale. Hooray! My credit card company rejoiced!

My rear end did not. There were all sorts of choices, of course. I could buy thongs, hipsters, bikinis, and even something called a cheeky panty. (That last, I can only guess is some sort of insolent, but loveable, undergarment. Perhaps it has Oscar Wilde quotes on the tag?) None of these, however, met my new underpinnings requirement: proper coverage. Even ignoring the dreaded thong, these garments were engineered not to support or flatter my body, but to seductively uncover it. The hipsters covered my hips, yes, but not most of my lower butt region. The bikinis would cover the bum, but not that odd thigh-meets-pelvis region up front. Which should be covered and which should be left shivering and exposed to the cruel winter air, for proper sexiness? It was like a Sophie’s Choice of my nether regions!

From these options, I can only assume American women are forever in danger of having our clothes ripped off by passing strangers or rogue trolley cars. Ergo, underneath our clothes, we must look as much like adult film actresses as possible. Heaven forbid someone see us in – gasp! – actual panties. Why, if my Volvo were hit by a skydiving llama, I’d be the shame of the emergency room!

This sucks. Y’all, I like real underwear. Why must I be expected to wear mere suggestions of it instead? Reasonable underwear, the kind that covers one’s entire bum and doesn’t dare venture into places reserved for Ryan Gosling, is awesome. When did it become not only unfashionable, but actively frowned upon? Last I checked, men aren’t trying to cover their cash & prizes with pieces of cloth no wider than dental floss. Yet, not only are we taught that full underwear isn’t sexy, but it’s given a derisive nickname. The granny panty. Cue lightning and thunder.

Well, whatever. I think Granny had it right. You can’t tell me I would look hotter wearing butt-floss than this:

I just don’t believe it. Real underwear makes me look better, both with and without clothes on. Ladies, there isn’t one among us who hasn’t fallen victim to unfortunate lines created by bunching hipsters or migrating thongs. Just think – it’s possible for us not to worry about what crazy antics our underwear will get up to next. We could put on a garment that not only flatters our figure, but won’t start playing a game of Twister halfway through the dessert course. Can I get a hallelujah?

There is, of course, the argument on behalf of guys. Heaven knows, we can’t leave this important wardrobe decision up to women’s delicate little brains.The male half must prefer us in these wisps of cloth, or else we wouldn’t contort ourselves into them each morning. Sorry, but I’m calling foul on this one. For generations and generations, we wore reasonable underpants. Hell, for generations, we wore too many underpants! Men seemed to enjoy them well enough. We have all their billions of descendents walking around as a testament to that fact! My new outlook is this – if a guy is lucky enough to see my underwear, he probably won’t care if they’re retro lace panties or a red polyester thong. He should just be super excited about getting to that point at all. So, why not wear what makes me feel pretty? I can tell you, it won’t be a mysterious contraption that resembles nothing so much as a mesh butt cage (Link slightly NSFW).

I am through with garment-enforced wedgies, more torturous than any junior high prank, and trips to the bathroom just to rearrange my underwear situation. In 2012, I am taking a stand against ridiculous tiny knickers. If you need me, I won’t be at Victoria’s Secret, but instead kicking it old school with the hot “grannies” of What Katie Did and Dollhouse Bettie.

– Grace

How About A Little Solidarity In The Sisterhood!?

Female Solidarity

I believe very strongly in women supporting women. Not in everything mind you, I certainly don’t support women serial killers or women puppy kickers, but as an overall and very generalized worldview, I think we as women should stick together. I like to call this “sisterhood solidarity” because I really like alliteration and also it makes it sound like we are all members of a really covert and subversive resistance organization and that’s just kind of neat.

One of the main tenants of sisterhood solidarity is that we don’t disseminate harmful stereotypes and supposed truths about women. I mean, we know it’s some bullshit, so why perpetuate it? I’m talking about things like “Women aren’t good at math”, “All women want to get married”, and “A woman isn’t fulfilling her biological purpose if she doesn’t have kids.” This is some grade-A fresh from the bull type of bullshit. Sure, some women may not be good at math, but I know loads more who absolutely dominate it, and I know dozens of women who are genuinely uninterested in getting married, and I certainly don’t think any of us are biological failures if we can’t or choose not to have children. So hey, let’s stop saying shit like this? Ok?

Pardon my soapbox standing but I feel like it’s crucial we keep reminding each other it’s not ok for us to say things like this and it’s certainly not ok for us to allow things like this to be said to us. To be honest, I didn’t realize we needed to be reminded of this until I overheard this conversation at lunch the other day. A woman was sitting at the table next to mine with three men who were clearly her co-workers and they were having a discussion about dating and relationships; this is that conversation. (Paraphrased obviously because I don’t go around carrying tape recorders so I can record people’s insulting conversations. That would be creepy or at the very least creepy adjacent.)

Woman: You know what they say, “Single for a season or single for a reason.”

Male Co-Worker 1: I don’t even know what that means.

Woman: It means if you know a girl and she has been single for more than six months, there is a reason for it. She’s probably screwed up, crazy, ugly, fat,  or all of it.

Male Co-Worker 2: True.

Male Co-Worker 1: Yeah, that seems wrong. I don’t think that’s true at all.

Woman: Trust me, I’m a Woman, it’s true. If they’re not crazy and single they’re probably ugly and single.

(Please note at this point I almost threw-up my delicious tacos because my body was having a physical reaction to her bullshit)

Male Co-Worker 1: That’s a really terrible thing to say.

Woman: Seriously, you take any girl who has been single for more than six months, give her some therapy, get her a gym membership, new clothes, and a facial and she’ll get a boyfriend instantly.

Male Co-Worker 3: Because she will feel better about herself?

Woman: No. Because she will look better to other people.

Male Co-Worker 1: This seems incredibly superficial.

Woman: Women are vain. It just is. And men won’t even give a girl a chance if she doesn’t look hot.

Male Co-Worker 2: That’s true.

Male Co-Worker 1: This is a truly awful conversation.

Male Co-Worker 3: Agreed.

Woman: I’m just telling the truth. People don’t like to hear it anymore but it’s still the truth.  All women want to get married and have kids and in order to get that they need to be pretty.

Are you kidding me woman??! Are you fucking kidding me?! I can not believe you are saying things like this and I really can’t believe you’re completely ignoring the man sitting at your table telling you this is insanity. Who are you and why do you hate yourself and other women? Why? Oh my sweet Athena, why?! I just can’t….I don’t even……what the….but….she…and then….women….wrong…..can’t…..blurg.  I’m sorry y’all, I might be having a rage-induced stroke. All I can say is, how about a little solidarity in the sisterhood??

Can I get an Amen? Or at least, can you tell me what provokes women to talk about women like this? Because I’m at a loss……

– Mae