Self-sufficiency is a feminist issue

Getting old is weird.

I do firmly believe aging is a feminist issue. It’s true that the kind and amount of attention a woman gets changes as she ages. It’s not just that fewer men can see you because many men have this weird condition where if a person not a man or someone they want to fuck, they literally can’t see them. Even weirder, however, is that huge swaths of society are geared toward accommodating this weird vision defect. So there’s that.

But there’s an equally upsetting… narrative? motif? unexamined assumption? that says that women actually lose net value as they age. It tells women that it’s all downhill from 25.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, yes, I still look 25. So that’s pretty dope. But there are so many awesome benefits to actually being 30. For example, I give way fewer fucks about things like what strangers think about me. I’m a sweaty person. And sometimes, in D.C. in the summer, my butt sweats. And sometimes it sweats so much that you can see the sweat on my skirt.

I used to be so afraid of someone seeing wetness on the back of my skirt that I’d bring jackets with me to tie around my waist. I did that. Now? I really do not care.

Or like these women on Twitter were talking about this stripper who went into the splits and raised her hands and her wig came up with them. One tweeted that she’d run away and never stop running. “No offense, but are you under 30?” I asked her. She was. Because guys, I’d die laughing. First I’d be thrilled I could do the splits. Then I’d have a story!

I need you to read this story. Self-sufficiency is also a feminist issue. Men are expected to provide for not only themselves, but also a family as well. This expectation is a burden, especially in an era where it’s becoming harder and harder for many men to meet this expectation. Men’s average wages have stayed stagnant since the 1980’s while women’s average have grown. Single, childless women in cities now outearn their male counterparts. Sexism tells men that the only way to be a man is to earn more than a woman. But then the economy says that unless you have a college degree, good luck with that. And of course women are earning more degrees than men.

An irony is that in the areas of the country where this expectation is most explicitly gendered are the same areas full of men without degrees, skills, or job prospects.

Meninist 4chan trolls mock so-called nu-men, urban, well-educated men who believe in gender equality and marry their peers. Meanwhile men who don’t earn enough to support a family spend their days hating women or daring to compete with them in the job market. The failures at life are mad at the winners for recognizing that when it comes to women’s ascendance, they can’t beat ‘em, so they should probably join ‘em.

Many anti-feminist males fall into two broad categories. What they have in common is that they blame feminism for cheating them of the respect they feel they deserve.

The first is high-earning, well-educated anti-feminist males. They figured that was enough. Now where’s my hot, subservient, virgin wife ready to iron my shirts? You mean I have to be pleasant and show respect to her? Pffft. You mean there aren’t very many hot, interesting, fun women desperate to forego a career in order to wait hand-and-foot on a retrograde douchebag? Fuck feminism!

The second is poor, low-education anti-feminist males. They expected to be able to assume the role society told them they had to take to be men. If you’re going to tell boys that to be men they need a good job earning more than their wives, but there are no high-paying, full-time jobs to be found for a man with no degree and no skills, that’s going to create some real anger.

The rich both have the most legitimate grievance and are the least sympathetic victims. I mean, they are at least actually fucked over by feminism. Time was, hot, interesting, fun women really did want to wait hand-and-foot on a retrograde douchebag. Of course that’s only because she didn’t have many other options. And the ones she did have weren’t very appealing.

But like most nostalgia, wishing the entire species stopped evolving where you stopped evolving doesn’t elicit much sympathy from me. What does elicit sympathy is being a man so small that his fear of women renders him unable to enjoy the fierce ambition and incredible accomplishments of a hot, interesting, fun woman.

Poor, low-education anti-feminist males are the opposite: Very sympathetic victims, with a totally illegitimate grievance.

I do think it sucks that we’re still holding men to a standard many of them can never meet. I suspect that’s part of why suicide rates are so high among men, though women have higher rates of depression. These men aren’t just depressed, they’re hopeless. They have no place, no one needs them. No one depends on them. And so they do away with themselves, feeling like failures and not wanting to be burdens.

But to act like feminism is the reason the jobs are low-paid and not numerous enough is ridiculous. Yes, women do compete with men for low-wage jobs. But the impact on the economy generally of women’s entrance into the workforce is on-net positive. The economy isn’t a fixed pie. It’s dynamic. The number of jobs isn’t set, but increases along with demand.

What has decreased the number of jobs for low-skill, low-education workers? Outsourcing, automation, and innovation. The economy is transitioning from a manufacturing and agriculture-based economy to one that is focused on information and services. Simply put, women are better suited to today’s jobs, especially at the bottom, than men are.

The reasons for this aren’t clear, but one reason men aren’t suited to today’s jobs is that they require education, and men aren’t earning as many degrees as women. Another reason is that men are socialized in ways that make them poor candidates for today’s jobs. Take service-sector jobs. Women are taught to be patient and accommodating. They’re taught to notice other people’s emotions and change their behavior to make others feel more comfortable. They’re taught to put others first. They’re taught to listen before they speak.

Men are taught to be impatient, physically active, and aggressive. They’re taught to put themselves first. They’re taught to talk first, and listen maybe.

If you’re working in the fields or the factory, impatience, physical activity, and aggression are great. If you’re coding or doing customer service, they’re not.

Yes, it’s true that women’s participation in the labor force has depressed wages for men, especially at the bottom. It’s unclear how big the impact has been. However, in my opinion, when you’re making tradeoffs, aggregate economic growth is much more valuable than high wages for men. Women entering the workforce have contributed countless innovations which have made us all richer. That’s what I find so ironic about the huge overlap between anti-feminism and libertarianism. If you understand how markets make us all better off, why would you want to rob the world of half the population’s contributions to the market? Sure, in some cases those contributions come at the cost of investment in child-rearing. But isn’t the whole point of the free market that those individuals who are best-suited to childcare should do that while those who are best suited to work outside the home should do that and when people do their highest-value labor we are all better off?

Anyway, as much as it fucks men over to be expected to care for themselves and a family when there’s either no wifey or job to be found, it also sucks for women to not be expected to care for themselves.

There’s a reason the woman who wrote the article kept waiting for a man to give her a sense of home. Men are expected to build the home and then find the wife. Women are expected to depend on our parents and then depend on our husbands. Again, this is not universal. Just like there are nu-males and other men who expect a partner, not a dependent, there are women who expect to have to do it for themselves. But for me, for instance, my father was quite clear. My college degree was an insurance policy in case no one wanted to marry me or my husband left. Most women, when polled, say they want to have kids. And most mothers do not want to work full-time.

It’s funny that conservatives describe urban public assistance as creating a “culture of dependence” like it’s a bad thing when I can’t think of a better way to describe the impact of sexist gender roles on women.

For those reasons and more, it’s a big deal when a woman decides to take responsibility for herself. This can take many forms. For some, like the author, it’s buying a house by and for herself. For me, it was a more gradual process.

It culminated in one very intense year and a half. During that time I was utterly single. I dated and slept around but there was no one person who knew where I was or cared when or if I came home. There was no one person to run my life decisions by. There was no one to argue with.

For a short period during that time I lived alone for the first time in my life. Then I became a landlord. It was a time of intense pain and loneliness and grief and growth. I was adopted by a tight-knit group of friends when I needed that most.

During this time I became a different person. I stopped fearing being alone. By “alone” I mean without one person to be my person.

I tried really, really hard to like it. I liked parts of it. I loved the independence, the autonomy, the freedom, the adventure. I loved the sense of possibility. I was grateful for it. But I slowly, painfully came to accept that I really don’t like it.

Not liking being alone and being afraid of being alone are very, very different things. It’s kind of like the difference between wanting and needing. I don’t like being alone, but I’m no longer afraid of it. Fear is more motivating than we give it credit for. People will do all sorts of irrational things out of fear. Like stay with a guy who’d buy tickets to a show a few rows ahead of you (read the story). The thing about fear of the unknown is that the lack of information means you cannot accurately compare your options. My worst-case scenario of being alone was very bleak.

I won’t even say that I stayed in relationships too long because I was afraid of being alone. I do not regret any of my relationships nor any of the time I spent in them.

What I will say is that fear of being alone influenced the way I participated in my relationships.

What I regret was that I didn’t stand up for myself more. That’s not really true either. It’s not really that there’s anything I wish I had done differently. But I wish that I’d brought into those relationships the confidence of someone who isn’t afraid to lose them.

One Comment

  1. Foster

    As regards your past relationships, maybe you wish you knew now what you didn’t know then? I know I’ve certainly felt that way. On the economic point, that more women in the workforce is positive and raises aggregate growth, you’re spot on. The only thing I’d question is your blanket statement that men are ‘taught to be impatient, put themselves first, talk first, etc.’ I can’t speak for all men, but that sure isn’t how I was raised. Self reliance is a feminist virtue and a universal virtue.

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