Let’s get a few things out the way. I am a very privileged woman. I grew up with parents who told me I could be anyone I wanted to be. I’ve always been surrounded by strong women. I am relatively middle-class living in a modern, multi-cultural city. I’ve never been assaulted, raped or abused. I know there are women in the world who have it far, far worse than I do.
But – and this is where all my we-don’t-need-feminism-in-this-country friends should listen up – I still live in a world governed by a structure of power which places men at the top, and women secondary. This is also known as… THE PATRIARCHY – dun dun duuuuuh.
I think some people like to pretend the patriarchy is something constructed in the minds of bitter women, or that it existed a long long time ago and definitely isn’t a thing anymore (‘like, we have a female Prime Minister, so how can there be a patriarchy?’) I think of the patriarchy a bit like a sweat stain on some white sheets – you don’t notice it for ages, and you completely deny that it’s there. But then one day, BOOM, you see it. And you can’t un-see it. And then it’s there on your sheets forever, and no amount of vanish or bleach will save it. And every time you go to bed, you’re just lying on a big old sweat stain.
Yep, I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty strong, independent lady, unaffected by male-led power structures. But recently I’ve noticed that so many aspects of my life – of my character, my choices, my likes and dislikes – weren’t completely, totally down to my own free will. I’ve just been fucked over by the patriarchy. Here are just a few of those ways:
1. I’m obsessed with makeup
The Arielle who started collecting MAC lipsticks during second year of university would tell you that she loves makeup because it’s art, darling. It’s, like, soo totally creative. That Arielle was chatting shit – really, she loved makeup because it finally made her feel pretty. It made her feel accepted and she felt less fear of being called ‘ugly’ or talked down to by arsehole rugby players. Having airbrushed skin, plump lips and bold eyes with fluttery lashes actually just reinforces an image of femininity created by the male gaze (read The Beauty Myth if ya don’t believe me). And no, I won’t stop wearing makeup now I’ve realised this because, as well as getting an intoxicating buzz from swatching a sparkling new highlighter, I know that conforming to what a woman should look like is the most sure-fire way to guarantee acceptance in society. Meanwhile, guys wake up, wash their face (if you’re lucky) and are repeatedly told it’s charm and charisma that counts. Bloody great.
2. I always wear push-up bras
The modern ideal of a feminine body is an hourglass shape – big boobs, big bum. I’m pretty bottom-heavy, but sadly my boobs don’t quite match up. Cue the push-up bra: an invention designed solely to make your babylons look high, perky and therefore worthy of being stared at. Back in my more insecure teenage days (pre-finding Feminism), I thought having guys stare at your chest was a sign of success. ‘I’ve made it, Mama!’ I wanted to shout every time I caught someone looking. Now, I just want to shout ‘FUCK OFF’. Despite this, I still wear push-up bras because I’ve grown up with them and feel physically uncomfortable when I’m not wearing one. It’s a lose-lose really.
3. I do most of the housework
I know what you’re thinking – Arielle, that’s not the patriarchy’s fault, you just have a lazy boyfriend. And while that might be true, I strongly believe Laurie’s inability to effectively hang up laundry or wipe behind the toaster is because we still live in a society where the domestic is perceived as women’s work. Nothing to worry your pretty little head with, my boy, because you’re destined for bigger and greater things that take up far more brainpower than changing the bed-sheets. Back in the fifties that might have worked, because there was some kind of balance of labour – man must work, woman must stay home – but it’s 2018. I’m working longer hours than Laurie, and coming back far more exhausted, so it really ain’t fair. Although he is getting better – with my (very patient) mentoring, I’m still sure we fit into the general average in this country that men have 40 minutes more leisure time than women a day, because women just end up doing more of the ‘boring’ domestic stuff. Sucks really. Just think of all the things I could do with those extra 40 minutes a day. That’s like two episodes of Friends.
4. But I also carry the mental load too
Even when Laurie takes on more of the housework – recently he’s become the bin-man, and the floor-man, which does take the pressure off – I’m still the one carrying the ‘mental load.’ As well as physically doing the domestic chores, historically women have managed the household, and even though we’re all working now, this hasn’t changed much either. Most of the time, women are still the ones organising family life. I don’t even have children but still feel like I have the role of a mother. Laurie doesn’t even keep his own diary or calendar – I have to tell him what our plans are, and remind him daily for a week until they actually happen or they’ll just fall out of his brain. I remember his parents’ birthdays and wrap the presents for him. I still have to ask him to put the bins out, even though they’re overflowing and they stink. Even if you blame it on me – ‘stop babying him, Arielle, that’s your fault!’ – I would still argue that my very mothering tendencies are as a result of patriarchal structures. Women are taught to nurture, keep men happy and be the organised ones. And I’m sorta over it, honey.
5. I have mega imposter syndrome
Despite the fact everything is going well for me in work and life, I’m plagued with the feeling I don’t deserve all the great things I have, that I’m not good enough; that any success I’ve had so far was a fluke, and that I’m destined for failure in future. I’m not saying men don’t suffer from imposter syndrome – I’m sure plenty do – but it is well-known that this is an epidemic among women specifically. One survey found that men will apply for a job if they meet only 60% of the criteria on the job application, whereas women will only do so if they meet 100%. Why? Because men are raised to believe they are great, and that people will listen to them – who cares if you don’t have any A-Levels and you spent a year in prison, kid, you can still make it as a lawyer. Ya know? Confidence in women has always been seen as a bad thing; labels like ‘bossy’ and ‘vain’ apply, when the same attributes would be ‘assertive’ in men. No wonder I feel a sense of guilt and regret for putting myself out there, and a constant fear of rejection. Supposedly, we do have equal opportunities in careers as men, but unfortunately this patriarchal hangover, as I like to call it, is still holding us back. Boo.
6. I am wary of other women
Despite having the best set of female friends, colleagues and a family chocka-block full of X-chromosomes, I’m still fairly suspicious of new women I meet. I was raised on films, books, TV shows and social commentary around women being bitchy, catty, competitive and 100% likely to steal yo’ man. Women’s magazines get an especially bad rap for this, but I’ve actually found the complete opposite to be true. Having loads of women in a room together doesn’t result in bitchy cliques and bullying; it’s a safe haven for women to lift each other up and be #sisters. That’s not to say I haven’t come across a lot of bitches in my time – trust me, I have – but I’ve probably known just as many (if not more) bitchy men. But unfortunately we live in a society where women are pitted against each other (because if women are fighting among themselves, men can just do what they want amirite boyz?) and so I still have a constant fear that when I go to a party dressed in something out-there, I’ll receive eye-rolls and judgement from the girls. In reality though, they’re always the ones handing out compliments, and it’ll be one of my guy mates who says I’m dressed like a prisoner/nun/circus performer. Classic.
7. I have so many bloody ingrown hairs, damn it
Can someone tell me the actual legitimate reason why women have to remove every single hair on every inch of their body? Can’t think of one? That’s because of the patriarchy, my friend. The only reason women’s body hair is somehow more disgusting than men’s is because of an ideal of feminine beauty that has been passed down generations – womanhood is all about being smooth and polished and pure. When you think about it, removing pubes is actually a bit peadophilic – becoming more sexually attractive by looking increasingly pre-pubescent is a bit weird, if you ask me. But then here I am, covered in bloody rashes and ingrown hairs from shaving to within an inch of my life, because I have been taught to believe any hair that isn’t on my head is ugly, disgusting and unclean. And then when I go to bed, feeling all itchy-scratchy-rashy, and Laurie lies down next to me with his bushy underarm hair just chilling there, too right I’m bitter. Bloody patriarchy.