The Age-Old Challenges of Being a Woman

Being a woman is tough. We do double the stuff, juggle everything in life, and have a shorter end of the stick.

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I was tasked with writing this article: Is it better for a new mom to consider going back to the workforce after giving birth or stay at home to care for her family?

I found myself staring off into space more than I was typing out at the rapid-fire speed that I usually do. The usual bullet train of thought was waddling along. This is a toughie..

My mental pendulum was swinging one way and then the other. 

Women, for centuries, have tried to weave our way into modern, civil society, to fight the idea that women’s mainstay vocation was staying in the kitchen and changing diapers. Even back then, strong-willed women believed that they had no say about what they did with their lives. 

I’m not young. I’ve done a lot. Depression, anxiety, and anything else in between has taught me a lot. There is a multitude of ways to deal with your emotions and things that happen to you whether you like it or not; one of which is journaling. And of course, to forgive.

Fear of Being too Loud and Dismissed

woman working on her laptop holding her
energepic.com on Pexels

Being too nice and trying to please everyone is a weakness of mine. And although I am also known to be quite a feminist and an outspoken person, I was no match for this phase of my life. 

As a person who was a performer since her college years, I can attest to the fact that women tend to keep things mum even when we felt that we were being unfairly treated or discriminated against. 

This, coming from someone who was born with a fearless nature, a loudspeaker in her throat, and a disregard for authoritarian and paternalistic culture. Pretty much like racial inequality, we didn’t have a place in society where we were applauded when we spoke out.

Bellowing behind me were voices bellowed – “Stay in the kitchen!”, “Know your place.”, “Take care of your kids and your husband.” 

But, by the way, make money.

Ever since I was young, I had a passion for singing. I still do. 

It took me some time to stride into the world of entertainment. During singing stints in pubs, I would encounter drunk men who thought it was part and parcel of the job for singers and performers to mindlessly drink and entertain them. 

Requests for Shakira hip moves, Beyonce’s body waves, and lap dances came too often. I would like to say that I defied them all…but I did not.

I kept my mouth shut, albeit with a forced smile on my face, and did I was told. 

“It comes with the job, deal with it.”

Being groped and called names I didn’t earn was also a part of the deal.

The Hard Yard of Being Wife Material

an old black and white picture of a woman with two kids in a tent
The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Many women struggle with this, with or without kids in tow. In many parts of the world, including mine, women live their lives viewed as a mere servant. We basically catered to the whims of our male counterparts. 

I was told that I was a bad wife because I couldn’t take care of my ex-husband. He, therefore, his having an affair was really my own doing. My jaw dropped when I realized that nobody was on my side on this one.

It was my fault, I was told, and the words stung so bad that I sat in the bathroom while my kids were sleeping, wondering if this was what I have become. 

The situation? I had two young children to care for (both under the age of 7) and a shaky, infrequent stream of freelance jobs I was trying to grow and pursue. 

Compared to what my ex-husband had to do inside the house, the responsibilities on my shoulders were double the weight. 

Yet, it was my fault. 

I might as well have been told that it was too bad I was born a woman.

Mothers are the Main Caregivers

This part has a good ending.

More men remain at home to care for their kids while their wives worked outside of the home now compared to 2 decades ago. 

Back then, my kids were two years apart and they had five other cousins who were around the same age. 

We often herd them together in one house and let their reservoir of energy run its course. Playing together made them closer than ever but…boy, they were a wild, rambunctious bunch of five-year-olds. 

The parents of these kids and me, we took turns caring for the band of bandits. Then, it was my turn.

If I took them out, crammed from floor space to the ceiling of my car, every one of their misbehaviors was the ‘mother’s’ (or whichever woman who is in charge for the day) fault. 

My kids, nieces, and nephews (let me just add that I love them to bits and pieces even though they’re grown-ass adults now) could have been playing rough at a McDonalds’ indoor playground. 

I keep a close eye on them but kids are faster than you think. 

When something untoward happened, before I could access the situation, apologize, the words came hurtling my way, “What kind of a mother are you?”

I did not get the chance to explain, apologize, or chastise my charges. I simply got a judgemental mouthful very quickly. 

I never got the chance to explain, apologize, or chastise my charges. I simply got a judgemental mouthful very quickly. 

It made me wonder if the same would have happened if a man was in charge of the whole Brady bunch. The men, of course, would rather be run over by a truck than to take on the task. They were often socializing with their friends at the pub down the road. It was their right to do so.

In a study, by Harvard Business Review, this data was presented.

“Because of widely held societal beliefs about gender roles and leadership, when most people are asked to picture a leader, what they picture is a male leader.”

statistics of words used to describe performance of men and women
statistatiSource: HBR.org

You’re NOT ‘Sick’

Women are also quick to learn that whatever we lack physically, God gave us an upper hand in the mental, psychological and emotional department. 

Read this article to get a better insight – The weaker sex? Science that shows women are stronger than men

When the guys were sick, they were allowed to stay in bed. Porridge, necessities, or herbal medicinal soups were delivered to them on their beds/rooms, and they were not required to move an inch out of the bed…not even to change the channel of the TV. 

I wish I was kidding.

Women are more robust, that’s why they were the ones giving birth, not men. If a woman was thrown into a deep, dry well, we are supposed to have a repository of superhuman powers to clamor back to the top. Without help.

Even Mr. Steven Austad, who is an international expert on aging, and chair of the biology department at the University of Alabama, agreed and expounded the fact. “Pretty much at every age, women seem to survive better than men,” he was quoted as saying when interviewed by The Guardian. To his credit, his research was on the longevity and the robustness of the weaker sex

It seems that women are also lovingly shielded from common men-centric diseases like cardiovascular diseases which occur more often and earlier in men compared to women 

This was also confirmed during a study done by Kathryn Sandberg, the director of the Centre for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging, and Disease at Georgetown University. 

I, of course, was told the same thing and believed that I was mentally stronger than my male counterparts. 

A caveat: this happened only during the later part of my life, post-kids. 

There was a period that I was so sick, lying in bed teetering between trying to live and begging to die, that I wondered if the theory was true. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were fair between both genders? 

I ended up in the Emergency room of a nearby hospital three times because of the condition. Yet, it was all dismissed. 

Despite being sick (my ex-husband was still living with us, mind you), I still had to make lunches, drive the kids to school, clean the house, complete my work according to deadlines, send emails, make phone calls, and tend to the needs of my little family. 

Maybe women are superhuman after all. I have absolutely no freaking idea how I survived that.

You’re Just B*tchy

poweful woman in blue suit pointing at camera
Moose Photos on Pexels

I feel a little apprehensive mentioning this but I found an article on Forbes about how this strong woman with an idea struggled to secure funding for her project, MakeLoveNotPorn

She’s an icon of feminism in the world of business and best known for not mincing her words. 

If men were allowed to get startup funding based on their ideas that stemmed from such an industry, why would they face the same level of resistance? 

It may have taken two years to convince others to invest in her idea but she advised young founders with brilliant ideas to stick to their vision without compromise.

“Women are constantly being told that their voices sound too high-pitched, too “Valley Girl,” too shrill. Women are told they apologise too much, that they use too many discourse markers — “like,” “ya know,” “I mean”— and that they’re exhibiting vocal fry and upspeak.”

Rachel Tompson, Mashable

There were times when I had to raise my voice in order to get myself heard and it did not escape me that the whispered words behind my back were “She’s such a b*tch’. No matter which tone of voice we use, high or slow speech, in fact, I still had the short stick. 

We also have to try THAT much harder to be heard. And when we are heard, we must be ready to put in countermeasures.

“When journalist Jessica Grose was co-hosting Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest podcast, she also received emails criticising her for her upspeak. She was told she sounded like “a Valley Girl and a faux socialite,” and one interviewee said she “sounded like his granddaughter.”

Mashable

I was once employed by a global company that had top employees from all around the world. I was one of the leaders in the company managing a small crew of people from my country. 

What I tried was a less harmful, more compassionate, gentle, and inclusive approach to managing the team. They already had some form of discord and have started forming fractions within themselves before I was in there, so I figured a different approach would work. 

It didn’t. My speech and management style was basically the exit game for them. 

The way I see it, you lose if you do, you lose if you did.

Conclusion

It’s been a long journey for women. And it will continue to be a long way forward in the future. 

The good news: The world is slowly changing.

The bad news: It’s going to be a rough ride.

The solution: We need to become one. Men, come on over and let’s not view each other as opponents. There’s a win-win situation waiting for us.

With a clearer picture, I do longer wonder what life MUST BE LIKE.

men have to be supportive of women movement, screencap

Wishing you all the best! I know some of you, like me, are stuck at home during this scary Coronavirus spread and I would like to remind everyone that, above wealth, health is the most important thing in life. That…and love.

I’m a pretty social person online so, if you feel like keeping yourself up-to-date with whatever pops into my head, head on over to my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, or Linkedin. Whichever floats your boat!

Take care, everyone. Can’t wait to get out of home-jail like everyone else.

Note: If you wish to get in touch with me for whatever reason, I’m all ears. I may not answer to all emails but I try. I really do.

XOXO,

Published by Marsha Maung

I am a freelance writer, copywriter, blogger, social media and online advertising consultant. On the other side of my Universe is a life of being a mother to 2 boys who are always ravenous or mean to each other. They love each other, but if I say that, they'll kill each other. I have been in the internet world since 2000 when I started off with a couple of dot-bombs but they've served me well. Right now, I primarily write for blogs and learning heaps about the ever-evolving world of social media and search engine marketing. Hit me up and we can learn together! Life is better together.

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