“Bow down, bitches” is a lie
October 23, 2017 10:51 AM   Subscribe

"There is still no occupation in which a woman who works full time earns a lot more than a man, and few in which women have parity. Women have less savings than men, and are less likely to qualify for a mortgage. The cost of living, for everyone, has risen in urban areas. These are the parameters of the psychic vise, for growing numbers of women are the main or sole breadwinners for their families. When a woman delays children and partnership into her 30s to earn money and establish independence and then sees how her paths are blocked, it is perhaps no wonder that something like anguish is the result."
posted by Lycaste (46 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ooh, this hit close to home (while at the same time being woefully inadequate).

I live in San Francisco. A lot of people think this makes me an idiot and I'm not sure I disagree, but I've lived here for most of my life and for now it is what it is. Anyway, I worked for a long time at a job that I loved, in a traditionally female industry that paid shit. My boyfriend teaches preschool, and I would not trade him and his nurturing, emotionally intelligent ways for all the high-earning tech bros in the world, so I am the breadwinner, and around my 30th birthday I finally decided that I couldn't stay in my old industry, that I had to earn more so that we could get our own place (we still live with two roommates). So I jumped ship to a new job that, while still low-paying, pays 20 percent more than my last job, and is in an industry where (unlike in my last one) I have the potential to grow. Now I work at a feminist nonprofit. I've never had more than a handful of male coworkers. My opportunities have been limited not by the stereotypical kind of sexism where the promotion goes to the man or whatever, but by the kind where you choose environments where you know that won't happen to you and as a result you're penalized on pay. We still can't afford our own place even with that extra 20 percent, so I'll be moving on again in a year or two, probably to a place where I can look forward to experiencing the normal type of sexism. I almost don't care, I don't want the corner office or achievement for its own sake, but with the cost of living here I feel like I have to be cutthroat to survive.

The shit of it is, I didn't choose all this because of some superficial vision of female empowerment. I chose it because I want to have babies and I need to be able to afford that. I'd be willing to bet that most women who are where I am are here for the same reason (not babies necessarily, but just trying to find financial security), and we take comfort in those "Insta images of female empowerment" because what else is there? I can't have a dog in my apartment. I'm doing my best to find purpose in friends, community, but there's always that gnawing worry. I graduated with a journalism degree in 2009 and in one sense to be sitting here at my job in the Financial District making what I do is more than I ever could have hoped for, but it's still not enough.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:14 AM on October 23 [59 favorites]


^ CAN RELATE
posted by bleep at 11:18 AM on October 23 [9 favorites]


The shit of it is, I didn't choose all this because of some superficial vision of female empowerment. I chose it because I want to have babies and I need to be able to afford that. I'd be willing to bet that most women who are where I am are here for the same reason (not babies necessarily, but just trying to find financial security), and we take comfort in those "Insta images of female empowerment" because what else is there?

Oh yes, this feels so familiar! My specific details are different but the general experience in the same, I think; my husband is a lawyer but also has law school debt and neither of us want him doing the big firm thing (if he had to work all the time who would cook?) and we've got a precious kraken and I think I'd probably like another kid but we're not sure if we can afford it. We live in DC which is expensive but it's also where we both have jobs and our lives and friends are here. I have an English degree and a Master's in Teaching and I am frequently overwhelmed by waves of regret for my stupid career choices like spending a bunch of money to get a Master's I don't anticipate ever using again. I'm working on the "learn to code" advice (based on some AskMe questions) but it's hard when I also need to work full time and take care of the baby and I don't have much uninterrupted time to myself. I'm not looking to be super rich (although I wouldn't turn it down!) but it's crazy to me that two people who are employed full-time at decent jobs (lawyer, database manager) and don't live an extravagant life might not be able to afford daycare for a second kid. I've been reflecting a lot on how sad my career choices make me and how many things I'd do differently because I'd just like to be doing better and I feel like, in a way that I think is similar to what sunset in snow country is talking about, I made choices based on in part on the internalized sexism of just not pursuing certain interests because they weren't for me (and avoiding fields in which I was interested because I thought "I can't afford to start down this path and drop out because of the sexism and I'm not even in the field yet and I've already experienced a taste of it"). It's just very, very hard and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately, like in the shower I'll start to cry because I just feel like such a failure in terms of my ability to earn money to support my family and I don't know what to do about it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:45 AM on October 23 [41 favorites]


I take a bit of an issue with her characterization of The Feminine Mystique as being about women who had bought into a vision of being happy homemakers. Many of the women Friedan interviewed were inherently skeptical about visions of domestic bliss before even getting married. The problem was that they had no other (or so few other) options— most of the women she interviewed were also college educated and trained to be multilingual professionals, but they discovered that the working world, and their husbands, were not interested in them having careers long-term. They didn’t look to housewifery for fulfillment and then find themselves shocked that it didn’t satisfy— they were boxed into it and found it even less satisfying than they had already dreaded it would be.

I see a similar trend with women of my cohort in their mid-thirties. I don’t know anyone who thought “my career will save me!!!”, and then had to face Hard Truths about how Life Should Be About More Than The Office. I know a lot of women who thought having a full-time job would allow them to be able to afford a place to live and maybe a pet and maybe they would meet someone nice to date or marry, and even those extremely unglamorous goals have proven to be too much to ask for, somehow.

I think part of what is so crushing is that most people I know never had dreams of international jet setting and “Bow Down Bitches” lifestyles. To have modest hopes and goals and still have them snatched away in our post-capitalist economy (and MRA soaked dating culture) is even more galling. Because you thought, I don’t need it all, I just need a tiny corner where I feel safe and I can be kind and be a part of a community. And when even that is denied to you, there is a unique pain in having even your reasonable sized dreams crumble.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:50 AM on October 23 [137 favorites]


Mefite bleep had the best comment the other day in a question about a specific workplace issue that feels generally relevant here (emphasis mine): People get by in their jobs doing the barest minimum. Seriously this person is just living their life like the vast majority of people are. If you don't like her as a person that's fine but it seems like you're judging her really harshly and unnecessarily. Work universally sucks and is bullshit. Don't write someone off as a person who isn't good enough at something that is already terrible & a pain in everyone's butt. Also getting to know her may make these work issues easier to deal wit
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:56 AM on October 23 [29 favorites]


I see a similar trend with women of my cohort in their mid-thirties. I don’t know anyone who thought “my career will save me!!!”, and then had to face Hard Truths about how Life Should Be About More Than The Office. I know a lot of women who thought having a full-time job would allow them to be able to afford a place to live and maybe a pet and maybe they would meet someone nice to date or marry, and even those extremely unglamorous goals have proven to be too much to ask for, somehow.

Seconded. For me a job was stability and enough independence to be able to choose wisely a special someone with whom to share my personal life.

And then, just as you say, MRAs came along. I'm lucky enough to have a career I truly enjoy after years of dealing with crushing harassment at a previous place, but those very same horrible years made it even clearer that a job can never be everything. No matter how enjoyable your job is, it's just not life.

I remember as a kid 20-30 years ago, observing parents who were then in their mid-30s to early 50s. So many of them were contented with their lives on the whole. Stable jobs, savings, houses, and cars for the majority of them, in working-class (granted, mostly white) neighborhoods. Now that I'm in my 40s, I think I maybe know two people who are contented. They're a married couple who chose never to have kids; both of them work. And they still worry about what will happen if one of them gets sick or has an accident (they're in the US). I think that too is where a lot of the anguish comes from – we remember, generally, grandparents enjoying their retirements, parents planning their own while doing 40- to 50-hour workweeks at a single job that paid their bills and afforded them home ownership, and we thought, okay, that looks livable. Instead, every year it seems a more distant memory that may never be an actual future.
posted by fraula at 12:08 PM on October 23 [42 favorites]


It’s as if the women have cleared spaces in their lives for meteoric careers, and then those careers have been less gratifying, or harder won, or more shrunken than they’d imagined.

First prize is: you still die in the end.

Though this was more the counter-punch:
So why are the well-employed, ambitious 30-year-olds of my acquaintance feeling so adrift, as discontented as the balding midlife sad sacks whose cliché dissatisfactions made Updike rich?

I dislike Updike because he's so damned humdrum depressing.

I feel like I want to just write pithy aphorisms in response to this article: there's no one right path for you in life; you will have to make hard choices, and those decisions can have lasting consequences; do what makes you happy, if it's not working, do something else; work to live not live to work; you gotta figure you out, and what you want, and work towards that.
posted by k5.user at 12:10 PM on October 23 [3 favorites]


I see a similar trend with women of my cohort in their mid-thirties. I don’t know anyone who thought “my career will save me!!!”, and then had to face Hard Truths about how Life Should Be About More Than The Office. I know a lot of women who thought having a full-time job would allow them to be able to afford a place to live and maybe a pet and maybe they would meet someone nice to date or marry, and even those extremely unglamorous goals have proven to be too much to ask for, somehow.

Yeah. In college I had a hard time talking to a career counselor because they didn't understand me not having a passion to pursue... I'm just trying to get a job I don't hate in a field that won't be horrible. How does that track with my studies so far? They gave me absolutely no help ("you can search this database for available jobs when you figure out what you want to do." Ok??) and that was that.

Now I have to tamp down this awful jealousy I feel when people can *gasp* afford to have kids. Like, oh you privileged asshole, must be nice to be able to have your own kid. My husband and I have good jobs and I have almost paid off my college loans. And still, if we want to have kids any time soon (which is kind of the deadline biologically) we would have to practically stop saving money and let our finances become precarious. Working a crap job in a sexist environment, when it doesn't make possible the things I do care about, is so disheartening.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:15 PM on October 23 [20 favorites]


I don't know what she is getting at with her "Bow down, bitches" thing. Beyoncé wrote a song answering her critics on various issues, on an album titled... Beyoncé. I don't know if she thought millennials wouldn't read her piece without that reference but I did not like it. It reminded me of a complaint I saw once that supposedly Beyoncé isn't feminist because saying "who run the world? Girls!" gives girls a false idea of who is in power in the world... like, what? Your feminist theory doesn't necessitate a Beyoncé takedown to get pageviews.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:20 PM on October 23 [18 favorites]


yes.

I want to give all of us ambitious, complicated, multifaceted women hugs and reassurance. But I'm still trying to figure it out.

I'm angry for spending my twenties dating a guy who turned out to be someone I'd never want to have children with. I'm angry that my PhD probably makes it harder for me to find a stable, well-paying job. I'm angry that practically every woman I know can tell stories about sexual harassment at her work, and that in addition to these big structural struggles we have the personal ramifications on our day-to-day lives. I want to find stability and a family and success, but if my upper middle class White educated upbringing isn't enough to allow me to build the life I want, what is happening to the rest of the world? Who's succeeding?
posted by ChuraChura at 12:26 PM on October 23 [33 favorites]


Some of us are truly living in difficult, competitive times.
new and unexpected pattern has emerged for the other underrepresented groups. By the end of 2013, diversity in the CEO position had declined for them. The number of African American CEOs dropped from its peak of seven in 2007 to six, the number of Latinos from 13 in 2008 to 10, and the number of Asian Americans from 15 in 2011 to 10. The trajectories for white women and people of color as CEOs are summarized in Figure 1.a new and unexpected pattern has emerged for the other underrepresented groups. By the end of 2013, diversity in the CEO position had declined for them. The number of African American CEOs dropped from its peak of seven in 2007 to six, the number of Latinos from 13 in 2008 to 10, and the number of Asian Americans from 15 in 2011 to 10. The trajectories for white women and people of color as CEOs are summarized in Figure 1.
posted by marycatherine at 1:17 PM on October 23 [3 favorites]


A few friends had a sort of similar discussion like this over the weekend, where jobs, family, and stability did not seem to be where we thought it would be at this point in our lives. I'm further along the family path than they are, but even a second child seems like a long shot, since a second daycare cost would put us in the hole for a few years. But either way, I'd be paying for 24k/year for 10 years. Maybe getting it over sooner would be better? I do know that working is better for my mental health than dealing with children all day.

There was also this article this morning, which hit close to home: Moderately motivated GenX-er for hire. I know that i'm still at my small firm for many years, making a moderate amount of money and not a lot of vacation time, because it isn't a toxic workspace, with perks like working from home, and not having to fend off aholes.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:43 PM on October 23 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I'm fairly fatalistic. I'm not sure that I won't end my days destitute despite all my best efforts; after all, it happens to people all the time. It could easily happen to me, living exposed to the meatgrinder of capitalism as I do. As most of us do.

I have no regrets, not really; I did the best I could with the knowledge I was given. But at the same time as I was trying to decide what to be when I grew up, bloodsucking leeches in the 1% were stealing the power of my earnings, narrowing my horizons, and lessening my choices. As a woman, it hit me faster than if I'd been a man, but it is hitting us all, this lack of security and inability to prosper. The jobs that have insurance suck more; the inability to save for a house means renting forever; the 401k that you save for you also almost expect to vanish the moment you will want to use it.

The only lifestyle choice that would have truly ensured my success would be to be born to a billionaire family. How many movies I went to, the fact that I had student debt, marrying for love not money, not having aspirations to be a Wall Street trader, these only harmed me because of the actions of extremely rich and terrible people who find the success of people like me a threat to their dominance.

I shouldn't have to make perfect choices, as well as be able to predict the future with 100% accuracy, to thrive. Working somewhat hard, paying my taxes, and not committing crimes ought to be enough to net you a decent living. And if you can't work because of disability or age or bad luck, then you still ought to be able to have enough to eat, a roof over your head, and access to healthcare.

Sexism exacerbates the condition of women's suffering under capitalism, but the problem did not begin there.
posted by emjaybee at 1:55 PM on October 23 [74 favorites]


I think that, while life has gotten easier in some ways - I really do love what tech and smartphones and not having to make many voice phone calls has done! I love the Internet! - it's gotten harder in many large ways, specifically with regard to housing, health care, child care and stable careers. As national treasure Elizabeth Warren puts it, Americans are not going broke over lattes! Housing, health care, and child care now eat up the vast majority of incomes.

Sunset in snow country - I remember when (then) broke, boho me could afford to live in San Francisco! Those were the days! Now I'm boggled that anyone who is not a millionaire or has inherited a house can afford it. It's sad, because blue, coastal cities are often the most livable in other ways for women, the non-religious, and many others.

I have come to the conclusion that being asexual and childfree, like I am, is actually a privilege in some ways. I don't have that sexual drive to date or marry, I definitely do not want to live with anyone (even if I were to marry I don't want to share my house!), and my biological clock was pretty much born dead. I am very thankful to have the option to never marry and not have kids without having to live in a convent or with family for my entire life. (I hope that doesn't get taken away in the U.S. under the current regime!)

In fact, most of the really happy women I know are the ones who are childless by choice. That's definitely not for everyone, or even most people.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:00 PM on October 23 [16 favorites]


Thinkpieces about the quarter- or third-life crises always seem to miss the mark a little bit insofar as they tend to try their best to tie contentment with work somehow. Capitalism is the source of most people's discontent. Powerful actors have been extracting an ever-increasing amount of wealth from the value of your work, which buys an ever-shrinking amount of security. Work is never going to make you happy because it is the boot on your throat. Your home life is never going to make you truly happy because you are comparing it to a lifestyle/amount of security that is no longer possible, if it ever was.
posted by FakeFreyja at 2:17 PM on October 23 [18 favorites]


I sometimes feel really discontent about a lot of things in my life, and then I remember that I'm middle class now, and holy crap. Which I don't say as some sort of oppression Olympics thing. I just mean--I think there are a lot of real problems in the world, but also there seems to be a sort of treadmill effect. The hedonic treadmill suggests some kind of happiness baseline, which may also be a thing, but I think the counterbalance that I'm seeing isn't an internal set point of happiness--it's all my current pleasures balanced against everything I've had to do to get this far. My standard of living is astronomically above what it was when I was young, but I don't have the social support that I did then. Years of not sleeping enough or taking care of myself physically? Yeah, those are adding up pretty fast. I had a reserve of spoons, at some point, but now I've spent them all, and I can't find the spoon I need to cook dinner instead of spending $20 eating out. The extra money I have now turns out to almost exactly cover everything I need to spend to deal with my general level of exhaustion. There's nothing left over for the big fun stuff. The big fun stuff, even now, is for people who didn't have to work this hard.

But--at the same time? There's this ramen place by the office that I love. I just spent $90 on a pair of jeans that may actually be the holy grail pair that fits and has pockets. Things are better than they used to be. I just wish they felt enough better to justify the fact that, for example, I killed myself working from home while sick last week to make progress on a project that got yanked away from me as soon as I got back to the office. The splurges are bigger, but so are the slights.
posted by Sequence at 2:20 PM on October 23 [18 favorites]


[Couple comments removed; I don't feel like "well but here's one tiny outlier, so it's not all careers", interesting as it may be as abstract trivia, is really going to contribute to a more constructive discussion in here, so let's give that bit a pass.]
posted by cortex at 2:37 PM on October 23 [6 favorites]


I'm a mid 30s professional career woman with a kid and a partner and a mortgage and I definitely feel in a weird displeased shifty change-y mood the past two years or so, but this piece didn't seem to hit the right buttons for me. And that "bow down, bitches" line (multiple times) was more off-putting than anything else for me.

If my family isn't where I find my bliss and my career isn't where I find my bliss, where do I look next? And where do I find the time for it? Is your 30s too early to buy the red convertible and try to pick up young 20-somethings? I already have the tattoo and have gone sky-diving...
posted by jillithd at 2:50 PM on October 23 [3 favorites]


Work is never going to make you happy because it is the boot on your throat. Your home life is never going to make you truly happy because you are comparing it to a lifestyle/amount of security that is no longer possible, if it ever was.

While that may be true (and my temptation is to agree, not that it matters), I think it's distinct from the point that women, in particular, get even less of a shot towards happiness-through-work because they get paid less for it, despite being more qualified, trying harder, etc.

At the very least, everyone should get a level-playing-field chance to find out what level of emotional fulfillment their economic labor will or won't buy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:54 PM on October 23 [20 favorites]


Back in the 80s, I didn't realize how stacked against me (female) things were until my husband and I bought a piece of property: the title was made out to 'husband's full name' and 'wife'. Pissed me off; and according to the lawyers, that was how it had to be officially.

Still pissed.

Hmmm,

Yep. I'm still pissed.
posted by mightshould at 3:37 PM on October 23 [28 favorites]


I found this to be a really interesting article, as someone who is older than the cohort described (and male to boot). I can see people I know in the article's descriptions, and it is frustrating and depressing to think about the implications across society.

The passing connection made in the article to the literature about disaffected post-war men is really interesting -- there are clear commonalities, but also obvious differences.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:00 PM on October 23 [1 favorite]


Interesting article and discussion. I know I'm risking sounding smug, but I'm increasingly aware how lucky my (honestly, completely random) decision to leave the US and go to Europe as a grad student was for me. It was terribly difficult in a lot of ways to be so far away from home and family. It was an awful few years. But being poor in the Netherlands was a lot easier than being poor in the US, and the country gave me the community and stability my (unstable) family of origin were not able to provide. Back then, Dutch credit cards didn't allow you to carry a balance, so I was forced to live within my means-- which was possible since I no longer had to worry about the crippling medical bills which had knocked me into debt back into the US (Crohn's). I haven't owned a car since I left the US. My medical has been (largely) taken care of by the health care system. Those safety nets let me turn my middling job into something pretty reasonably good, and take chances I couldn't take if I had still been a prisoner of my insurance. This despite NL having some pretty awful deep rooted sexism which is arguably worse than the sexism in the US. I'm older than the target group in the article (late 40s) and my divorce left me in not such great shape for retirement, but I still don't have any debt at all and since I now have my Dutch passport, I know that as long as there's a NL I'm not going to starve. I shudder to think what the divorce would have done to me back home.

If there's a point here, it is that it can be better than US citizens have it right now. The family may just be too fragile as a base to ask to provide our stability and happiness. I notice these articles always phrase it as being about personal choices and do you choose career or housewife or the corporate job or the small company, and I feel that always kind of elides one big issue-- it is far far easier to take risks or make choices if you know you are covered for the basics: health care, housing, education and food.
posted by frumiousb at 5:41 PM on October 23 [26 favorites]


Emjaybee, can I just cosign that masterpiece you wrote? I want to take every line and write THIS^^^ after it.

I never thought that the older I got, the more hatred I would have for capitalism. I thought we were supposed to mellow and become conservative or something. I guess we aren't because we were sold a bill of goods and are now realizing there is no "working hard enough" to ensure stability, or even protect ourselves from destitution. The machine that we've given 40-90 hours a week to our entire lives will just leave us behind if we can't keep up. That is, if it doesn't crush is on its path. My father knew I was feeling down, and well-meaningly texted me "Don't forget, despite our differences, this is still the greatest country in the world." And I wanted to scream at him. I'm guessing that can only be said by someone who has never lived anywhere else. There have got to be places where survival is not so capricious and the general populace isn't mentally addicted to work. Where work does not determine your value as a human being.
posted by greermahoney at 5:43 PM on October 23 [16 favorites]


Frumiousb, clearly your post answers mine. You must be a precog. :-)
posted by greermahoney at 5:45 PM on October 23 [1 favorite]


The family may just be too fragile as a base to ask to provide our stability and happiness.

Frumiousb: I agree with you 100%. I think the idea of family as safety net is not only outdated, it's dangerous for women, children, and vulnerable people in general. A family may be a wonderful nurturing cozy nest, or it may be deathly abusive, and it is pretty much the luck of the draw which kind of family a child gets. Likewise, women in particular can be "drained until the day they die" to quote someone on an old message board I frequented - caring for parents, husbands, kids and grandkids from youth to old age.

It's much more humane for everyone concerned if the state, the cold clammy hand of the uncaring impersonal state /s, provides the safety net. I want to see caregivers paid well in salary and in dignity.

There is a book I have and love, Leaving Mother Lake, by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu, about the matrilineal and egalitarian Moso culture in China. Anthropologist Mathieu writes in the afterword that a strong, solid, safety-net family with no divorce (like we idolize from the mythical 50s) usually comes with the repression of women. The Moso, and some other cultures, have egalitarian family structures that don't privilege marriage. (And the Moso still have family and traditions that individuals chafe against - Namu's leaving her family to live in Beijing caused a lot of turmoil.)

Women can now get divorced, and in fact initiate the majority of divorces. And people can cut off contact with abusive families of origin. But this means we can't rely on family as a safety net. There is no free lunch - and feminism and individualism aside, it's really too much to ask of families that they take on all social safety net functions.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:04 PM on October 23 [17 favorites]


I think that too is where a lot of the anguish comes from – we remember, generally, grandparents enjoying their retirements, parents planning their own while doing 40- to 50-hour workweeks at a single job that paid their bills and afforded them home ownership, and we thought, okay, that looks livable. Instead, every year it seems a more distant memory that may never be an actual future.

I'm about a decade younger than you, fraula, but I have the same feeling. When I think about the fact that when my parents were my age, they had managed to pay off not just one but TWO mortgages, whereas I am trying to scrape together a down-payment on something other than a shack, despite living in a not-too-expensive city and working in a pays-pretty-well field -- I am totally bewildered. I'm over 30 and have not hit any of the traditional markers of adulthood (unmarried, childless, non-homeowner, still in training). I wouldn't call it anguish, but I definitely feel unsettled by this extended adolescence.
posted by basalganglia at 6:30 PM on October 23 [12 favorites]


I am all over and under this like a blanket in winter. The crazy thing is that I'm actually in a position of power to mentor women, so I can protect and support my staff (read: position and get raises for; require almost every staff person do a 1-2 day telecommuting situation so the entire team has the responsibilities of learning the technology and rhythm of working away from the office rather than just putting that an individual woman who would like to pick up her kids, etc.), but I'm as high as it goes at my organization - so I'm the umbrella, because my boss and the leadership above him are weird: they wring their hands about how much they want to do more, to support women and then , almost instinctually, knee cap women staff on the most basic level.

For example, when I took over my boss's old job (he was promoted), I later found out his offer to me was an $8,000 pay cut from his salary. No, there wasn't any $8,000 reduction of responsibilities. I've seen my staff spearhead something mentioned in a public forum and not get mentioned, and have to take time to vocally correct the record. I've heard my boss complain about one of my staff person taking a telecommuting day, and then he uses the same platform/process when he needs to connect with us when he's out of the office. When I lay out my productivity, he actually dismissed the data. That said - this is the same guy that approved all of the raises of my staff, he at least let's high performing staff telecommute, and overall, he's a good guy. It's complicated.

I am celebrated as a model of someone who is a progressive leader - a model. But I am so fucking tired. The idea that one must be vigilant is exhausting: not letting people get away with shit like not recognizing the achievement of my staff, figuring out how to work around common issues like sick kids of staff who are parents still feels like something we need to apologize for out side of the office rather than being a regular part of life. Fighting for raises is a perpetual issue, even in an environment where the cost of living - housing in particular - means those great performance raises above cost of living are not a 'nice thing' but a necessary thing to keep great staff. It's like the Fred and Ginger quote, where Ginger said that she did every thing Fred did, but backwards and in high heels - but Fred's name still comes first.

I feel battered, the stress is compromising my health, and my husband tells me I need to get out. I think of my kid, am grateful and grieving that I didn't have one more because I don't know how I could have swung it.

But what's crazy is that when I talk to other women they make it clear that I am living the dream, because they don't even have this bare minimum of support - so where can I go?

I am so fucking tired.
posted by anitanita at 7:01 PM on October 23 [37 favorites]


Man, I was nervous putting myself out there with my first comment but it was worth it. Hugs to all of you.

It's a capitalism problem but it's also more than that. I think the specifically female part of all this is what a partner brings to the equation. If you're the higher earning partner, as I am, it means you both suffer. Or maybe you can't find a partner at all who respects you, and alone, things are precarious. I don't really know any men who worry about these kinds of things.

Anyway I really appreciate the women in this thread who have taken this typically shallow "career OR family?" narrative and provided insight into what we are all really thinking. I know my own experience but it's nice to know I'm not the only one.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:44 PM on October 23 [17 favorites]


I'm roughly in the same spot that anitanita is in from a few comments ago. Most senior in my discipline at my company, on a fast track to VP. Luckily, my boss (the CEO) and my inmediate peers are sane and empathetic men who nevertheless still need counsel on matters of the gender variety.

I am 31, I don't have kids but I want them, and yet I can't justify the expense and the time I would have to take out as the breadwinner of my family of two. (As John Oliver says, "...#feminism?")

I'm not even sure myself or my partner are adults, though we're cresting on into our 30s. I tell my mom we both suffer from Late Onset Adulthood for a wide variety of reasons. She makes comments like "when you buy a house someday" and I laugh bitterly. I'm still paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

Most immediately the idea of having children in a world like this is terrifying. I'm torn between maximizing my own enjoyment of a life that might rapidly degrade or cease to exist, or fulfill longer-term dreams by sacrificing some things in the short-term. So instead, I just focus on and mentor my designers, who are all women and across the spectrum of generations and life circumstances, but I don't know how I can handle both protecting them and like, do anything else. I fought my way here and I am fighting for them too, but I am already exhausted and catch myself doing the mental math of what changing careers or becoming a SAHM on 1/5 of the salary would be like. More exhausting, maybe? So that's my choice, flavors of exhaustion?

Shit like this is why I fantasize about Fully Automated Luxury Communism.
posted by Snacks at 8:53 PM on October 23 [14 favorites]


It me. This is a good follow-up post to the one about Gen-X women.
posted by limeonaire at 9:40 PM on October 23 [1 favorite]


I would comment, but mostly I am too tired and exhausted to do anything but laugh grimly.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:09 AM on October 24 [7 favorites]


I keep waiting until I achieve this "independance" I'm supposed to be achieving before I am good respectable enough to date.

Like if I "need" a man (like a fish needs a bicycle amirite) I am a bad feminist, and failed adult, and certainly a completely failed mother, and totally unqualified to date (even by rhetoric one sees at places like metafilter) but like, I need help from someone so do I live with my parents and never date or start dating before I'm 80 since even in my thirties a full time job doesn't make me able to pay bills?

Like you know, the old question, what if this is as good as it gets?

Like I am a broke person, and the whole repeated cultural dogma that I'm not good enough to date until I'm independent myself really hits my psyche hard. I've heard people say you shouldn't have kids unless you have 70,000 per year! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLSOLDOSLDOSDLFsdlgkhsdklgjhskjhksdjhf!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


HA! ha. .... aah. Can't I just get married and be dependent on a man even while trying to fight the status quo that makes it such that that's the most realistic way of ever moving out of my parents house? It's stuck in my head that if I'm not financially independent, any relationship is "not real love" or not two people genuineness loving each as equals or it can't ever be a truly respectful relationship. I guess the solution is to try to find a broke man and then we can be equals but then the rhetoric is that two broken people can't fix each other, you have to be "whole" and fully functional before you can date right?

It's all exhausting.
posted by xarnop at 6:17 AM on October 24 [7 favorites]


I bounced hard off "Bow down, bitches".

But.

I left my MegaCorp job just over two years ago. I had "leadership potential". I was making my way up the ladder. I was nominated for the "gender balance forum" (which was a mess). I didn't have staff of my own (yet), but I had been picking up the slack for my (male) boss for a year+, when he mentally checked out. I had been asked to lead the project management for an organizational change initative, working with the head of the division. On paper, it was a fantastic opportunity. For six months, though, my only work had been setting up meetings, taking notes, and trying to organize a very shaggy list of priorities and objectives into something that had some kind of structure and could actually be tracked and measured.

I was miserable, so I decided to leave. I took a job working mostly from home (except for client meetings). Then my husband of 8 years decided to leave me.

I sold the house I loved. I tried to stick it out in England (I had been there 10 years). I couldn't hack it, though. I was lonely. I hated the new house I bought. I had a handful of friends, but I wasn't particularly close to any of them.

So I moved back home. I'm 37 years old. I live with my parents. I got a dog in April. I was able to take my job with me, so I make decent money in my hometown (and the cost of living is low). My work rarely keeps me busy enough, but I have flexibility. In theory, I could live anywhere and do this job.

I have no idea what I am doing.

I might buy a house next year. What else am I going to do with my money? I've never wanted kids. I want my own space again, but I'm also afraid of the crushing loneliness from before. Maybe it'll make me feel like I want to run away again. Maybe I don't want to have to think about owning a couch and a bed and a table and chairs. I can't keep living my life in this limbo, but I don't want to do the wrong thing again.
posted by minsies at 6:39 AM on October 24 [11 favorites]


"I've heard people say you shouldn't have kids unless you have 70,000 per year! "

Well, that's wildly unrealistic. According to census data only 41% of American households make more than $70k per year, and it's a safe bet that that percentage is lower if you only look at households where the adult(s) is/are of "child-bearing age". And then there's the impact that educational status and race(ism) have on income... Funny how that benchmark leads to mostly White people with Bachelors degrees (or more) being the ones "qualified" to procreate.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:11 AM on October 24 [7 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to so many of these concerns, but, man, people, you have got to reject this narrative that "being grownup" requires marriage, kids, and real estate. Those are all fine things, if you want them, and it's understandable to be sad and frustrated if you can't get them. But I have none of these things, and yet there is no doubt in my mind that I am a grown-up (at least in life circumstance; emotionally, I suppose there's always work to be done). I have a job that is useful to humanity that provides a moderate living. I'm useful to my community in other ways. I have friends and family who support each other. I engage in civic participation. I have a developed sensibility and intellectual projects of my own. Now, I am not at all saying that I have cracked the problem of life satisfaction. I surely haven't. But I don't have any doubt I'm a grown-up. That's a doubt you all should reject firmly.
posted by praemunire at 8:50 AM on October 24 [12 favorites]


I'm over 30 and have not hit any of the traditional markers of adulthood (unmarried, childless, non-homeowner, still in training). I wouldn't call it anguish, but I definitely feel unsettled by this extended adolescence.

I'm 32, and "unsettled by this extended adolescence" is exactly how I feel. I don't worry about "feeling like a grownup," but it is strange to think that at my age, my parents were married, owned a home, and had two children already. Most of my friends (and it seems like many of us around the same age) are in the same place. We have good jobs and lead largely fulfilling lives, but with that unsettled feeling, there is a lingering worry - what else that our parents generation enjoyed are we going to miss? There is no sense of security in our futures.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:28 AM on October 24 [5 favorites]


I have to wonder if this large scale phenomenon of women questioning if they're grown-ups comes from still being treated like children at work. I think we were all raised to think of ourselves as equal to boys and then we show up at work and get condescended to, criticized, sexually harrassed, endlessly questioned, nitpicked to death, rarely promoted or given leadership, and worked like donkeys, so since nobody told me I was any different from the boys I guess I'm being treated this way because I'm still something less than an adult.
posted by bleep at 9:57 AM on October 24 [19 favorites]


You have got to reject this narrative that "being grownup" requires marriage, kids, and real estate.

I second that but I also question that it's just a "narrative." I've been married since I was 22 but didn't have a child until I was 35. We bought our home when I was 32 and we had been moving constantly between rentals as we made our way professionally and through the downturn in 2000 and back to school (debt!) and etc.. Owning a home gives you stability that renting cannot. Especially as I see how we continually work to erode tenant rights. I bid on a house over a year ago (in our inflated market post-recent-recession) that when the owner bought it in 1962 was 1.5x the median annual income for our area (I looked it up.) It was now for sale for 6x the current median annual income. So, this necessity of housing is now a major debt load and still so necessary (to a degree) for stability, let alone "grownup-ness."

Marriage also is a necessity, especially if you have kids. And I have made my peace with the fact that part of my "job" as a woman in a heterosexual marriage is ensuring that my higher-earning-potential husband can continue to earn the big bucks so that we can all live. At some point, you have to stop railing at the injustice of the world (while still agitating for change) and live your life. I am not a "choose your choice" feminist but there are limitations that just exist and I can only do what I can do.

Can't I just get married and be dependent on a man even while trying to fight the status quo that makes it such that that's the most realistic way of ever moving out of my parents house?

You have got to set down that backpack. You are carrying a load that does not belong to you. Every structure right now is more precarious than it used to be. But you can absolutely get married and then be however you need to be. You can be both dependent and independent. I depend on my husband and his employer but I'm not not independent. It's not all about money. I have worked very, very hard over the last ten, fifteen years to educate myself about finance, budgeting, investing, etc., I've also made sure to continually work and continue to find ways to make myself more valuable to the workforce while also finding things that I enjoy doing and are good fits for my personality. There is no one path and you would be wise to be nimble but please, you have a whole bunch of rocks and debris and bullshit in that backpack. Get that out of your life today and put yourself mentally at zero and just build what you want. There will be some choices that are made for you and others that are totally open but you have a chance. Go for it. Go for all of it.
posted by amanda at 10:16 AM on October 24 [5 favorites]


A house is also about the largest appreciating asset that a person can buy "on their own". I mean, you still need to take out a massive loan to buy it but you'll find it significantly easier to obtain a $200,000 loan to buy a house than you will to buy $200,000 worth of stocks or mutual funds or anything else considered an investment. That ability to leverage the asset creates a lot of wealth that us normal folks wouldn't otherwise be able to build.

If I have $40,000 in the bank, I can buy $40,000 worth of stock and expect an 8% return so I'm gaining about $3,200/year from that investment.

But I can buy a $200,000 house with that so even if we assume a much lower 5% return as a quick and dirty way to account for the interest you pay, maintenance, etc. you're now making $10,000/year with that same $40,000.
posted by VTX at 10:31 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]


Good thing that interest rates are at historical lows --for great credit risks-- lenders offer fixed rate loans and a thirty-year maturity term, so when amortization finally runs off interest owed, and one can enjoy that profit from sale of one's home, unimpaired.
posted by marycatherine at 11:48 AM on October 24


You can’t expect to be happy when you’re responding to a Beyoncé song, rather than the Pretenders song that describes the sensation you’re actually feeling.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 12:19 PM on October 24


Good thing that interest rates are at historical lows --for great credit risks-- lenders offer fixed rate loans and a thirty-year maturity term, so when amortization finally runs off interest owed, and one can enjoy that profit from sale of one's home, unimpaired.

Is this a good thing, for a group of people burdened with decades of student loan payments, no job stability, and no guarantee of being able to stay in the same geographic area longterm?

The mechanisms of buying a home require certain givens that are utterly absent for myself and many people in similar positions. People who struggle to see a future that involves anything other than a lack of financial security as the institutions that used to shore up such a worldview are gutted before our very eyes. The people who are being discussed in this article.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:24 PM on October 24 [9 favorites]


Especially when it seems like the only stable jobs with living wages are available in areas with historically unaffordable prices.
posted by bleep at 12:28 PM on October 24 [3 favorites]


I'm not worried about MYSELF believing I am a grown up. I know I've carried horrors many can't dream of. I also know that in the eyes of many who determine how much support I am able to get socially, financially, romantically- how I feel about myself doesn't matter. If the culture is saturated by this bullshit, it still harms me however much I look in the mirror and tell my self "You're great!"
posted by xarnop at 4:04 PM on October 24 [5 favorites]


“Bow down, bitches” is not a lie. It is an anthem. It is a protest of exactly the system(s!) this article is protesting. It is the cry of a woman whose writing, singing, rapping, even whether she has actually carried her biological children is questioned (and then she is censured for posting photos of herself heavily pregnant, as if people would not once again attack her if she didn’t prove it with photos). It’s defiance. Bey gave me my anger back, all hail Bey.

Honestly, it is so frustrating to see this discussion include eye-rolls at a woman who has given me “she works for the money, and she’s worth every dollar”, words that got me through so much of the past two years at work while I am talked down to and passed over for promotion. I’m not going to get recognition, but I will take my paper, and I will reevaluate what my boss gets in exchange for that paper because my going above and beyond has never gotten me anything but burn-out. It’s been important to remember that no matter who I work for, I work for me.
posted by sadmadglad at 7:57 AM on October 25 [10 favorites]


I'm over 30 and have not hit any of the traditional markers of adulthood (unmarried, childless, non-homeowner, still in training). I wouldn't call it anguish, but I definitely feel unsettled by this extended adolescence.

Try still being like this at forty-seven.....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


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