I am coming to believe the women’s liberation movement, the me too movement, and every other female empowerment movement has either failed or is failing. I’m pretty sure that statement will really piss off a great deal of people so hold your shotguns and hear me out. I’d like to say I don’t have any feelings insomuch as I don’t have an agenda. Like all my articles I’m just commenting on specific aspects of the world that I witness first hand. If anything, when I see what’s happening, I think of my daughters and I realize I’d really like it if the furthering of women’s efforts over the years was a bit more effective. The way I see it the various women’s empowerment endeavors from the big national and international movements down to efforts at the local level all seem to make a splash short term, but have zero long term impact. That’s why I think of them as a failure assuming the goal is to develop a self sustaining population of strong independent women, which I believe is the big point of it all. Yes, there is a large group of women with these traits, but in my experience, it’s not the vast majority, which after a century of women’s rights movements, you’d think that would be the case.
I’ve recently had the chance to witness the journeys of four women. Two in their twenties, one in her thirties, and one in her forties. These women have various backgrounds and education levels and are very different in many other ways. In one way they are all very much the same. They are all completely focused on relationships with their various men to the exclusion of nearly everything else in their lives. When I looked at it, I realized that they all wanted their very own Prince Charming to come and sweep them off their feet. That was the thing that got me thinking about women’s empowerment. After nearly a century of efforts you would think they wouldn’t want to attract a Prince Charming, they would all want to become their own Prince Charming. That, sadly, is clearly not the case, at least not with these four.
All these women have a veneer of independence based upon the tropes of ‘modern women’. A job, even up to and including their own home with a mortgage. To me it’s just window dressing. All-in-all, the independence they espouse is mostly about attracting men. One more thing before I go on, it’s not like men are any better. In fact we are worse insomuch as we are blatant about the purpose of our effort to attract women. With women the narrative we hear about the female experience and efforts generally includes independence and it includes freedom. It almost never includes goals related to attracting someone from the opposte sex. So here are the four cases:
Case 1: The Country Girl
Our country girl is an early twenty something administrative assistant, basically an office girl. Right from the offset you’d think she’d be the most traditional. Live at home, go to school, get a degree and be highly selective. The country girl has very strong parents who tried to turn her into a strong and independent woman. Education, enculturation, role modeling, basically everything you’d expect parents to do to try and drive independence into a child. I witnessed it all first hand so it’s not a load. They went to extremes to try and make sure she knew exactly what she needed to have to be independent and decerining. What happened? Well for several years she was a sucker for the sweet talking of every guy in her life. Even with the supposed adherence to deeply religious dogma from the local church, she would slip into bed with any guy who would have her along with nearly every one of her friends. When I say slip into bed, I don’t mean just using a man for meeting her sexual needs, what they refer to as a boy toy. I mean she never had her own place. She literally moved from one boyfriend to another with short interludes in between at a friend or families house. Speaking of her friends, it seems to me that living with a guy was a status symbol among them. That part blew me away. It wasn’t car’s or homes, or careers or anything that related to independence, everything she talked about with her friends was feelings relating to a guy accepting her or wanting her to move in.
Case 2: The City Girl
The city girl works in healthcare. She makes a good living. Just like the country girl every decision is emotional. As an example both bought new vehicles on payments when they had perfectly serviceable and reliable older cars. The payments were very high relative to their respective incomes which severely limited their ability to get their own places. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I know that if I have to make a payment on something, I’d rather it be the roof over my head than the wheels under my feet. Even with the high car payment City Girl could have moved in with a roommate, a garage apartment or some other form of efficiency to maintain her independence. Instead she made the calculation that the better solution was to move in with a guy who was a single parent with a messed up kid. It was non stop fighting. From what I could tell the ‘living with a guy as a status symbol’ was at play in her decision making. I have some insight with City Girl as I’ve talked to her numerous times at social gatherings. She’s got a big ego and always talks about her accomplishments and plans. She’s constantly making proclamations that she wants to be independent. Everything she discusses as an interest area are things that supposedly give her money, freedom, and the ability to be independent. I’ve noticed that everything she actually does is directly at odds with her words. When it comes to relationships, she wants a man, and she wants one so bad, so right now, that she chooses very poorly.
Case 3: The Independent Thirty Something Girl
As we move up in years, we move into the case of the Independent Thirty Something. She’s somewhat unique in this scenario in that she has a kid and is a single parent. If we look at her actions she’s got the things that the various women’s movements espouse. She’s independent, mostly, in her life. She does depend on her parents and a few other friends to help with the child from time to time. She’s a homeowner. She’s got an upwardly mobile career. She’s managing a child fairly well. Even with all this, when you listen to her, the dialog is exactly the opposite of the City Girl. Every time she talks about her respective relationships, she’s always talking about how she’s willing to give up her house to move in with this guy or that. Also, every guy she’s talked about for the last few years never amounts to anything other than short term relationships. She’s damaged in this regard as she is after the trophy boyfriend, not the stable guy. Ironically, in the age of social media some of these trophy guys never even get to the booty call phase. Yet I am continually flabbergasted that she’s discussing her future living with them from the earliest days of talking to them. Also, did I mention she has a kid? It should go without saying that when you have a child, moving in with a new guy, into a newish relationship is a bad idea for everyone. On top of all this she also has that personality veneer where she’s ‘friends’ with a bunch of guys. Unfortunately she’s got a disposition that is overly friendly and causes issues between the guy friends and their respective female relationships. I mention this because, from my perspective, it’s all stemming from the subtle vibe she gives off that she’d like to be more than ‘friends.’
Case 4: The Independent Forty Something Girl
As we continue down the list of cases and age we seem to get further down into the world of the bizarre personality quirks with the Independent Forty Something. She’s the most unique of all. I can’t decide if it’s because she’s been so long without a healthy relationship or if she’s lacking a population of available men. She’s got all the important and independent life foundations like a reliable car, a nice house, etc similar to the Independent Thirty Something. That being said, she’s messed up. She has a fixation on her cats to the point where she ends relationships with long term friends if they disrespect her fur babies. It’s also the only thing she can talk about, she’s like Crazy Cat Lady from the Simpsons. She uses shopping, alcohol and mild drugs to medicate herself. She obsesses over guys who are unavailable or completely uninterested. The relationships, if you can call them that, are very shallow and very short lived, in effect she’s being used for her body and nothing else. She never quite figured out that guys, and really most people, don’t care about her cats and think her fixation is bizarre. Nor has she figured out the critically important lesson that she has to demand more out of guys to get more out of them. I can go on but the most salient point about the Independent Forty Something Girl is that she’s fixated on men, on relationships, and on getting a guy even with her limited interpersonal skills.
What do they all have in common?
When I look at these four women, I see trends that rise above age and and experience. Clearly they are all fixated on getting a man beyond nearly everything else in their life. Why can’t they find that good stable relationship they desire? I don’t believe it’s purley personality quirks. For some, like the Country and City Girls, get guys, it’s just they pick poorly because they want the guy right now more than they want the right guy. For the older ones who can’t land a longer term significant other, I think it’s because the guys today have figured it out. They don’t have to put up with the quirks to get what they want (sex and attention). In one case, one of the guys the Independent Thirty Something Girl was talking to wanted a family but demanded she deliver his baby before he would buy her a ring. If she didn’t already have a kid from a deadbeat dad I’m pretty sure she would have considered it. Sadly I’ve learned that purposely getting pregnant to trap a man is still a thing, which, to me, is the ultimate expression of everything i’m writing about here.
There are some bigger points that they all have in common. In all cases the emotions drive decision making and the men are the center of the emotions. All four talk about being independent but their actions communicate that they have zero desire to really be liberated if they can leave it behind to be cared for by a guy. They all look at men as trophies, and they all want the shiniest trophies they can get. All but one are overly focused on the physically attractive versus finding a good friend who is a life partner. They are all spiteful to other women whom they see themselves in competition with.
This is why I keep wondering where all the women’s empowerment went? The way I see it the free sex, the house, the career and the car, are all just illusions of empowerment. Didn’t Gloria Steinem popularize the term “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” to the point where it became a popular slogan among feminists? Clearly a good cross section of single women today don’t agree with that sentiment. When I say a good cross section, what I really mean is everyone I have known, even beyond the four cases cited here. I keep asking myself: Why does the man still define everything? I have to admit that I’m so removed, I just don’t know. I can only assume it’s the inate sex drive, or as Seth Goden calls it, the lizzard brain. Regardless, when it comes to life, a good partner is important, but it shouldn’t be just any pretty partner and it shouldn’t be the driving purpose of your existence.
My readers and podcast listeners know I usually talk about work and life issues in my blogs. Every now and again I will take a moment for some social commentary when something strikes me. This is one of those times. It’s also one of the times where I have identified something that feels like a problem but have no idea if a solution is even possible. The sex drive could be too baked in and no matter how many marches or outrage hits the mainstream, nothing about the women i’ve observed and millions more just like them will ever really change. In the end I reflect on all this and think about my daughters. I really hope they don’t fall into the “Have to have a man at any cost” trap. Who knows, maybe they will read this blog some day in the future and the awareness of what I’ve witnessed will help them better manage their emotions around having a trophy guy in their lives. Ok, commentary over. If you got this far, and you are a women’s empowerment activist, thank you for reading and you can go get your shotgun now.