Are Modern Feminists “Outbidding” Themselves?

[Image credit: Juska Wendland]

Feminists have come a long way since that 1848 Seneca Falls Convention we all learned about in History class. In fact, it wasn’t even until until five-and-a-half decades ago that women developed desires outside of the workplace; they figured, why stop at “equal pay” rights, when we could have it “all?” And, we should rightfully be thanking our female predecessors for thinking outside of the box in the first place.

I recently finished Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough. Some would lament the title itself, and even I sat down with the book fondling the notion it would be one of the most anti-feminist pieces ever penned. As a self-proclaimed feminist, I wanted more insight into why a single, 40-year-old she-journalist would ever want to make a case for…ahem…settling.

Now, I’m not saying I agree with everything she has to say – especially because a good chunk of my articles, like this one, are centered around the idea that women should never settle for less than what they think they deserve. But I wanted to see the other side of things; I wanted to try to understand why people would make comments on my articles about me like, “She thinks she’s too good for all the guys she’s turned down,” and “Jeez. Women like her have unrealistic expectations.”

In her book, Gottlieb cites a 2006 study that was published in the New York Times. The results of the study showed that stay-at-home moms were happier than working moms, and even when it came to working moms, those women were happier with their respective men bringing in two-thirds of the households’ income. Sociologist Steven Nock remarked, “A woman wants equity. That’s not necessarily the same as equality.”

Interesting. We say we want to be “equal,” but really, being “equal” with our partners kind of unsettles us. These findings bring up a question we’re almost afraid to ask ourselves: does what we want in theory clash with what we want in reality?

In other words, ambitious women today have access to anything and everything: successful men, high-rise apartments, cream-of-the-crop jobs – I could go on. But, we seem to be placing our bets pretty darn high; in fact, it’s almost as if we’re outbidding ourselves from the opportunity to the “perfect” life the feminists before us were trying to create for us. We want to be self-made women, but a woman that’s too self-made could make a pretty decent argument for not needing a man.
Yet we may want men more than we think we may need them. Let’s examine what modern-day feminism and exceedingly high expectations have led to:
1. Inflated sense of self-worth.
Today, a gal that “has it all” is seen as a catch. It’s almost rare to find a pretty, smart, talented, achieved, driven girl that isn’t aware she is all of these things. Thus, she sets the bar high for what kind of man she romantically allows into her life. Whether we limit the boundaries of the pool of men from which to choose because we set our standards impossibly high, or that men simply need to do more to “catch up” in order to expand the dimensions of this pool, is unclear. We think we’re such hot sh*t that we turn everyone down; endlessly search for what’s bigger, better, shinier.
2. Dissatisfaction with casual sex
A healthy portion of my female friends have casual sex with men. An even healthier portion likes to pretend they can have casual, no-strings-attached sex with guys they have feelings for. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t pretended just the same. Ladies, I’m all for expressing your sexuality, on your terms, with whomever you want, whenever you want. But we’re women. We catch inescapable feelings when we f*ck the guy we’re head-over-heels for. Though we want to have sex with men, the way many men heartlessly do with us, they don’t go home and cry over us because they’re men. Come to think of it, many of my female friends go through the I-had-sex-with-him-and-oops-now-I’m-getting-feelings cycle. Many times, casual sex=dissatisfaction.
3. Getting older and staying…singler.
Lori Gottlieb is 40 and still (unhappily) single because instead of being content with “Mr. Good Enough,” she made it her life’s mission to seek out “Mr. F*cking Perfect.” My thirty-two-year-old family friend is currently freezing her eggs because her twenties whooshed by and she’s incredibly surprised she never found someone “as good” as her. The older women get, the less chance they have to find the man of their dreams – and though we want the same opportunities that men have, the fact is we don’t have the same opportunities, especially as we age. A fifty-year-old man can date a twenty-five year old woman, but a forty-year-old woman has a much smaller pick of male options. That’s just the world we live in, folks.
There is no right or wrong answer in regards to how modern-day feminists should carry themselves. (Should we dumb ourselves down a bit so we can find suitable partners? Nah. Should we alter our expectations? Perhaps. Should we not even rely on men at all? Who knows.)
But what is cut and clear is that in any given city, you’ll find that women are getting married later, if even at all – something worth being a little more introspective over. At the end of it all, we are the baby-making, overly hormonal sex.

I’ll conclude with a quote from a book I’m smack-dab in the middle of: “We claimed the agency, we granted ourselves the authority, we gathered the accolades, but we never stopped worrying about how our asses looked in our jeans.” – Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things


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