This book blew my mind, brought my jaw to the floor, and fired me up to boiling. It’s a book that every single woman, as well as every man, should read. Today. Now.
Prior to reading it, I thought I was reasonably well versed in women’s studies and women’s issues. Not even close. I knew nothing.
This book is all about, in depth, laden with statistics and research, how women are perceived, treated, regarded, and expected to be, in our culture today. And folks? It’s bad. Way worse than you might have imagined or considered.
Why read such a book? Because without knowledge, one can not act. And without action and a shift in our behaviors and responses, nothing around us will ever change. And it needs to. This is an imperative need in terms of the livelihood, safety, well being, and personal experiences of women, in their daily lives, as well as in the big picture. Read it for a very necessary, eye opening, sobering reality check.
Here, a cliff notes version of a smattering of the compelling truths and information you will discover within:
–Books, movies, games, and popular entertainment feature men and boys 2-3x as often as protagonists, and more often, white men. Because of this prevalence of male perspective, girls learn early on to put themselves in male’s shoes. Boys however, are far less likely to do this, and in some cases, are even shamed for doing so.
–Selfie culture has some virtues (such as, sometimes it’s used to powerfully challenge stereotypes that portray women in negative or impossibly idealistic ways). But, it also has a focus on thinness, whiteness, and idealized, even pornified beauty. Starkly highlighting the ways in which females are “supposed” to look.
–In all forms of media, women and girls are 4x more likely to be portrayed as underweight, physically diminished, conveying fragility and weakness, and helplessness. Interestingly, the more pronounced this is, the more popular she might become. Yet, the encouragement and glamorizing of this very imagery with regards to women feeds into the cycle of male dominance, as well as objectification of women.
—Women’s bodies in media imagery are frequently made into objects, portrayed as being inhuman all the time. And when something isn’t human, it’s far easier emotionally to feel fine while degrading and harming it. Our bodies are used to market everything, from toys to clothing, to food and games. Women pose as tables to be eaten off of, chairs for people to sit on, and bikes to be ridden. Often, women’s bodies appear with no head, which means no brain nor mouth, and in imagery, with their mouth taped shut (meaning: silence and thus, no voice).
–Further, we see images of women and girls shellacked, shaved, tied up, emaciated, and often, even mutilated. All of this of course, perpetuating the idea that women deserve these things, and that violence towards women is normal.
Body Image and Appearance
—By age 6, most American girls already pick up on this objectification and sexualization of our bodies, expressing the idea of dressing in revealing and sexualized ways in order to be liked, to appease, and to be paid attention to. Pressure to conform to feminine beauty ideals, which are narrow, rigid, and homogenized, is unavoidable and ever in our faces.
–The first thing a woman offer hears when meeting or greeting a person is in correlation with her appearance. “Where’s that smile?” “What a pretty dress!” “You’ve lost weight!” “You look cute today.” This teaches women (and men) that the focal point and most important thing with regard to females is their appearance.
–Before puberty, the incidence of depression in American children is roughly equal. Between the ages of 12-15 though, the number of girls reporting it triples. Girls are also significantly more likely than boys to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
–Women and girls experience anxiety, depression, self harm, eating disorders, desire for body modification, and sexual dysfunction at substantially higher rates than boys and men. Three themes underlie this: perpetual self-surveillance, routine self-silencing, and suppressed anger.
–Shame infuses women in multiple veins, from menstruation, to sex. Women frequently feeling intense disgust with themselves and their bodily functions, from how they look, smell, and even with regards to their age.
–Some girls claim to be embracing their bodies and to be promoting empowerment from posting sexy, objectifying photos online. They report a sense of worthiness associated with the feedback they receive. Any critiques of these actions are deemed slut-shamey and bitter. In fact though, what is pleasing and instills a sense of power and control in girls and women is not sexualizing themselves, but the false sense of power it brings them.
This serves at furthering the perception of men (and women) that we are sex objects, to be judged on and appreciated for our appearance and what we have to offer in terms of sexuality and ultimately, the pleasing of men (whether visually or other). Objectifying oneself does nothing to break the cycle of immense objectification and sexualization of women. Instead, it fuels it.
Power and empowerment are not the same thing. Neither are objectification or sexuality. These things, frequently confused.
Within Sex and Sexuality
–Studies in implicit bias consistently show that most people, including, importantly, medical professionals of all genders and ethnicity, have a difficult time taking women’s physical pain seriously. Men are treated more quickly in the ER. Men are sent to intensive care faster. Medical professionals also spend more time with male patients than with female. Women even have longer wait times.
—Sex prioritizes men. There was a huge 2018 study which found that women had fewer orgasms than any other sexual demographic. 92% of women who fake orgasms did so because it “offers higher self esteem for their partner.” It’s nice to care about one’s partner feeling good, but at the complete cost of your own? This is one-way sexual entitlement.
—We normalize and prioritize male sexual pleasure. The man, ever assumed to “get off” during sex. This is the unspoken ending of sex. Often, even concluding the encounter, whether the woman has experienced her own climax or not.
–There are 5x as many clinical trials conducted on the topic of male sexual pleasure, as on the topic of female sexual pain. To be exact, 446 studies have been conducted on issues such as dyspareunia, vaginismus, and vulvodynia, all highly painful conditions for women. Studies on erectile dysfunction? 1,954. Male pleasure is prioritized, by a landslide.
In the Home and During Childhood
–In childhood and within families, girls perform an average of 2 hours more domestic work per week than their brothers. Laundering, vacuuming, dishes, and helping with younger siblings are all often on the docket. Boys take out the trash, wash cars, mow lawns, and do general maintenance work. Boys list responsibility for almost 50% less chores than do girls. Boys are also 10% more likely to be paid for their time and effort at home (such as, for shoveling or manual labor).
—Children’s toys still reinforce, very much so, these practices. Girls toys are primarily about engaging in beauty and domestic play. Boys are more likely linked to competition, jobs, and money. Exceptions are few and far between.
–Many parents assume and reassure themselves with the idea that boys “aren’t naturally interested in caring or nurturing activities.” However, a study of children’s toys by researchers Isabelle Cherney and Kamela London found that, when left alone, half of boys ages 5 through 13 picked “girl” and “boy” toys equally-until aware they were being watched.
–There is nothing biologically, nor truly barring men from being nurturers. In the Aka Pygmy People of central Africa, men and women are equally fluid in their abilities and responsibilities. Aka fathers parent like few other men in the world. Children are within their reach 47% of the time as infants. Women provide childcare and cook, but also hunt and explore. Aka fathers even suckle babies to temporarily sooth them in their mother’s absence.
–The caring mandate on women and girls is, instead, sexist and a complete cultural construct. One designed toward serving, making things easier for, and involving the stepping aside for men, frequently at the cost of ourselves.
–Women tend to be the default primary caretakers for both children, as well as aging parents (and, sometimes even their own spouses). These women experience much higher incidence of depression, sadness, hostility, and lower life satisfaction.
—We’ve even convinced women that keeping their own name in a legal relational commitment is selfish, damaging to their families, and a social affront.
In the Workplace/Career-Wise
—Women continue to dominate in lower wage work sectors, with scant benefits, and slim opportunity to accrue wealth. A 2015 analysis of women’s labor between 2010 and 2016 found that, despite women’s academic success and legal forward strides, the top job for women in the US is: secretary and/or administrative assistant. This is closely followed by nurse and school teacher.
–Women make up more than 90% of paid domestic and health care workers. Jobs women do are also frequently intensely emotionally demanding and require suppressing negative emotions such as anger. Teachers, nurses, administrative assistants, and service workers report high rates of burnout. Emotional exhaustion is often a primary reason.
–An in-depth 2014 study of secondary school teachers in Germany revealed how closely anger suppression and burnout correlate. Similar studies in countries around the world reveal what experts describe as an “epidemic” of exhaustion, stress, anger, anxiety, and excessive work demands.
—When men go into a field, salaries go up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 26 of the 30 highest paying job categories as male dominated. While 23 of the 30 lowest paying are female dominated.
–To attempt overcoming this, many women seek further education, which means more student loan debt. Women hold 65% of student loans. And thus, it is harder for them to pay these off because of the significant wage gap.
–Few developed nations are as hostile to women entering and staying in the workforce as the US, the only peer nation that does not require employers to offer paid family or maternal leave.
–Men’s ability to work full time, uninterrupted, and for higher wages, is greater and significantly made so by women “not working” and providing them with unpaid care resources (such as child care, home tending, etc).
Health and Birth Control
–In 2014, a clinical trial tested male contraceptive was brought to an early close because “men didn’t like the side effects,” which included acne, mood swings, low libido, depression, and weight gain. Soon, reporters, mainly men, were writing about how terrible women’s jeering responses were. Hilarious and angering, given that countless women shoulder and accept these very risks and potential side effects, all the time. Why is birth control deemed the woman’s issue and responsibility? Why is it not the concern and problem for both the man and woman equally? The couples issue, instead of the woman’s.
–Women’s birth control risks include: potential vision problems, mood swings, weight gain, vaginal discharge, erratic periods, reduced libido, breast tenderness, heightened risk of blood clot and stroke, sustained anxiety and depression, painful yeast infections, bone density issues, migraines, infertility, gallbladder and heart disease, and elevated odds of developing cancer. Other forms of birth control are sometimes riskier, such as the IUD which can perforate a woman’s uterus or being about sepsis- a blood infection which can be fatal. And yet, we are supposed to handle birth control with a smile and nary a word otherwise.
–That aside, birth control is often expensive. It requires multiple doctors visits. It’s common that access to such is made difficult, as well as even embarrassing. Only 14% of stores sell Plan B on shelves, instead preferring to dispense from behind the counter or keep in a lock box on display. Why? Women. Sex. Babies. Control. Being shamed, denied, or having to ask for these things, instead of simply being able to grab them off a shelf? All intrusions to women’s best interests, as well as to their basic human rights.
–Motherhood is central to our social perception of women and notions of motherhood. And is also central to how we think of women’s anger. When we feel anger related to expectations or pressures of being mothers (or, not being mothers), these are often accompanied by guilt too.
—The number of people struggling with pregnancy related stress, pain, and anger is staggering. But we do not talk about this, because it is a strong stigma. Any mother who expresses sadness, anger, longing, regret, is considered a horrible mother, possibly even a child abuser, and a monster. Why are we not able to separate these things? A mother can love her children, the humans they are and their existence. While at the same time, regretting entering into the lifestyle of mother, and feeling resentment, depression, and sadness for what her life has become. Experiencing these emotions is not synonymous with being an awful mother or not loving one’s children. They are not one in the same. We can feel both. And to stigmatize and deny this is to silence, as well as dismiss women, their voices, and their feelings. It’s a way of robbing them of support, empathy, or of any means of understanding.
–Pregnancy related depression affects 37% of women in the US. All while there is still little discussion of what happens to a woman during pregnancy, childbirth, and following. Men are frequently left in the dark about what women experience and go through. Here is a bit of what some women might endure: 77% of women endure back pain. 49% suffer urinary incontinence. 50% live with persistent pelvic pain. And after birth, almost 30% are left with un-diagnosed pelvic bone fractures.
—Whether intending to have children or not, women are still penalized and discriminated against. If they are thought to be in the “fetility zone,” their work, salary, and tenure are indexed to employers perceptions of their potential to give birth. There is a high reluctance to hire these women.
—Compared with childless women, mothers are offered an average of $11,000 less when getting a new job. For every child she has, she faces a 7% wage decline. Fathers do not experience such. Instead, becoming a father makes a man more likely to be hired. Also, for every child a man has, his earnings increase 6%.
—Many women do not want to get pregnant, have babies, or be mothers, and for this they are considered freakish, incomplete, unfeminine, and even ignorant of their “real” desires. The choice not to have children inevitably means being shamed, insulted, and even bullied, sometimes by one’s own family. Women who do not want children frequently have to deal with insensitive “jokes”, about ticking clocks, certain regret, becoming “cat ladies”, or not being “real” women.
–Women who openly share misgivings with being a mother are treated with more suspicion than women who have chosen to remain child free. We continue to fail making this distinction, between children and the experience of motherhood. A woman can love her child, while still feeling frustration, oppression, and anger about the life they’ve come to have with children. We do not offer mother’s support or empathy. Instead, we dismiss and judge them.
Street Harassment and Assault
—Everywhere, women learn to adapt to boys and men leering, hissing obscenities, making sexual suggestions, touching us, lurking on stoops, staring from benches, following us on foot and in cars, and generally refusing to keep their hands, thoughts, and desires to themselves. Yet still, we look away, put our heads down, take protective measures, and must learn to try and safeguard ourselves. Because we have been given no other choice. Speak up and risk anger, aggression, and further terror. Or, say nothing and it continues.
—It is absurd that every day, women have to content with the possibility that they will be attacked either verbally or physically. As women, we can lose our dignity or any sense of safety or feelings of right to public space, all on someone else’s whim (almost always a man) and at the drop of a hat.
—We bite our tongues, sometimes until they bleed, both to maintain our safety, and to avoid the stereotype which will most certainly garner dismissal and ridicule of the “shrill, angry, out-of-control women.” When in fact, what is surprising or incorrect about getting angry when one is being treated horribly, unjustly, and with cruelty? This is the natural reaction. Yet, women who react with anything other than silence and a smile are the recipients of further venom, anger, and attack.
—Stop Street Harassment found, across multiple large scale studies, between 65% and 98% of women worldwide have experienced persistent street harassment that alters the course of their day. In the US, 65% of women report being harassed. A similar study conducted by Cornell University and Hollaback! found comparatively high rates globally, including more than 50% of women representing 22 countries have been groped in public.
–For women with disabilities, this is a particularly insidious issue, with men for example, positioning their crotch in the faces of women in wheelchairs. The idiotic idea behind such, that they should “appreciate” the attention because it is “humanizing” in the sense that they are not often seen as sexual beings.
–Sexual harassment and violence are so normalized among girls and women that they don’t often consciously register it as abusive behavior. They instead assume it’s a given, being harassed, objectified, degraded, and even assaulted when out.
—Street harassment is a situation that highlights in stark clarity the fact that women cannot say “no” to men and be safe. Instead, the issue is routinely minimized, despite its known risks and harms including increased anxiety and hyper-vigilance. This is not even including the actual physical risks to women.
—Doctors have long puzzled over why, if some women do not go to war, they exhibit higher levels of post traumatic street than men. Unwanted sexual advanced, continual objectification, and persistent harassment are significant factors in this. As well as, cultivated awareness of threat and elevated anger as a result.
–Girls and women adapt to this though, usually by not talking about it, by blaming themselves and doing their best to ignore it.
—The point of keeping women quiet and the status quo in check? Harassment and the ever present suggestions of violence constantly remind women and girls of “their place.” For the most part, these experiences are still cloaked in silence, and we continue to push advice on girls about “staying safe,” which does little to address the real issue, as well as lets the perpetrators off the hook. By putting the burden on women, it continues to allow perpetrators the leeway to behave badly, as well as, shifts responsibility in the wrong direction. Thus, teaching women to “stay safe” isn’t really about their safety. Instead, its about maintaining the way things are, as well as reinforcing social control.
–There remains a deep cultural resistance to taking women’s fears of male violence seriously. Ultimately, in the face of what is clear social, legal, and political inequality, it is rape that keeps women in check.
–In the US, a person is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes, women making up the majority of targets. A woman’s chance of being sexually assaulted in her life is 1 in 5. A man’s is 1 in 75.
–Conservatives like to debate rape stats, but really, is the number important? Isn’t one rape too many? This continual debating of such seems a major missing of the point. What exact number of rapes is too high? What number is too low? Just right? This is an absurd nitpicking over semantics. What makes a rape “legitimate” in the eyes of conservatives? Clearly not the victim’s anger, suffering, or ideas about assault.
—Fewer than 3% of rapists, overwhelming the majority of which are men, are ever prosecuted or imprisoned. More than half of US states allow rapists to sue for custody of the children born from their rape. Yes, you read that right. Rape is the most under-reported crime in the world. It’s a problem everywhere, from schools, to church, Hollywood, the gym, within sports, the military, in homes, at war, in street gangs, in elder care and institutions, even in marriages.
–Yet, we are resistant to the idea of protecting and hearing women about rape. We are hostile, dismissive, and generally awful towards those who have been violated and harmed in such a regard.
—Most college students surveyed for example, believe that up to 50% of women lie about rape. Other studies show that police officers with less than 8 years of experience believe roughly that percentage that those who allege rape are lying. Interesting, given that despite studies conducted across multiple continents, its consistently found that the incidence of false rape claims is just between 2%-8%.
—This continued dismissal and disbelief is a powerful inhibitor against preventing, reducing, and protecting against rape. All over the world, sexual violence is often treated, in public and in courts, as a matter of opinion and as mere “bad behavior” instead of the profound violation and human terror it truly is.
More Insane Statistics regarding Violence Against Women
—According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women live with lifelong and painfully debilitating effects of genital mutilation.
—Every year, more than 60 million girls are “child brides.”
—Women and girls comprise 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with 79% done so for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
—Mainstream porn, in which abuse and trafficking are often implicated, is also problematic and contributes to the mindset that fuels all of this.
—Women are more likely to be targeted with hateful violence simply because of their sex, and on a daily basis.
—63% of homeless women are survivors of intimate violence. Among those with children, 93% report trauma.
—And while on-screen, we admire women’s anger, physical aggression, and fighting back a la “Kill Bill” and “Mad Max,” when women act this way in real life, you can bet harsh and disproportionate punishment, treatment, and judgement will come their way.
Quiet = Feminine (aka, our thoughts are less worthy than men’s)
–At home and in schools, adults encourage boys to share their opinions more freely. Teachers ask boys more open ended questions than they do girls, and look at them when they do. Boys speak out in class at a rate of 8x that of girls, and are not reprimanded as frequently when they do, nor told to raise their hands or wait their turn. Professor Allyson Juleturn of Trinity Western University in the British Columbia found that boys speak 9-10x more than girls. One study of Harvard undergrad classes found that male students speak at least 3x more than females.
—Both men and women are more likely to interrupt and talk over girls and women. This is also true in TV and movies. While women do interrupt and talk over others, the quality of such tends to differ. Women tend to use such as a way of prompting more conversation in the same direction.
–Women with tenure, expertise, and knowledge are routinely passed over in favor of mediocre men with less of all.
—Indifference and dismissal to women’s thinking, work, and to hearing women and taking them seriously is evident in everything from the fact that influential tech leaders don’t find women “interesting enough” to follow on Twitter, to woman-less Nobel Prizes. From the misogynist, women hating, assaulting President we elected, to all-male women’s reproductive health panels.
—When we learn to expect women to speak less, it always seems as though they talk too much. Women are supposed to be quieter, closed mouth’s are feminine.
—Thus, women are not supposed to question or publicly shame men for their behavior, despite us being degraded, publicly shamed, and the recipients of violence by men every day. If we use public voice to address topics beyond our gender roles, family, or appearance, particularly if challenging a limitation, you can count on public hostility, on and offline.
—Fear of emasculation and loss of control is obvious in the anger and defensiveness with which men respond to it, when women do stand up and make a scene. Nagging wives, shrews, and harridans, as well as to make the association obvious between women and men who aren’t able to control them being dubbed “ball breakers.”
–In 2015, novelist Catherine Nichols, tired of having her manuscript rejected, decided to change her name to a mans. Within 24 hours, “George” had 5 responses out of the 6 she had sent. Three were manuscript requests, and two were warm rejections, praising “his” excellent work. Under her own name, the same query letter and sample sent out 50 times netted her a mere two responses.
–A study of more than 2 million books published in North America over 10 years (between 2002-2012) revealed that books written by women are priced 45% less than those by men. Books written by women are also significantly less likely to be reviewed or chosen for prizes, particularly if they are written about women.
–Studies have found that projects run by men get 2x the budget and 3x the people power, as opposed to those run by women.
The takeaway here: women should be angry, enraged even, about the violence, degradation, glass ceilings, oppression, and fear which permeate our lives, and so should men. It’s a human atrocity, significant abuse, and horror. It’s a diminishing of our livelihood and life experience. It might be the single most significant crime against humanity.
However, more than just getting angry, we need to get active. Anger doesn’t necessarily mean action. So first, get angry. Then, let’s get active.
Stop accepting it. Speak up. Do not just go along with the status quo. Seek out various veins in which you can offer support, action, as well as use your voice. Be willing to take a stand, even when others do not. Do not shy away from making others uncomfortable, at the continued cost of women, our comfort, and our well-beings. In this instance, rage becomes each of us.
Where to start? Get your own copy and read this insanely important, riveting book.