I am not going to black out my social media and stay offline for a day “to show what the world might be like without women.” First of all, whether or not I’m on social media on any given day is dependent on my mood and my stress level and is of no consequence to anyone else. Much more importantly, the last thing America needs right now is for its women to go away and hope men miss us. If anything, we need to be taking up more space, not less.
I’ve spent most of my life wishing I took up less space. Tall, solidly-built, loud, and outspoken were not traits considered desirable in an American girl when I was growing up. I tried unsuccessfully for years to not stand out, blend in, take up less space. Put my hand in up in class less often. I wore flats to my high school prom because I was afraid of being taller than my date.
I recently lost more than 25 pounds. I look more like my “old self,” the self in my head, than I have in years. When I reached a number I hadn’t seen on the scale since my younger days, I was disappointed to find all my old baggage about my weight and appearance there waiting for me. But of course — I was never happy at this weight in the past, why would I be now? As a woman I can never be pretty enough, thin enough, flawless enough to feel beautiful as I am. There is always perfection to strive for and products to buy.
I know this is bullshit designed to keep us down (and spending money), but I was raised in it, steeped in it. You can’t shake something like that off; you have to dig it out piece by piece, over and over. It takes prolonged, determined effort.
The social media blackout is a low-effort version of the women’s strike. I didn’t participate in that, either. Women should “take a break from paid and unpaid labor” to make a statement about how much our labor is worth. Really? There’s a whole lot of presumption in that idea.
First, that a woman has the luxury to stop doing the work that keeps her life going in order to make this statement when and in the way someone else decided it should be made. Second, that a woman is doing all or most of the “unpaid labor” in her household and by her suddenly refusing to do it, the presumably-ungrateful recipients of such labor will wake up and appreciate her efforts. Third, that all labor needs a dollar value attached to it in order to be appreciated. All of that is bullshit.
I have responsibilities. They may or may not be what others assume them to be based on my gender. My paid work and my family relationships are not political pawns; they are essential parts of my life. I am not going on strike from my life in order to hope I am missed and that it prompts someone to get a clue.
Progress isn’t going to be made by disappearing. We need to keep showing up, living our lives like the human beings we are, who absolutely have a right to take up space and be fat or skinny or tall or short or whatever we are (even if what we are is loud, smart, and occasionally tactless). Be unattractive and unkempt sometimes and stunningly beautiful and immaculately put-together other times; or if you’re like me, decently put together and not smelling funny most of the time. However you present in the world is fine.
Show up in your human, hardworking, non-decorative capacity. Talk about real life and call bullshit bullshit and keep doing it over and over. We’re 51% of the population, right? So I have been told. We should be here, there, and everywhere. Everywhere I look, more than half of the people should be women. Keep showing up. Don’t give them a chance to miss us. Because digging out pieces of the patriarchy we’ve all been steeped in takes prolonged, determined effort.