Spring Reminds Me that I Have Failed as a Woman

Clickbait title, but I’ll explain:

March

March is Women’s History Month, aka “Promote Our Women’s Empowerment Initiatives On Social Media Month” in Corporate America. For the record, I am very supportive of women’s empowerment and initiatives that lead to women’s empowerment. However, I find the particular brand of viral corporate women’s empowerment “LinkedInspiration” that gets promoted around social media deeply irritating. There is always a particular aesthetic – young, high-achieving working mom who is incredibly photogenic and photographed in this minimalist aesthetic background, talking about challenges for women in STEM, the importance of family leave and flexible remote work, women in positions of power as having a positive influence on work culture for women, etc.

There is a “successful young female executive” aesthetic, and it looks just like this. Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

These are important topics and relevant for many people. But in my case, it feels like someone else’s story. I have a STEM background, but I was in women-dominated classes in a women-dominated college and went into a women-dominated industry, so I have no “male-dominated industry” challenges. For me, remote work is really just a reminder that my home life is weird, fucked up, and not aesthetically pleasing. And that I have no children (a sore subject) to take care of, yet am still less successful than all these working mom execs. I experienced more borderline sexual harassment incidents (all perpetrated by women, btw) while working at the women-dominated company.

My employer runs a campaign highlighting our woman leaders in STEM with a photo and bio. It is a small company; I am not included in the campaign. Objectively speaking, this omission is more likely because I am not photogenic, or because no one understands my role. But it feels like a message that I am not considered a successful woman.

March email campaign:
“Our female science leaders!”
I’m not included.
Because I’m unsuccessful? Or just unattractive? (This is not a self-portrait.) Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

April

Tax Season

I was raised in a home in which girls were told they could do anything. My parents never told us that a profession was off-limits on the basis of gender. They encouraged all of their children of both genders (all genders? Is that the PC term now?) to be financially independent. We were raised not to be dependent on a spouse.

Tax season in April is a rude, yearly reminder that I

  1. should have prioritized doing taxes sooner and that I have failed at time management,
  2. am, in fact, dependent on a breadwinner spouse
  3. have no idea how to do my taxes (I went from my father doing my taxes to my husband doing my taxes and never ever learned to do them myself),
  4. am basically a walking stereotype.

Pesach (Passover)

March-April is also time for the preparation for and celebration of Passover. Passover requires a massive amount of preparation – top to bottom cleaning of home, car, office, anything and everything that could have crumbs. Many of the articles about cleaning for Passover seem to be written for the woman who is overly concerned about going above and beyond the bare minimum halachic (Jewish law) requirements. Of course, this is sexist because the laws of Passover apply to men and women, but the underlying assumption is that women will be shouldering a good portion of the preparation burden because women are seen as the ones who keep a Jewish home running. There are articles about the spiritual beauty of cleaning for Passover.

I am just as incompetent at the traditional “women’s realm” of adulting tasks – eg. cleaning, organizing, cooking, etc. – as I am at the financial literacy adulting task of doing one’s own taxes. While I don’t mind the other traditions of Passover (in fact, I rather enjoy them) and don’t mind the specialized diet at all, I can barely manage to care about the halachic minimum of cleaning, let alone find spiritual meaning. Passover, once a favorite holiday as a child, is a massive source of inadequacy and failure as an adult.

Two stereotypes
of women emerged, and I 
fail at both of them.
Not a self-portrait. Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

May

I am blessed. My mother is the nicest person in the universe, alive and well (thank G-d!), and in close enough geographic proximity to celebrate with. For this, I am incredibly fortunate and grateful.

I am at the age when most of my friends/peers are being celebrated for being mothers themselves. Their husbands write long, glowing Facebook posts about their superhero wives, who are corporate rockstars, domestic goddesses, gorgeous partners, and incredible mothers and role models to their children.

I am not jealous of the Facebook lovefest exactly; my husband and I both think this usage of Facebook is particularly stupid and he would never do this, even if he actually had a wife that was all of those things. (JYP’s Marriage Tip #19: Don’t waste time writing fucking stupid performative love notes on Facebook to your spouse when you could spend that time actually fucking your spouse. You’re welcome.)

I have written many posts on the subject already so I will summarize: I do not have children, may never have children, and am really, really angry about that.

To my Facebook friends:
Happy Mother’s Day! Also,
go fuck yourself. Thanks!

***

This “haibun series” (“tri-bun”?), is loosely inspired by Go Dog Go Cafe Haibun Wednesday. This entry is late and not exactly a haibun. Another fail. (No one can say I don’t commit to a theme…)

62 comments

  1. I really chuckled at that final paragraph, JYP.

    One thing I would say is that in most people’s cases – what they project about themselves and their wives are mostly cleaned up versions of their messy truths.

    -David

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh I know it’s all fake! Bestie (the one parent-friend I’m still friends with) tells me everything and the gap between her Facebook life and real life is comically hilarious. But I can’t even convincingly fake it for Facebook. That’s why you get all this brutal honesty and TMI on WordPress.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ll bet if you wanted to, you could – just make yourself look “fabulous”, smile broadly, and take a photo!

        the childless thing is a choice that some people make so you could even pretend that it’s a choice for you – nobody would have any idea

        obviously, that would completely fake – but that’s what everyone else does

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful tirade! i wasnt aware of the cleaning for passover tradition. just as well that I am only a quarter Jewish, so I only need to clean a quarter as well. that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I dont think I have ever managed to clean the whole of the house. today I only managed a small section of the kitchen floor. the bit i could actually see was very dirty!. Now it sparkles and shows up the rest of the kitchen. but no time. or energy. or even will.
    Have a lovely passover anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, it would be funny if one only had to clean a quarter of the house, but I don’t think it works that way!

      Unrelated, but I had non-Jewish coworkers who thought that the amount of time you have to fast on Yom Kippur was proportionate to the number of sins you committed that year. Like if you were a pretty good person, you might only have to fast a couple hours. It doesn’t work that way but I was quite amused by the concept!

      Have a wonderful Passover!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. On a positive note if all your Facebook friends fuck themselves, they won’t have more children. Having no child to leave behind is worthy of stressing over. I’m not going to say I imagine how you feel, because I can’t even come close. However, I know it’s emotionally very hard to want children and not have them. The whole super working mom thing, like so many things in social media, is a smoke screen. We have working moms at the office, we have very flexible schedules, and we are very accommodating. Most of them are a mess trying to balance work and kids. I think you are too hard on yourself. You would love kids, but I believe you would discover that being a super working mom is not all that social media makes it out to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point. Unless you’re exceptionally creative or flexible in the bedroom, it is awfully difficult to fuck both yourself and your partner simultaneously. Multitasking is hard.

      I’m well aware that parenting is hard. I hope I haven’t given the impression that social media is my motivation for wanting children. I intend to be highly protective of my (so far non-existent but hopefully someday) child(ren)’s privacy – we would never ever post anything online about our child(ren) – no birth announcements, names, photos, nothing! Not because I give a shit about the societal impact of social media, but because I/we value our child(ren) and do not see a child as a means of self-promotion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No indication whatsoever of SMM (social media masochism) influence. You want kids because it’s natural to want kids. I feel sorry for kids whose parents post them all over social media. That stuff is there forever. One of many reasons I don’t do social media other than WP, YouTube and SoundCloud.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The kid-posting is just so disrespectful of their privacy. I’m grateful I was able to grow up without the internet having a permanent record of every embarrassing thing I ever did as a kid. (Of course, I now share this shit freely as an adult on this blog but that’s my choice.) I really feel for kids today. You have the most important social platforms covered. I should re-delete Facebook. Absolutely nothing good comes of having it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • There’s a big difference between your choice to tell the word and your version of the stories, and your parent’s posting it and you can do nothing about it.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you. I’ve always felt less competent than my peers. Not the fake-braggy ones online, but real ones who managed to raise great kids, have great careers, and find new love post-divorce. I could only do the first thing…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I, long ago, came to the conclusion that I am a complete and total failure in the course of life and figure that thought may be my last when it is time to pass on. So, I embrace it. I figure I did one thing right lol. Fail.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Got rid of Facebook 4-5 years ago, it was such a barrage of sources of FOMO. Don’t regret it one bit.

    Your Happy Mother’s Day greeting and the cutting honesty of your other paragraphs are funny!

    I wish something amazing happens in your life re: a little one, however you navigate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had deleted Facebook for 3 years at one point, but I got back on. That was a mistake. I really should just re-delete. It’s just for stalking people and getting mad at this point. No constructive purpose.

      Ha, glad to hear this was entertaining!

      Thank you, I hope so too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Stay put. I love the discussion around gender stereotypes which was a hot topic in my media classes. There’s how the media has positioned the ideal woman, as one with a svelt body, posh car and polished lifestyle, light-skinned, dark-haired, all those stereotyped qualities in our societies. But for sure, the ideal woman is one who has seen it all and has grown strong in character and spirit, far away from the seasonal physical qualities. And speaking of children, not all marriages with children live up to their expectations. I’ve seen couples without children lead a happy and cheerful life just like those with, just as I have seen some with children unhappy and full of issues and some without exactly the same way too. What really makes one happy in marriage is a loving and understanding spouse, not children. And parenting is all about love, for all children and the burden to take care of them, whether personal or adopted or neighbour’s, just as God takes pride in having us as His children yet he has no human flesh. 🙏 Be positve, be happy, dearest, at least for yourself. What should bother you is, what legacy will you live behind for a rememberance after you die? Whether we have children or not will be a non-issue years after we die. Look at people like the late Maya Angelou, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa… no one is even bothered with the children they had or not. What has kept them alive in history is the legacy they left behind. Once you identify and focus on building that legacy, life will be enjoyable day in day out. Sending lots of love and hugs to you, dear. 🤗🤗💐❤❤

    Like

    • Yeah, images of women in the media. Even under the guise of “body positivity”, it’s like Ashley Graham, who’s a model by profession.

      You’re right about there being no guarantees for happiness with marriage, children, etc. I’m willing to take my chances on this one. And I’m very much open to adoption. My concern with adoption honestly is that given the logistical hurdles it may be no more likely to happen than biological children given our age – I’d be overjoyed to be blessed to adopt.

      Thank you – appreciate your kind words and well wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s very right, my dear friend. The images of women and men in the media are simply for commercial purposes. And yes, you should try adoption or starting up a children’s home or supporting one. You will certainly enjoy, even love, being close to the kids in these homes. Most of them lack parents and look up to an older person they can share with their stories. We used to pay frequent visits to most of them around here while I was in campus and it was wonderful, sometimes even emotional, to see the kids get attached to us and pour out their emotions to us. That’s a very relieving thing on their part and having one listening to their stories and console them makes them feel bold and loved. It’s my dream to one day build a home for some too. There are very many homeless kids here – imagine! Feel most welcome. Always.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I know you must … well, not want to know me because I do have kids. But the thing is, I was just lucky. Lucky. Not successful. I was born into a nice family. That was lucky too. I can’t claim that as success either. It’s a similar roll of the dice. My point is, I can’t call myself a success because I was lucky enough to conceive. So, objectively speaking I can’t accept that you’re a failure. And having had kids, I feel like a failure many times every week as a Mum and I’ll bet these mythical super Mums do too. If they’re at work they’re failing their kids and if they’re with their kids they’re failing their careers. All life journeys have sucky emotions attached. It’s one of the great things you might get to teach your kid one day. Okay. Rant over. I get cranky when social media is the basis for people’s low self-worth. It’s like comparing your dinner to the pictures in a recipe book. It’s different shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you. It’s hard to give an accurate objective view of my career (is an objective view of oneself even possible by definition?) because of privacy concerns, but to people outside my industry, and sometimes even to people starting out my industry, I appear to be somewhat successful from a career perspective. But it’s really not what it seems, and my career is not impressive compared to my industry peers. I can’t really go into detail. Just building on your point about the misleading appearances and the illusion of success.

      And…I do want to know you. I feel fortunate to have “met” you and to read your wonderful poetry. I’m sorry I gave the impression otherwise. I find that one unique thing about blogging is that a lot of the differences that could be obstacles to an IRL (I hate that term) or Facebook friendship – location, nationality, socioeconomic, marital/family status, etc. – seem not to be barriers to a WP friendship. The experience is just very different. I know I spoke very hatefully here, and I do feel jealous and hateful sometimes, but I really don’t wish any of my friends, online or offline, any ill will. I’m sure you’re an awesome mom to your kids.

      The recipe book is an intriguing analogy. Especially when you think about how fake and staged food photography is. Like using mashed potatoes instead of ice cream to keep it from melting under the hot lights of a photoshoot.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I hear you. I fail at pretty much all those things and I’m Lucifer himself i.e. a cis, straight, white, male. I know, I’m autistic, but there are campaigns and personal stories out there similar to the women in industry ones for superfunctional autistics. So, I understand.

    Re: gender and Pesach cleaning, I saw one Orthodox rabbi who was asked, “Should a husband help with Pesach cleaning?” reply, “No, he should not help, he should do an equal share, because it is a shared home and a shared life.” Sadly, I don’t know how many men listen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The split is like, 90-10 in my marriage, with my husband doing the 90%! He also prepares discussion material for the seder (he even led a talk of sorts for the congregation). And he is much smarter/more knowledgeable (this goes for both secular and religious knowledge), is much better looking, makes more money…like literally, pretty much anything I can do (and a bunch of stuff I can’t do) he can do far better. Not to say I don’t have any grievances in our marriage (I certainly do) but one wonders what he’s getting out of this given the lack of balance.

      I have so many thoughts on these success culture stories but I don’t want to get fired.

      Like

      • 1) You put yourself down a lot! I’m sure you do stuff for your husband.

        2) If I remember my A-Level Economics, The Law of Comparative Advantage says it’s mutually advantageous for two countries to trade even if one country produces every good more efficiently than the other. In other words, even if your husband is better than you at everything, it’s still worth you both doing stuff for each other. (I am not being entirely serious.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • 1) It’s probably telling that my immediate responses in my head to this point were a) more self-deprecating put-downs and b) a deeply inappropriate joke for the sole purpose of distraction and deflection. I’ll spare you. But I suppose that is telling.

          2) Touché. I certainly can’t argue with The Law of Comparative Advantage!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this post. My oldest daughter and I were talking about toxic feminity last night. I worked so hard not to give her twisted views of the beauty that my mother gave. My mom resented the fact that I fit into the traditional beauty ideals of society. I believe you are a beautiful person. I have spent the last 30 years being a mother. I have two birth children and two adopted by kinship. The adoption is proof that God has a sense of humor, I thought I was done. I hope you are one day blessed with children. I found your mother’s day card so funny this morning. It is amazing what we do to ourselves. I was raised in a Catholic family. When I want to feel bad I call my Godmother she is the original way to make you feel horrible about yourself in 5 minutes or less.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for this. I appreciate that you appreciated my Mother’s Day Facebook greeting, even though you are a mother yourself. There is so much toxic feminity, really on all sides of the spectrum of gender roles. I’m not convinced that either proponents of more traditional or more progressive proponents are actually better at not shoving an ideal of some kind or another onto women. It really is amazing what we do to ourselves. Thank you – you sound like a wonderful mom and role model for your children.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have been a mother my entire adult life. I think we need to celebrate all the ways we can be women. The point of the feminist movement was to empower women regardless if they chose to be mothers, career women, want children and haven’t been able to , the list goes on and on. I had a teenage boy ask me what I do. I told him I was a housewife. Sadly, someone is always press their agendas and ideals unto others to make themselves feel better or justify themselves. Honestly, I love people’s stories, the narratives of their lives. I try to be role model for everyone I meet and learn from others.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I think people who do what they’re “supposed” to do exactly how they’re supposed to do it are kind of boring. My mom is very classically successful as a woman and I most certainly am not, but I’d still rather be like me rather than be like my mom. Not that I don’t love my mom, but I’d be bored to tears.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you. But I think at a certain point, I would take some form of functionality over more originality. Like yeah, it’s great that I can write a song parody, but I think it would be wise if I could learn how to do my taxes. It’s not even that I’m seeking one role over another, just increased functionality would be a good starting point.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. It is great to read your honesty here, JYP. And… honestly… I suspect the full and true honesty is still not fully exposed. Yeah. The little (not-so-little?) Hallmark monthly celebrations I think actually do more harm than good (IMHO).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m also convinced that those Facebook lovefests are a cover. If you really adored your spouse and thought they were the most amazing person ever, take her on a date! Or at a minimum, tell her directly! Why the hell are you telling the rest of the Facebook-verse this? Drives me crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I relate soooo much. Nothing’s worked out in my life and at 34 it gets more glaringly obvious. I just can’t make things work societially. I’m always in tension between feeling bad for being unconventional but simultaneously unable to do what other people expect me to. I take everything way too seriously, yet at the same time I don’t give a shit. I don’t relate to the successful executive boss lady at all, it’s not even a thing to me. I like to do the barest minimum amount of work possible to cover necessities so I have more time to me and my fiance. Wish I never wasted time/money on an MA, symbol of my failure to live up to my own plans. Growing up it was assumed I could do anything I wanted–but not encouraged. It was always do whatever makes you happy! Which sounds nice but doesn’t work on someone with zero drive or aambitious. Ah well. Who would we even be without our disappointments?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a good point. As a society, we also have ideals for what “success” for men looks like, and we don’t do a particularly good job of accepting and celebrating the wide range of life choice that men make either.

      I guess that the takeaway is that society is, unfortunately, needlessly judgmental towards men and women.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. 😂 – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry with you! I resonated on so many points…I often think we as women are our own worst enemies. I’m also ready to run away into the woods and never worry about another tax return again!

    Liked by 1 person

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