As a female in today’s society, I will not even begin to list the outrageous standards (often in the form of double) we are held to. The list is too long and too complex to discuss in one blog post. And those who think otherwise are simply choosing to be ignorant to much of the reality around them.
In my life, I like to think that I challenge these standards. I do not agree with gender norms or stereotypes. I seek to bring attention to injustices based upon gender (and race, and economic standing, etc). The goal in living this way and voicing my objections, is to ultimately create change in a culture that so desperately needs it. Lately, however, I have found myself adhering to one of the practices I pride myself in speaking out against.
The situation is a common one today, and it includes two aspects that I dislike greatly. Cell phones and gender stereotypes. In the following paragraphs I will be speaking from a female perspective because, well, I am a female, and this is an account of my experiences. However please do not count me as ignorant to the fact that some (possibly many) males have been through many circumstances just like this.
1) The use of cellphones and implications of text messaging.
It is common knowledge today that cell phones are to be at your side, on the ready, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I, like many others, even sleep with my phone on in case of emergency. This has lead to the belief that people should be available and at your disposal any minute or hour of the day. Texting specifically has enforced this newly found theory. Even when at work, in a meeting, in class, and let’s be honest, in the movie theater even after all of those annoying commercials, people expect you to get back to them within the hour if not within minutes!
My friends will readily tell you that I am the worst “texter” in the world. I do not always reply to messages within the hour, day, or even week. Sometimes I do not reply to texts at all. Usually when faced with the accusation of being a bad “texter”, I quickly apologize, and sometimes even promise to do better next time.
Through some reflection on recent experiences, I have found that I however, am not sorry in the least. In fact, I am angry. I am angry that people expect me to heed their every beck and call. I am angry that I am expected to stop whatever I am doing at any moment to respond to someone’s purposeless “what’s up” or even more unoriginal “hey”. I am angry that my life is considered so unimportant, that it does not matter what I have been going through or doing. What is important is that I spend my day glued to a screen, conversing through wavelengths, and apologizing if I do not do so timely or at all. I am angry that I am shamed and have let myself feel ashamed for a norm that I disagree with and even loath. This standard which many hold so dear, is one that I refuse to hold myself to any longer. Can I get an ‘Amen’? (And no, I do not expect you to get back to me on that today, or tomorrow, or ever. Do yo thang, honey!)
2) The gender stereotype that men are the pursuers and women are to agreeably be pursued.
While more and more people find the gender stereotype that males should be the one to pursue women archaic and outdated, there are many who still cling tightly to this belief. Whether you agree with the former or the latter, there is an even greater issue in the method of pursual of a relationship.
As a female (again, because I am one), I have experienced attention from a boy or two. (Please note the use of ‘boy’ instead of ‘man’. Also please note the box marked as ‘single’ on my tax forms. Actually no, don’t notice that one. Put down those papers and get out of my house, crazy!) While I have never received flowers, I have received ice cream (which is better), or the request for a date, etc. I have also received… text messages, which is another blog post in itself. In short, boys, call her! Get off your keister and visit her! Have a real life conversation! *Steps off soap box*.
The attention from men and their pursual of women is not at all where the issue lies. The issue is in the expectation that women owe you something in return for your hard work in pursuing her. I hate to break it to ya, boys, but just because you took her on a nice, fun date, does not mean she has to schedule a second. Just because you planned a romantic, or even expensive, evening for the two of you, does not mean that she has to like you. (Nor does it mean that you should expect ANYTHING from her at the end of the night. *folds piece of red hot paper and puts in her pocket for another post*) Just because you sent her flowers, does not mean she has to return your interest. And finally, just because you took a whole 10 seconds out of your day to text her, does not in any way mean she has to reply.
One of the many standards placed on women that I do not think men or women themselves realize, is that we are expected to give attention back to anyone that pays any mind to us. Think about how difficult and heart wrenching it is to turn anyone down. It physically hurts! And yes, some of that is human sympathy and the knowledge and experience that rejection hurts. However, the other part of the dificulty in that process is engrained in us from our culture.
A few months ago, a friend who I thought was just a friend told me he was interested in me. My reply was a bit shaky, as I had not expected this from him at all. However, after a few times of hanging out in groups, I felt it became increasingly clear that we would never work as a couple. Then, to confirm that, I traveled outside of the country and then to other places away from home, and did not see him for two months. A mutual friend recently contacted me and asked if I had spoken to him. I replied that I hadn’t. And with that, I was instantly shamed for not replying to this man. I was accused of being “rude”, “inconsiderate”, and even “leading him on”. I was accused of being all these things when really all I was, was uninterested.
These hasty words, however, made me feel as if I had been doing something wrong. As if I was a bad person for not contacting him. As if I should feel guilty for not returning the attention of my pursuer… Sound familiar, ladies? (And gentlemen, apologies.)
Excuse my language, but there are some things worth getting passionate about, and I’m calling bull shit on the whole thing. There is not any instance in which a woman (or man) should feel compelled to give someone attention, just because they first showed you attention. There is no scenario where others should ridicule females for not getting giddy at the favors displayed from a man. There is no circumstance when a female should feel ashamed that she did not give a man the time he “deserved” for pursuing her.
People, women, are not at men’s disposal. Women are not, and should not be posted, at the ready by their cell phones just in case they receive a hint of attention from a man. Women are not readily available 24/7, and even if they somehow, impossibly are, they are in no way shape or form obligated to respond in a favorable way, or at all.
I have decided to stop accepting shame for not having my thumbs superglued to my iPhone in order to get back to someone within the culturally appropriate timeframe. I have decided to stop accepting and shaming myself for not being the objectionless pursuee of men’s affection. The shame game stops here.