Thursday, January 20, 2011

Female Life

I have always had a deep, unquenchable interest in the lives of women.  Learning about their experiences is important to me on an existential level.

On a train-ride into Manhattan this morning, I wondered if you guys might be willing to help me with something.  I want to learn more about female life -- what it is, how it feels, and what people enjoy.  To the extent you're willing to talk, I'm eager to listen.

I'm going to start with one question and, depending on the response, may develop this into a series.  My opening question to you is:

What is the best thing about being female?

Years ago, I asked a woman this question and her answer surprised me.  She exclaimed with bright enthusiasm: "The clothes!"  That answer probably doesn't surprise you since you're fashion-bloggers, but it was news to me.  I hadn't anticipated that as a possible response.

What is your answer to this question?  Is it fashion?  Or the emotional bonding common among women?  Or the ability to have children?  Or something entirely different?

I'm curious.  And grateful, if you want to share your thoughts.


  1. The first thing that popped into my head was getting dressed up. The whole package, you know... finding the outfit, the shoes, accessories, doing your hair and make-up, nails etc etc. But on a deeper level, I enjoy the status and power that women have. We have come a long way. And I love how we seem to be in tune with the world and our own intuitions. Man, I love so many things and wouldn't change it for the world :)
    Ang xxx

  2. I'm going to have to give that one some thought. It's one of those things I take for granted.

    You're up to 51!

  3. Hmmm to me the best thing about being a female is my body and that ties in to me loving fashion. I love myself so I workout to keep my 'curves' (I'm lacking a chest however, lol) and I'm able to continue to wear the mass amounts of clothing I'm accumulated over the years. Lol yeah I'm a hoarder. So yeah . . .


  4. Gosh...if I had to pick only one...I think I would say the emotional bonding aspect. I'm certainly grateful for the fashion and the ability to have children and so many other aspects. But anyone can dress differently or adopt...and females (and that includes you) just bond differently than males. I may have to think about this some more and come back, but that was my first inclination because it is my emotional connection with my loved ones that makes living worthwhile. :)

  5. Okay, that makes it sound like my hubs doesn't feel emotionally connected to me just because he's a man. lol Of course I don't mean it like that. Hopefully I made sense.

  6. For me it's about the power of being a woman. The power of our emotions, the power of bringing new life into the world, the power of passion.

    "Women are strong and fragile. Women are beautiful and ugly. We are soft spoken and loud, all at once."

  7. I don't really know how to answer this correctly lol. I want to say that I am proud to have feminist views, I enjoy the feeling of when someone gives me that "You are a girl, you can't do that" look or attitude and I have that instant "You bet your ass I can" mentality. I guess it is really exhausting at times to have to prove yourself over and over, and especially in this day and age, but when you do prove yourself worthy, that is the greatest feeling ever.

  8. What a great idea for questions! I'm in!

    The best thing about being female, to me: the shoes! They just don't make much variety in men's shoes as they do in women's. And no matter what you weigh, shoes always fit and are always there for you. A good pair of shoes can last for your whole life (unlike a boyfriend or husband).

    I also agree that clothes are up there, as is my body (seriously, boobs are fun!). I also like that it's almost expected that I'm going to be emotional, and not in a "she's going to cry" kind of way (although I do that frequently), but that I can express my emotions about pretty much anything and it's not unusual.

  9. im loving your skirt, very "now". i would shorten it just a tad though.

    best part of being a woman? I would say "feeling sexy" and everything that goes along with it... the soft curves, that pair of heels that just makes your legs look ten miles long, the way you can totally transform yourself with an outfit, or a hair-do, or different make-up. I guess men can make them selves up as well, but as a few others mentioned, they lack the variety. you're definitely indulging in what I like best about it! and succeeding may i add!

  10. It is the clothes and especially the high heel shoes ! Oh...and the makeup and perfume.

  11. The makeup. Definitely the ability to improve upon what nature has given me, without negative social consequences.

    The shoes suck. They are cute, but just beastly to the feet. I would prefer for it to be more accepted to wear practical, comfortable shoes that don't hurt.

    To dispel any illusions: guys don't buy women drinks nearly as much as many men think happens. They must have wised up...

  12. Being a woman is such a priviledge and often, I think we as woman only realise it later in life.

    I have to say - E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. - the bonds, the childbearing, the love, the clothes, the hair, the make-up, the shoes, the walks in the parks, the feeling sexy, the sexuality, the listening, the talking, the sharing, the holding hands, the hugs, the kisses (we're so lucky to be able to show our emotions without being ridiculed) - although I am acutely aware that not all women are treated as they should be and I'm very outspoken about it.

    But, when I relook at the list, I have to say that for me personally, it most decidedly was the miracle of bearing my children.

    ... and you're up to 52 followers - cheering on for the 60th!

    BTW - you are the sweetest and when I finally do my countrywide USA trip - you'd best be prepared for this African lass ;-)

    Huggz sweetie

  13. I'd probably pick being a mother first, but right after that I'd go for clothes and shoes and accessories and all those little things that make life beautiful and most men don't bother about. I'm also the type of person who likes to feel safe and protected and being cared for, and I guess it's easier to feel this way as a woman.

  14. I enjoy how receptive and intuitive as women we all are! Women has sense 'emotions and energy' from miles apart. The inner and mental strength women have is unparalleled! :)

  15. I don't think I show up as a follower but I'm following you using google reader having discovered you through Sheila (who I discovered through Tat ...).

    I really don't know the answer to your question (there are some definite downsides to being female) things I like are: having been pregnant; Having a network of female friends who look out for each other, share resources and help each other in a way I haven't observed men doing - I don't know if this is because we have children and life therefore gets very complicated, and women still take the brunt of that; Oh and the clothes are good too ;)

  16. Wow! Thank you, guys. Great answers. You mention several things I wasn't aware of, like freedom to display emotions openly and heightened sensitivity to other people and places.

    I have to say that your answers are really accurate when viewed from a male perspective. In male-life, none of these things exist, so what you describe are unique to female-life. That's fascinating.

    I'm grateful for your responses and plan to make this a weekly feature with questions aimed at different aspects of female life.

  17. I think guys can display emotions freely -- if they have the guns (muscles, not weapons, although some men would argue they are the same thing) to back it up and defend themselves.

    I do love the clothes. I love that men have a chivalric commitment to do nice things like open the door, help us take on/take off our coats, carry heavy objects (I sometimes object to this because I am stronger than some guys I know), wipe away our tears when we cry, take out our chairs, etc. I love the attention that guys give girls when it is not accompanied by leering or obscene sexual remarks/gestures.

    All in all, I just love being a girl. We have much more freedom of expression in the way we dress, the makeup we put on, the things we buy ... We can be either a little more masculine or a little more feminine than other women, and it's okay, whereas men have to be purely masculine, or else they are deemed "different." Different in a man's world is, well, different than it is in a woman's world.

    It's a complex issue. I think this is a great feature to add to your already kick-ass blog.

  18. Multiple orgasm? Haha!

    Nah, actually I'd say it's the "female privilege". It's perfectly fine for me to *expect* for someone to open the door, pay for dinner, be a breadwinner for me... We're the privileged gender.

    There are a lot of ways in which hubby and I swap gender roles - he cooks, I mow the lawn - but at it's core, there is still the expectation that it is, somehow, his responsibility to *take care of me*. I like that. He likes being a protector and provider, I like being protected and provided for.

    Unlike some other commenters... I like being looked at as a sex object every now and then! There's definitely a sense of power associated with the ability to make men do, well, damn near anything!

  19. I think the best thing about being a woman is the ability to be affectionate with my friends without it being "weird." theres this american stigma that boys can't be affectionate to one another. honestly, skins UK really struck me because the boys had sleepovers and slept in the same bed. American boys dont do that! Girls do, and its like, whatever. But the stigma of being affectionate doesn't really apply to ladies.

    ps-the pic on my blog actually is a polaroid. she uses a high quality scanner. click the photo for more of her work. its BEAUTIFUL. :) I loved polaroid, i actually still have my camera just without film.

  20. I absolutely adore the female body.

  21. The range and unpredictability of your responses is amazing and pleasing me. I hope the rest of you are enjoying them as well.

    This is achieving what I hoped for: a comments section more interesting than the post. :)

  22. Wow! Great question & good answers! For me the most amazing thing about being a woman is being able to create & sustain life. I look at my son and think, I made him. Like, how amazing is that? And I fed him exclusively from my body for his first 6 months of life (and we're still breastfeeding at 14 months). It's like a super power.

  23. Very thought provoking post! I would have to say that the best thing about being a woman is the power that comes with it. I think we are entering a new wave of feminism where a woman's brain, allure and assertiveness can take her places. I agree with Freeda in that women exude a certain sexual nature that even I as a straight woman find attractive- it's the beauty of the female body!

  24. The best thing about being female, in today's world, is that there are a number of social roles open to you, and that therefore (unless you really grow up in a super-conservative environment) you are automatically more aware of the relativity of social constructs. Despite the cliches and obstacles that still exist, feminism has happened and continues to happen, there is an open and very active discourse about these things, and if I want to be a plumber, or a college professor, or a stay-at-home mom, there will always be someone supporting my choice. The same thing hasn't happened to quite that extent for men (at least for straight non-trans-men): The social pressure - or just the expectation - to be macho and careerist (and never appear the least bit feminine, or "gay") is still very much alive. All the more respect to those fighting against such stereotypes!

  25. I really had to think about this as it's difficult for me to think of what I like & must thank you for your sweet comment on my blog. Thank you for being supportive, it really means a lot to me that. Also, I wanted to say that you are a beautiful person.

    Being a woman is hard... at least for me who hasn't been able to find the confidence to feel pretty or sexy with the curves & features I've been given. What I love about women is the diversity of femininity. There's an unique elegance and beauty about every woman.

    For me, I find that sensitivity was encouraged as a personal quality. So I'm fairly in-tune to other people's emotions and feel like I am someone that most people feel comfortable to talk to about anything.

    The norm in our society, I find (through observations & my social psych course) that sensitivity isn't considered a weakness in women as it is for men. It's sad when I see little boys being encouraged not to cry, to be tough and not be "girlie"... I think it's wrong to gender-type qualities. But that's another topic.

    On a material note. I love the underwear... all the silk & lace. Having something that looks beautiful and feels so soft but hiding from others is a little secret I like to have.

  26. If the question had been what we hate about being female, I could've answered in a millisecond. But that would have been TMI for sure. I've never been a girly, girl, so clothes, shoes, fashion, shopping, etc. really doesn't mean much to me. Motherhood is awesome. Grandparenthood is even better. But a father can be similarly nurturing. I guess the best thing to me is my openness to relationships. There's nothing like a good girlfriend. And I just enjoy people in general in a way that many men do not. Another plus is not having to deal with stuff like tools, repairs, etc. Not that I am afraid to get dirty, I'm just not very mechanically inclined.

    That was a great question. I certainly enjoyed reading everyone's answers.

  27. I'll tell you straight up: Best thing about being a female is being catered to by men. I don't expect - or even particularly want - to be treated like a little princess or delicate flower, yet knowing that I can ask for it without question is amazing. I don't have to carry heavy things if I don't want to. I don't have to open doors, pay for dinner, drive, or anything else if I don't want to. I just have to show up and look pretty.

  28. This is a very interesting question. I've been mulling over how to answer it for a day now. As i've tried to thoughtfully answer the question, most times I've said to myself - that isn't limit to being a woman.

    I like the acceptance of being allowed to on one hand be as fierce and ferocious mama-lion protecting her cub & on the other still be as soft and gentle as a lamb. There is no judgment against either action. Men on the other hand "seem" to be held to a different, more limited range of emotional standards.

    I like to look pretty as much as the next girl. I like makeup, dresses and shoes and fun hair color. But the superficial aspects of being a women, aren't something that I relish.

    In venues like motorcycling or the corporate workspace I've sometimes found them to be limiting in that they, for whatever reason, signal a sign of weakness for some men. Like - you show up looking too girly and they think they can eat you for dinner. Then you have to work just that little extra bit harder to show them where they can stuff their chauvinism. Its annoying.

    The ability to have children and connect with this little person in a way that is unexplainable -is probably one of my favorite thing about being a woman.

  29. Thank you guys for contributing thoughtful responses. You reallly dug deep. I'm learning from what you wrote and I'm sure others are, too.

  30. The poignancy of what Poet said really struck me. I had never thought of it like that before. It's so interesting to hear women nowadays saying that we are the privileged gender in many ways.

    My friends who have children and I talk a lot about how we hate trying to define their gender roles for them. If their sons want to play with necklaces, they get to. When I have a child, he or she will be given that freedom as well. The greatest gift you can give a child is to let them be themselves. I have always FIERCELY wanted a daughter. I've always believed that's what I'll have. But either way, whether son, daughter, or son in a daughter's body or vice versa, they will be allowed to be who they are.

    I thought you'd find it interesting that last night I tagged along for guy's night with hubs and two others, and it suddenly struck me that it was not very different at all from my girls' nights out. I just never thought about it til now. Same sex jokes and fits of giggles to the point where the others in the restaurant/theater are starting to find you annoying. haha One of them said he took a women's studies class in college, and this may be opening a whole new can of worms, but the class was so angry at males in general that he felt like he was supposed to apologize just for being a man. I don't think that's healthy either. I just think there should be a balance.

  31. Nice comment, Jen. Thoughtful and reflective.

  32. How very interesting.
    It is actually something I had not thought of.
    The "benefits" of being a woman, I would say if you are attractive it gives you leverage in certain things. Then again it only gets you so far.
    However I have thought of how much easier it must be to be a guy.
    Your don't have to spend so much time getting ready for a date, guy clothes are very basic.
    Also in having kids. If you stay with the mother of your children or if you leave- the one that carries the most weight or the responsible one is the woman...

  33. I don't think women are the privileged gender, I find that a rather strange thing to say. What I see in that statement is, the convenience of having a few things done for you that would have taken almost no extra effort for you to do yourself is worth all the struggle in other areas.

    However, that isn't to say there isn't wonderful things about being a woman. Emotional intelligence, many women have a really good intuition and feeling about the emotions around them. I value that a lot. A physical closeness to nature, cycles of our bodies and lives that are very connected to the seasons and phases of the world. I find those two connected, emotional intuitions and natural intuitions.

  34. What an interesting topic for a series! As much as I love clothes and shoes, I don't think women necessarily have an inherent advantage so much as the fashion industry is incredibly unimaginative when it comes to designing for men. But at any time this situation could change (I'm an eternal optimist!). No, I think the best thing about being a woman is the soft skin -- I'm a very tactile person and I just love the feeling of my own skin. A man's skin, even when it's pretty much hairless, is rarely as soft as a woman's.

  35. That's true, Audi, as a matter of biology. Women's skin has more layers of fat which makes it softer.