Everything to Everyone

What is it with this tired and silly objection to feminism as something that makes women be “everything to everyone”? I keep encountering this truly meaningless statement repeated like a mantra on a variety of blogs, including ones that claim to be feminist.

See a few examples:

– Today’s modern woman is expected to be everything to everyone – loving mother, sexy spouse, affectionate companion, capable career woman, faithful daughter, supportive friend, all while looking amazing doing it.

The struggle to be everything to everyone and do it all in six-inch stilettos makes it easy to see how feminism can be viewed as having failed the modern religious woman.

The media icon of the “superwoman” who “had it all” and was everything to everyone: devoted wife, sensuous lover, caring mom, competent professional, fit recreational athlete, while looking and feeling great.

I could post dozens more of links to these statements that all sound completely identical and make absolutely no sense. If you are “everything to everybody”, that would make it kind of hard to be “a devoted wife.” The media probably do not promote adultery in this very patriarchal society, so the “superwoman” in question is probably a devoted wife and a sensuous lover to the same person.

The creators of these weird lists strive so hard to make it seem like liberated feminist women do, indeed, have way too many roles they need to undertake that they simply put a bunch of synonyms together, hoping the readers would be duped into feeling sorry for women who have to be “affectionate companions” and “supportive friends” at the same time. As if it weren’t the same thing.

Since this still doesn’t seem like a long enough list, outlandish verbal contortions like “faithful daughter” appear. What does it even mean? Does a faithful daughter have to struggle to avoid cheating on her parents with other parents? Yes, a harsh struggle, indeed.

As for being a fit athlete in order to be accepted by contemporary society as a liberated woman, this isn’t even funny. If there is a place on earth where athleticism is neither expected nor encouraged in adults, it’s the US. Pretending that non-athletic adult women are somehow stigmatized by the media is just silly.

And what about the six-inch stilettos that the feminist revolution supposedly pushed all of us into? I can only think of a couple of jobs where you can pursue your profession wearing them. For the majority of jobs, however, this kind of footwear is not only not required. It simply isn’t allowed.

So what are we left with when we look closely at these claims that feminism expects women to be “everything to everybody”? Nothing but what we expect from men on a daily basis without seeing it as a huge burden: having both a personal and a professional life. Existing both in the private and the public arena without falling apart is something that, in the warped worldview of these quasi-feminists, can easily be accomplished by a man but is too much for the feeble powers of a fragile little lady.

And now my husband will drive me to work where I’m not going to be “everything to everyone” but simply a professor to some and a colleague to others. And believe me, it isn’t that great of a burden at all. It’s actually lots of fun. And nobody forces me into stiletto heels at the entrance.

11 thoughts on “Everything to Everyone”

  1. More than the ‘everything to everyone’ line — which is really quite old — I think what jumps to the eye is the obsession with being attractive. Feminism is looking wonderful in brutal footwear. Who knew.

    When it comes to appearances, the west (well, the US, UK and France that I know of) is an incredibly orthodox place, in the sense that there is no heterogeneity of opinion at all. Looking good is both a means of acquiring power, as well as an index of acquired power, and so all emancipatory discourse is framed, foremost, in terms of attractiveness. I’m sure you’ve heard ‘Big is Beautiful’, and ‘Black is Beautiful’ from an earlier time. This implies that a great deal of derogatory rhetoric is also framed in terms of ugliness. So if a culture as a whole grants such an central role to looks, and then allows its perception of said looks be moulded by corporate interest groups, it’s hardly surprising you’ll see stilettos and perfect grooming at 7PM on a work day as part of the ‘liberated’ discourse.

    And it is in patriarchy’s interest to promote this view of the modern, emancipated woman, because if the central tenet of feminism can be made unachievable for most women, the equality battle is already over.

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    1. After living in a Russian-speaking country until the age of 22, no woman in North America who is not a movie star will look perfectly groomed to me. If you want to see a really insane standard of beauty, welcome to my country.

      I have to confess that I experienced a profoundly liberating feeling when I once decided to go to the nearest convenience store without makeup. And when I first came to school without painting my nails. . . oh, the joy. It’s such a drag to paint the stupid nails all the time. It’s one thing to do it for fun, but it’s very different when you can’t leave the house without doing it.

      And the really curious thing: we got ourselves into this crazy place without any capitalism whatsoever.

      I’m really glad I encountered a culture where one can just relax.

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      1. Please come to mine. You’ll relax times ten your current relaxation. Unless you choose a glamorous profession, that is. It’s funny — I don’t own make-up, and I only painted my nails during dance performances. I’m a bit extreme, I suppose, but not whackily so.

        On the other hand, we’re obsessed about personal cleanliness. We don’t even bother that we’re littering the environment if we can scrub ourselves twice or thrice a day and be all squeaky clean. To each culture its own, I suppose.

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  2. How do Russian women afford to look so upkept, might I ask? The Russian Fulbrights and the Japanese exchange students at my old university were much more polished and groomed than I or any other North American ever looked, but I know the Japanese girls spent a small fortune on their beauty routine and clothes, which they could afford because they usually had wealthy parents. Are the Russian girls the same?

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    1. Since the goal is to be stick-thin anyways, many women just stop eating and spend all the money they have on clothes and beauty salons. It’s sad, really. Because otherwise this money could be used on empowering yourself, getting an education, starting a business. But the cycle is investing all you have into appearance to catch a guy who’ll keep you. And then you need to invest progressively more money into appearances to keep him as you become a useless old hag at 30.

      My sister witnessed her childhood friend being told by her 45-year-old husband, ” Well of course, when you turn 30, I’ll either dump you or start cheating on you. Who’s gonna need you when you are so old?”

      This woman is beautiful, highly educated and teaches at a prestigious university.

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      1. Good grief! That makes me want to puke. I wonder how many budding Emmy Noethers, Margaret Atwoods, and Marie Curies were lost to the world because they were too busy trying to catch a man and then trying to keep him after committing the great sin of ageing?

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        1. The result of this ideology is that you see women who are dressed and groomed like movie stars with men who are unwashed, unshaven, dressed in a dirty T-shirt and torn tracksuit pants but who order these women about, slap them in public and insult them in every way possible.

          And this is where we got after our history of really advanced feminism and our sexual revolution in 1910s (in Ukraine.) It’s like the generations of our great-grandmothers and grandmothers who were powerful, professional women never even happened.

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  3. My wife hasn’t owned makeup or a bra since she was 18. She admits that she isn’t as athletic as she used to be. A couple years ago she said that after a few years of jumping out of helicopters under fire with a 100 lb pack she realized that she doesn’t bounce as well past 50 as when she was younger. As for heels, she is an advocate of barefoot running. But she is everything to me.

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    1. This is beautiful. 🙂

      I remember listening with horror to a story of a woman who was applying makeup in the ambulance that was taking her to the hospital as she was in premature labor. She was afraid her husband would see her without make-up and stop loving her.

      She was giving birth to his child, mind you.

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      1. No, not in the military. She was the chief civilian surveyor in central Iraq for 4 years and in the south for her last year also. She is now in Afghanistan with the same job for the south/west half of that country. A couple years ago she weighed her gear several times when going out into the field and it was between 100 and 115 lbs. That includes body armor as well as the survey equipment. She consulted with the only university trained Iraqi survey engineer on major projects, but declined to go into the field with him to resolve major problems along the Iraq / Iran border. For that, she stayed in the office and exchanged email analyses and suggestions. I heartily approved of that decision.

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