Here are a handful of things a woman might do that could get her labeled as “difficult”:
Refuse to smile when someone tells her she would look prettier that way
Ask for what she wants
Insist on equal treatment
Express an unpopular opinion (or even a popular one in the wrong company)
Say she isn’t interested in sex at the moment
Request help around the house or with the children
Believe it should be her body and her choice
Put herself first or make herself a priority
Know her worth
Expect appropriate acknowledgment and compensation for a job well done
Go against social norms, especially regarding appearance, career choice, or motherhood
Exhibit her anger, disappointment, or sadness
Call herself a feminist
Clap back against a cat call or other uninvited advance from an unknown male
There are, I’m certain, many other things a woman might do that could get her branded as difficult. It’s not just men who would label a self-assured or successful woman difficult. Sometimes women will cast other women in that same light because they are so accustomed to societal norms they don’t see the inherent sexism in them.
I have been labeled difficult plenty of times. It used to bother me. Now I simply see it as my duty. I’m not saying we need to smash the patriarchy to smithereens, but I think we’d do a lot better as a species if we allowed the world to become more balanced. Too much of any one thing is never a good idea, especially if that one thing is testosterone.
Sometimes people (especially my mother) tell me that I share too many personal things about my husband in this blog. They think he must be some kind of saint for tolerating what I write here. I don’t agree because everyone who knows a writer should be well aware that they should be careful of what they say lest they wind up as blog or book fodder. It comes with the territory. The reason I don’t feel bad writing about my husband is because he’s a photographer. He’s always walking around with his camera, snapping unwanted photos, and calling it “art.” Just tonight, after I’d crawled into bed after washing my face, hair still up and sans makeup, he thought it might be fun to snap a photo of me despite my specifically asking him to do no such thing. For this action, he received the look of death, a look which he of course captured with his fancy camera. He then had the nerve to show it to me and wax rhapsodic about how great the camera is in low light. Evil.
In retribution for this unfair photo, I give you a photo and a story of my own. This is a photo of a small portion of my husband’s shoe collection, the portion that is currently in residence on the floor on his side of the bed. He also has shoes stored in our closet and in the laundry room. I understand there are splinter sects of his shoes hiding throughout our house like rebels in caves in Afghanistan. Yes. My husband owns a lot of shoes. He owns more pairs of shoes than most other men I know. He probably owns more shoes than many women I know as well. In fact, for a man who has such a difficult time selecting a pair of shoes to purchase (he once spent about 1.5 hours picking out a pair of Birkenstock sandals, which he promptly rethought and then returned the next day for a different pair), it’s borderline miraculous that he could ever have found the time to purchase so many pairs. I make no claims as to the quality of his shoe collection, but the quantity is impressive.
I have friends who are married to men who might be casually referred to as a guy’s guy. These men spend their weekends watching sports. They know how to fix things around their home. They wouldn’t be caught dead sipping white wine. They don’t buy copies of Real Simple. They don’t know the difference between a Mary Jane and a peep toe. These friends often bemoan living with their more caveman-like husbands. They tell me they wish their husbands were more like Steve. By that, I assume they mean more interested in shoes. I tell them to be careful what they wish for. A husband like Steve may be able to tell you which pump looks best with your pencil skirt, but this knowledge comes with a price. A man who is knowledgeable about shoes will require a lot more closet space, and you’ll still have to live with a mound of man shoes next to your bed.
This afternoon I got to enjoy one of my favorite fall pastimes, holiday shopping at a craft and gift fair with friends. I very rarely start shopping for Christmas gifts before October. My mind is simply not in the game. Once the trees begin to lose their leaves, though, there’s no point in denying the obvious. Christmas is not far away. So, when Heather suggested we go to the Mile High Holiday Mart hosted by the Junior League of Denver, I had to acquiesce. I picked up Ana and we headed to the Inverness Hotel to meet Heather and get our shopping on. As we approached the hotel, the volume of traffic increased. I knew it would be packed with other women who had the same thought. My introverted self prepared for the exhausting task of elbowing my way through throngs of distracted ladies. If you’ve ever been to a holiday craft fair, you know the crowd is by and large comprised of women. The few men who are there lurk in corners and hold full shopping bags, praying their descent into the halls of estrogen ends soon.
After about a half hour of browsing separately, my friend Ana found me and told me she’d just received a text from her sister. There had been yet another shooting, this time in a shopping center area in her home state of Wisconsin. Ana’s sister lives not far from where the shooting had occurred. Coming not long after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman shot and killed 14 people and wounded another 50, this was not welcome news. What is wrong with people?
I spent part of today reflecting on this shooting spree mentality. It’s not just an American phenomenon. In the past twenty years, armed gunmen have opened fire and killed hundreds of people in Britain, Germany, Finland, Norway, Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Before I write another word, I want you to know this is not a blog about gun control. I’m not against the 2nd Amendment. I’m not anti-gun, and I’m not trying to take guns out of anyone’s hands. This is because I’ve decided that guns are not the problem. Testosterone is the problem.
Has anyone noticed that these mass shootings are carried out by Y-chromosone-enhanced persons? Women aren’t the ones opening fire in crowded theaters dressed as Batman. We’re not the ones shooting people in churches, schools, shopping malls, and political rallies. We’re not the ones who air our sadness, our disappointment, our anger, through a spray of bullets. Instead, we women are slightly more subtle. Take, for example, astronaut Lisa Nowak, who was so upset to find out her boyfriend had another woman that she wore an astronaut diaper so she could drive across country without stopping just to pepper spray her competition. She didn’t take anyone’s life. Heck. She didn’t even take anyone’s car. Her clearly hormonally driven, emotional attack didn’t land her in prison. Nope. She got two days in jail, a bunch of anger management classes, 50-hours of community service, and the embarrassing nickname “the astronaut diaper lady.” No one had to be buried. We women may act a wee bit crazy sometimes, but we’re not usually homicidal maniacs. We may occasionally run high on emotional drama, but we don’t often run high on murderous rampages.
And yet, the stereotype of the PMS-raging woman persists. We can’t have a woman president because a hormonal women is potentially dangerous. We wouldn’t want a woman in the throes of estrogen fluctuation to have access to nuclear weapons. Yep. I’m certain that this world is not going to end on 12/21 as the Mayans predicted. Instead, the world will end at the hands of an emotionally unstable woman in control of nuclear launch codes. (Yes. I am rolling my eyes as I write this.) You know, I spent a couple hours crammed into a small space with hundreds of other women and, although that’s not exactly my comfort zone, not once did it cross my mind that perhaps one of them might go postal and whip out an AK-47 because another woman got the scarf she’d had her eye on. You know why? Because estrogen doesn’t kill people. Maybe we should leave gun owners alone and start doing background checks on testicle owners instead? 😉
(PS…Before any of you testosterone-enhanced individuals gets your whiskers in a twist, this blog was meant as a tongue-in-cheek editorial based on an observation I made. I’m not really suggesting we deprive men of their most prized possessions. Well, not seriously, anyway.)