The Beauty Experiment

How I Found My Gender Agenda

by on Mar.05, 2010, under change, gender, nurturing others, self-image

It’s probably telling that I had no interest in women’s studies in college. I was so young, so ambitious, and felt so many avenues open to me that studying only half the world seemed limiting.  My disinterest was a sign of progress, I thought, suggesting that this kind of scope was a thing of the past, or more accurately a thing for those who were still struggling to have their identities and choices accepted by the mainstream.

I didn’t think I had one—a gender agenda.

Then I got married and gave up my job so my husband could take a better one. We got pregnant and I gave birth in a hospital where hopes for a natural childbirth were laughed at. I breastfed that baby in a country where it is still uncommon among the middle and upper class. I struggled to find childcare that did not offend my sense of what is fair and responsible as an employer and human being. I took on wholeheartedly the management and maintenance of a family and began to feel my identity slipping, sometimes in the direction of a wiser, kinder, more empathetic self but usually in the direction of a harried, brittle, lonely one. I cried a lot, thinking about my mom, the decades of meals and laundry she’d waited through until she could take up painting again.  

One night, sick to death of the inflexible schedule of meals, baths and bedtimes I had constructed, I stayed up late watching a movie, reading books, thinking and writing. The time alone was narcotic; I couldn’t couldn’t stop using it. Just as I was crawling into bed with my clothes on, drunk on the life of the mind –the baby began to cry. I was tired past the point of reason but I had done it to myself. For my own stupidity, for my selfishness, for my utter indulgence, I slapped myself across the face.

And that’s how I discovered my gender agenda.

            If you haven’t read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, you might want to check it out.

5 Comments for this entry

  • Rebecca Narva

    HI Dear Phoe – Oh WOW – trial by crying.
    Ain’t it the truth.
    I too experimented with self-slapping – briefly however but it did prove shocking. Now I sort of laugh cringe about it. My current and deeply HOT HOT HOT self help saviour is Byron Katie for sheer simplicity and genius.
    If a thought causes us pain, its probably not true. Inquire deeply into all troubling thoughts and find the underlying belief that is pretty much always a lie. We are the source of ALL ALL ALL our suffering. Reality happens and then we have thoughts and judgements about reality – and world wide, the brain is good at negative thinking – and then we believe our thoughts and feel bad.
    Check out her website: and herbooks – Loving What Is. and others. So powerful and well regarded in zen community

  • Pops

    Interesting and fun website. What a lot of work. You have been busy busy. Hope you had a good wedding with Hattie.

  • Donna Upton

    The story about staying up all night brought tears to my eyes. Word, word, word.

  • pad

    Ms Friedan’s epistle was instrumental in alienating my wife from me and led to our divorce. Independence she sought, degrading me daily until I left. My leaving prompted a suicide attempt. All very messy

  • Phoebe

    If only changing the world was easy and painless…

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