Is Being a Woman All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?

On April 16, 2010, Vexing wrote at Feministing that she’s frustrated with the transgendered females she’s met who don’t acknowledge that becoming female has caused them to lose privilege. (For a discussion of privilege, see yesterday’s post.) She wants to know how to convince them that when they were gender-normative males (meaning their gender identity matched their genitalia), they had male privilege and that once they transitioned to female, they lost it.

Vexing’s frustration comes from the reactions she’s received from these transgendered females. They don’t see a problem at all. She hypothesizes that they are so thrilled with being female that they’re willing to put up with the sexism and discrimination that comes with it. Some even appear to welcome it, as a kind of proof that they are indeed being accepted as women.

It’s not just transgendered females who feel this way. Plenty of gender-normative women seem willing to accept what society dishes out because “after all, it goes with the territory.” These women usually insist that the benefits of being women—being sought after sexually, protected and supported, able to have children, and not having to work—far outweigh the possible deficits—being abused sexually, controlled and mistreated, left high and dry when they become pregnant, and not being able to find meaningful work that pays well.

A woman who refuses to call herself a feminist is one divorce or beating away from becoming one. Everything’s fine as long as she gets to be the star of her perfect little life. But when reality sets in, when she experiences the negative side of being female, when she wakes up and realizes that men get a larger share of the pie than women do, then she may begin to wonder if being a woman is all that it’s cracked up to be.

One in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Women get poorer after a divorce than men do. Women still bear the greater share of the burden of housework and child-rearing, even if they work as many hours outside of the home as their husbands and boyfriends do. Women are the ones who get pregnant, who work at lower-paying jobs, who are seen as easy prey by rapists and murderers. Women are treated like sex objects, trafficked into sexual slavery, and made into whores.

Why would anyone in their right mind choose to be a woman?

Of course most women don’t have a choice. But if they could choose, if they could have a do-over, would they still want to be born female?

Feminists have often been accused of not being comfortable with their gender identity (after all, everyone knows that a feminist is either an overt or a covert lesbian). They gravitate toward feminism because they’re not satisfied by marriage and motherhood. They hate their own gender and all that it stands for, so they devote themselves to tearing apart the fabric of true womanhood. The bottom line is, they’d rather be men.

That’s hogwash. Feminists value womanhood so much they’re willing to fight for every woman’s right to be what she has always dreamed of. Not every woman wants to be a wife or a mother or a homemaker, just as not every woman wants to be a career woman. And some women want it all. Feminism says that nobody has the right to stand in a woman’s way or to restrict her choices in life, whatever they may be.

Being a woman isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. But it could be.

4 Replies to “Is Being a Woman All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?”

  1. Former Lesbian: I Craved Emotional Balance of Hetero Relationship
    By Kathleen Gilbert
    UNITED KINGDOM, July 7, 2010 ( – British comedienne and former lesbian Jackie Clune has published an account of how, exhausted by the emotional dysfunction of her lesbian relationships, she discovered in her subsequent relationship with her husband a freedom to “[walk] alongside each other rather than spending life locked in face-to-face intimacy or combat.”
    “Looking at my four children racing around the garden with their father, it seems almost impossible to believe that only a few years ago I never imagined having a family,” writes Clune in a column published in the UK’s Daily Mail June 26.
    Clune, who is also known as a cabaret performer, actress, and broadcaster, says she was raised in a “very traditional Irish Catholic” home and fell in love with a man at 17. It was in college that she stumbled upon a pamphlet claiming that heterosexuality is a mere construct to be altered at will, which prompted her to break up with her boyfriend and live the typical lesbian lifestyle for the next 12 years, until she was 34 years old.
    “I was excited by the close bond a relationship with another female could bring,” she writes.
    But the experience was not as she at first envisioned it to be. In an interview with the Times’ Penny Wark in October 2005, Clune called lesbian culture “dictatorial and intimidating” and “the opposite of the sapphic fluffy nirvana I expected.”
    Despite the closeness of her relationships, Clune admits that the hyper-emotional world of a female-to-female sexual bond was “exhausting.” “The women I went out with were by and large more inclined to be insecure and to need reassurance and I found myself in the male role of endlessly reassuring my girlfriends,” she writes. “The subtle mood changes of everyday life would be picked over inexhaustibly.”
    Clune describes how one lover was so jealous and insecure that “every single time we enjoyed a night out … we would have a row and have to leave.” “Back home, we would then spend the next four hours arguing about our relationship and my feelings of loyalty, fidelity and so on,” she writes. “It was never-ending.”
    “Can you imagine waking up beside a woman when you’ve both got raging PMT (premenstrual tension)?” she adds.
    Ultimately, she says, the emotional rollercoaster forced her to reconsider her lesbian plunge – something she clearly says she “chose,” and was not born into. “Unlike most men, women, of course, offer each other endless support and there’s hardly ever any lack of communication,” writes Clune. “But – bizarre as it may seem – I found myself longing for exactly the opposite.”
    Following “a calculated decision to try men again,” Clune says that she found in her future husband Richard a “quiet kindness” and “lack of neediness” that appealed to her. “I felt we were walking alongside each other rather than spending life locked in face-to-face intimacy or combat,” she writes. “It felt natural and not at all scary. He was sanguine about my past and never suffered the insecurities I had come to expect.”
    “It was a breath of fresh air. I’ve always been fiercely independent and felt I could be myself with him.”
    Although harboring no hard feelings toward her former companions and way of life, Clune concludes that she had “outgrown lesbianism.” “When we’re young, we all need to belong to a tribe and to have a banner to march under,” she says, adding that “calling myself a lesbian was almost like calling myself a punk or a goth.”
    She says her return to heterosexuality continues to draw vitriol from the lesbian community: one major lesbian publication voted her “Most Disappointing Lesbian Of The Year,” and a now-defunct Facebook group was erected entitled, “People Like Jackie Clune Should Be Taken Outside And Shot.” “Although the criticism is hurtful, I understand where it’s coming from – I’ve confused everybody,” she says.
    Arthur Goldberg, a board certified counselor and expert on assisting individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, told (LSN) that Clune’s story is “not atypical” of the lesbian lifestyle. Goldberg, who is co-founder of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), argued that if proponents of the homosexual agenda “admitted what the true aspects of many [homosexual] relationships are,” the notion that they are simply equivalent to heterosexual relationships wouldn’t hold water.
    “One of the key criteria of lesbianism is emotional dependency,” said Goldberg. “In male gay relationships, it’s much more about sex. More typically [with] lesbian women … it’s much more serial monogamy.
    “Your relationship lasts 2-3 years [in which] you can’t live without the other person, your whole world is this person, which is why there’s so much jealousy in the lesbian world, and why there’s so much violence in the lesbian world.”
    Goldberg said it was also not uncommon for women, often more “sexually fluid” than men, to choose to enter the lesbian lifestyle after some experience of disillusionment with men, before returning to heterosexuality.

    1. What was your point exactly? I wasn’t advocating lesbianism as an alternative lifestyle as a way to “solve” the problem of being a woman. (Although I do support a woman’s right to live as one if she wants to.) What I was saying is that all women, gay or straight or transgendered, fight an uphill battle to receive the same respect that men do in this society.

      While I find the article you presented here interesting, I don’t believe that Clune’s experience is typical. One thing that surprises me, though, is that it there is no mention of bisexuality. The idea that women are more “sexually fluid” may just be one way of describing the behavior of bisexual women. I doubt that Clune could have lived for 12 years as a lesbian if she didn’t get something out of it.

  2. Ellen – I understand Vexing’s frustration over the attitude of many transwomen. Many see the loss of privilege as “the right of passage” in their transition and wear the loss as a badge of womanhood. Fortunately, not all transwomen agree. Many transwomen recognize that loss, and although they are for the first time whole, they still fight against the second class status, they and all women, endure in this country, and worse in other lands.

    I know several transwomen who fit in both in denial and as feminist, as well as many gender-normative women, who are indeed live in denial and as feminist, even if they do not wear that title openly. Their attitudes toward the treatment of women, and their activism in advancing the cause of women, speaks louder than their words.

    I see the loss of privileged in the way women are treated in medical fields, both as patients and as care givers. I see it in the role of women in the homes. It is abundantly evident in many Church circles, especially among fundamental and evangelical Christians. I see it in classrooms and professional circles. The disparity is evident everywhere if one only opens their eyes.

    I worked as a Gender Therapist for many years. Not all, but many of the transwomen who passed through my practice saw the disparity. Many also fought further loss of privilege because they were trans.

    On the other side of the coin, I had clients who were transmen, and they encounter disparity as well. Only this time, they gained status and acceptance. They saw their place in society rise to a more positive and even first class citizens role, even when others knew of their trans status.

    It was as if it is OK for a women to become a man, but heaven forbid any man would want to be a women. Transmen recognized this difference often earlier in their transition than transwomen did. Perhaps the male ego of transwomen had taught them earlier in life to never acknowledge that women were second class. After all, any complaining a woman might due about her status is probably “just hormonal”.

    I have come to conclusion that those women, trans or gender-normative, who do not see this loss of privilege, live in a fairy tale world of their own making, and will probably never gain what they need, and deserve, respect.

    SO Thanks for femination. You do a great job.

    Dr. A.E.Reynolds

    1. Thank you for generously sharing your insight and expertise.

      I really enjoyed what I saw of your website, particularly your June 1st post, Authorization for Ministry. I was married to a Methodist minister for ten years and I know exactly what you’re talking about.It all comes down to taking personal responsibility for the acting out of our relationship with God, regardless of our denomination or religion. I know I fall short in that department. So I appreciate the reminder!

      Keep on writing–you’re good!

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