Women talk about plenty of things. For example, where to go to dinner tonight, or who our celebrity crushes are. And other genders have plenty to say about women, too. That we’re from Venus, for one thing. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum: that we’re nasty.
But there are plenty of things we don’t talk about, too – and many of them are things that I, as a woman, wish we wouldn’t stay silent about. To me, they’re too important NOT to talk about! (Hence why I’m writing this post.)
Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that there are, of course, more than two genders. For many of us, our identities are more complex than that of “man” and “woman.” There’s no one way to identify, just like there’s no one way to be a woman. And, as a cis-gender female, my post inherently comes from a perspective of privilege.
That being said, I’m writing this post for anyone who identifies as a woman and feels constrained by the standards society holds them to. I recently finished reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, where she talks in great detail about the demands of being a modern woman. Well, on her blog, The Chic Site, Rachel also wrote a post called ‘What Women Never Talk About’ – which semi-inspired what I’m about to say to you today.
These are things that most women just don’t talk about. And when I say ‘talk about,’ I mean really talking: not just whispering about them with your closest girlfriends, texting your mom to ask or typing into Google for answers. They’re topics we tend to think of as ‘taboo’ – even though I happen to think that we’d be better off, both as women and as a society, if we chatted about them out in the open.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve only talked about orgasms with another group of women one time: during a wine night in college, one of my friends said every woman should own a vibrator, and offered to go to a sex shop with us to help us find one (true story!). While that friend is still much braver than I am, I think the world would be a better place if more of us talked about orgasms – not only the orgasms we’ve already had (or haven’t had), but also how to have them if we aren’t experiencing them currently.
What I want every woman to know: If I ever have a daughter, I hope I will have the courage, when she’s old enough, to talk to her about sex – not just the mechanics, but also how to enjoy herself. Namely, I want her to know that her pleasure is also a priority. Despite what she may see in porn or movies, or what a partner may say or do to contradict it, sex should be a positive experience for everyone involved – regardless of their gender or sexuality.
Also, to get a vibrator. The Satisfier Pro is a good start.
Thankfully, this has changed tremendously since my grandmother was a teenager – and even since my mom was, too. Fewer commercials are substituting blue goo instead of period blood to demonstrate the absorbency of pads. And more options are available for healthy period products that are good for the planet and our bodies. But many of us women still aren’t open about our periods, even around other women who ‘get’ it.
What I want every woman to know: Society’s perception of what’s ‘normal’ and what isn’t when it comes to periods is skewed. For one thing, a menstrual cycle rarely lasts a perfect 28 days, even if that’s what we’re taught by doctors (and the media) to expect. For another, I wish we’d stop depicting women doubled over in pain with hot water bottles and painkillers galore during their periods. Cramps may be a natural part of menstruation for many women, but they also shouldn’t be debilitating. If they are, this could signify a more serious condition, such as endometriosis.
How much money does your best friend make at her job? Or your mom? Even if you know the answer, it’s probably not something she casually mentions to the gals at Book Club. But maybe, just maybe, it should be. In the modern era, there ought to be a way to discuss other women’s salaries without sounding impolite. After all, if you never ask, you’ll never know – and if you don’t know, you won’t know if you’re making less than you should expect to earn at this point in your career.
What I want every woman to know: The general rules of society state that it’s probably not a good idea to discuss salaries with people you don’t know well. But around your closest girlfriends, you should be able to talk money comfortably, without feeling awkward or rude. It doesn’t mean you’re bragging, if you make more than all your friends, or that you’re lesser-than, if you’re on the lower end of the pay spectrum. Rather, it fosters an openness that’s essential if women ever hope to narrow the wage gap and become equal earners with men in their fields.
Every woman I know experiences some degree of guilt. Whether you feel like a bad parent (even if your only ‘child’ is your dog) or like you should be working longer hours to impress your boss, all of us – because we’re human! – know what it feels like to fall short of our own high expectations. Yet although, deep down, most of us know we’re not the only members of our gender who feel this way, many women also feel beholden to curate an image of perfection. We hide our struggles to save face in front of that one Facebook friend who appears to have her sh*t together – without realizing that our own self-censorship is perpetuating the problem for our own tribe!
What I want every woman to know: You don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll say it for good measure: you’re not the only mom who can’t make it to school pickup. You’re not the only employee who gets nervous during a big presentation. And you’re definitely not the only woman who experiences this kind of guilt. However, by refusing to subscribe to self-shaming, you give other women permission to free themselves from the chains of perfectionism.
Because when you’re overly hard on yourself around your closest friends and family, they listen – and they learn from your example. Which is why I like to think before I judge myself: would I say the same thing about a friend who was in this situation? Chances are, the answer is no – and chances are, you deserve the same amount of grace you would give to your sister or your BFF.
In short: it’s time to forgive yourself, girlfriend!