Living in a patriarchal society creates burdens on women that men do not encounter. Whether intended or not, those burdens impact women’s financial, emotional, and physical well-being.
The financial costs
In my twenties, I was a woman preoccupied with her looks.
I spent much hard-earned money on clothes that no longer fits and shoes I no longer own. I was completely wasteful. Despite the efforts I made towards my looks I do not recall feeling more happy than I do now. In fact, I know that I was not happier than I am now.
This is not surprising.
From an early age, women are misled. We are told that to be happy, we must look a certain way. We are sold the idea that being a woman means having material possessions- clothes, handbags, shoes- and engaging in certain activities- manicures, pedicures, facials, & massages.
As a result, we place value on ourselves based on our beauty or bodies. That value then translates into dollars for corporate America. A recent article I read suggests that over the course of our lifetimes, women spend approximately $250,000 on their appearances. (For that story click here.) Women are wasting their financial resources.
The average price of homes in the US at $315,000 (found in this Dave Ramsey blog post). Thus, for the same amount of money as the average woman spends on beauty she could buy a home. Of course, men also spend money on appearance. But, considering that women are often paid less than men, one can argue that the financial burdens of being a woman are multi-tiered.
The Emotional Costs
Those who fall prey to gendered stereotypes believe that women are more emotional than men. Those who fall prey and are mysoginists argue that this is the reason why women cannot serve in high levels of leadership such as the US presidency. This type of erroneous thinking puts additional burdens on women. Women who want to counter the emotional stereotype may feel forced to act with more restraint than men.
The emotional costs of being a woman could be lessened. If society deemed it acceptable for both men and women to feel their full emotions. Additionally, a recognition that emotions are not gendered would also be helpful. Women can be aggressive, strong, and blunt. Men can be emotional, soft, and nurturing.
The Physical Costs
When I first started this essay, I thought my research would support my belief that women face higher cost or greater burdens in life than men. But there is one are in which women are not as burdened and that is overall health. An interesting article I found in this Harvard e-newsletter stated that women live healthier, and as a result, longer lives. While this article gave me promise for my health, the truly valuable information it contained was a list for men about improving their health. I shared the article with the men in my life.