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  • Stephanie Zajac

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Female in The 21st Century

Updated: Jan 18

There you are, a braless beauty waiting for the next hawk to swoop in and go for the kill. Drink in your hand, scowl on your face, you don’t care what cheesy pick-up line is used. You’ll endure the 20-minute chat for a free drink (he’ll assume you like vodka cran, which you don’t) and you’ll be on your merry way.


You didn’t always feel justified in taking advantage of men like that. In fact, you used to feel a pang of guilt every time you lied about having a boyfriend or took them up on that free Uber ride. But then, you had enough of it. You realized that it’s completely okay to exercise the tiny bit of power you have as a female⁠—being proud of your allure and allowing it to give you what you want every once and awhile. Because despite living in a world where the future supposedly is female, the present is not. We still hear daily stories of rape, the wage gap, and political stances that limit women's rights. Not to mention, being a woman is harder than it looks.


But when we think about the accomplishments of influential feminists (looking at you, Beyonce!), the trials and tribulations of being a female feel like steps to a better world. As we continue to advocate for equality (note: not man-hating), we’ll pave this path with more and more good.


Wage Gap


We’ve made progress, but we’re still living in a world where men are making more money than women. And there’s nothing right about that. The Institute for Women's Policy Research tells us that women in 2017 only made 80.5 cents for every dollar that men earned. That means women have to work a few months into the next year to catch up to 1 year of a man’s work. It’s a controversial topic for many reasons, but we can’t debate the fact that when it comes to pay, it’s always been easier to be a dude.


Hello ...Monthly Periods?

“It’s one of life’s greatest miracles.” No, actually it sucks. Unless you’ve endured an all-inclusive period—we’re talking back pains, cramps, breakouts, mood swings, the whole nine yards—you have no room to talk.


One thing I’d like to point out to all the gentlemen who don’t sympathize: We start our periods as early as 10 years old, endure them every month for upwards of 40 years, and then…. menopause hits. “Retirement” from our periods means daily bouts of hot flashes and mood swings. So go ahead and call us crazy, but you don’t understand half of what's going on in our bodies.


And if you are with a man who doesn’t show empathy, buy you ice cream, or consider you a total rockstar? Honor yourself and the women around you by standing your ground. I’d empower you to leave your dude, but hey, if you’re into forgive n' forget, I won’t judge. But at the very least, demand more respect, girl.


Being Lady-Like (Whatever that Means)

Cross your legs, sit up straight, don’t curse. While you’re at it, make sure your hair is brushed, clothes ironed, and elbows OFF the table. The list of lady-like standards goes on without end.


Thankfully, the term isn’t as popular in today’s world, but I still cringe at the sound of it. The male equivalent is “being manly”, which positively connotes strength and power. Being lady-like feels more like a requirement than a skill; instead, let’s call it etiquette and ask that all humans practice it.


Downplaying our Natural Bodily Functions


Because for some reason, girls don’t burp or fart. Think again on that one⁠—we do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Somewhere in the course of history, it was decided that women lack all of the gross bodily functions. It’s a constant struggle for women to be “real” without being gross.


Period Shame

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve carried a large tote bag into the bathroom just to conceal my tampon. It’s as if there’s an elephant in the room about being on my period. That elephant in the room actually happens to be nature in my body. Yeah, I’m on my period and I have no reason to hide it. Without periods, none of us would be here, so we have every right to be proud rather than embarrassed. If women are openly carrying their tampons in the halls of Condé Nast, you can too. Join the movement against carrying concealed tampons. What’s the worst that can happen?


Birth Control Responsibilities


It’s not acknowledged as often as it should be, but women typically carry the brunt of birth control responsibilities. 64% of us feel the obligation to either take a daily pill, insert a NuvaRing every month, or undergo a procedure for IUD insertion. We’ll do it because the alternative is not enticing⁠—unless you’re trying to conceive, of course. But we don’t get credit when it’s rightfully due.


Don’t get me wrong⁠, some people love birth control. It can regulate periods, and it sometimes minimizes the effects of PMS. But for others, birth control messes with our bodies and brings on a new catalog of side effects⁠—depression, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, increased breakouts, to name a few.


Body Image


We band together to sing Beyoncé’s Formation, but somehow girl-on-girl competition is REAL. It’s second nature to look a girl up and down or make a quick judgment about someone’s Instagram, and my question is: Why??! We all go through similar struggles, so we should be bonding over that rather than judging each other.


Luckily, many companies are incorporating empowerment and positive body image into their missions. We should keep our focus on those brands with the hopes that popular names like Victoria’s Secret will take a similar leap. It’s a moral dilemma for me to take advantage of the quarterly 10 for $35 underwear deal when I don’t support the company’s values.


Life’s General Struggles as a Female


Politics aside, the day-to-day portrait of being a woman is one that requires extra care than the average dude. Our daily routines take time⁠—need I even mention all of the money we spend just to be a girl? Waxes, makeup, hair, bras, and luxury goods (*I mean tampons, thx Trump) aren’t free. It all adds up, and personally, I believe we should get a little extra something for all of those extra things.

That extra something begins with you. Treat yourself with respect and be proud of who you are. Empower other women and band together when you need a boost. Girl time = necessary time. Feminism doesn’t mean man-hating and it doesn’t mean complaining—it just means knowing what you’re worth and acknowledging what it means to be a woman.


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