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6 Things About Being a Woman That No One Talks About, but Everyone Should Know

by Claire Litton Cohn May 10, 2016

1. We do a lot of emotional labour.

Part of the reason this doesn’t get talked about that much is because many women don’t identify what they do as “emotional labour”. Read through this now iconic Metafilter thread to understand it in depth, but in short: emotional labour is the unseen, unpaid work of sympathetically listening and asking unreciprocated questions (even from guys we’ve never met before), making the doctor’s appointments, writing the thank you letters, and quietly wrangling the social situations so that everyone is comfortable. The sublime Mallory Ortberg tweeted “every single party where women listen interestedly to men is an extended piece of performance art, and men have NO IDEA”; not only I, but every straight woman I’ve spoken to, has experienced exactly this on any number of first dates. In fact, I consider it a resounding success when a guy I go out on a date with asks me ONE question during the course of the date, even if it’s just answering a question I ask him and then saying “…and what about you?” This unrecognized “third shift” can get exhausting, and not only do we do a lot of it, but we also have to prove that we do it, argue about why we do it, and put up with listening to arguments about why that kind of work should just be part of interacting with other people (weird how men don’t really do it, then) — all of which is yet more emotional labour. Also, guys, reassuring you that YOU’RE not like that when we talk about how all men do this? More emotional labour.

2. Getting ready to go can take a really long time.

In the first place, we’re definitely going to get judged on our appearance by everyone around us. Women have a lot more clothing options than guys (I once knew a guy who said he joined a medieval re-enactment group so he could wear more outfits than just t-shirts and pants), but that’s because we are expected to always look appropriately fantastic for every situation, according to how society thinks we should look. Our hair needs to look flattering without being, you know, too natural. Our shoes need to be the right height, and match our clothes in such a way that it looks like we know what we’re doing. Our makeup needs to look good but not too obvious. We’re supposed to be hairless below the neck. And there’s always the possibility that today is the day that changes your life, and you might someday have to explain to a judge why your skirt was above your knee when you went out to a bar with your friends.

3. We are scared.

Not all the time, but a lot of it. The Daily Show did an amazing segment on the double standard in college sexual assault and one thing is clear: women are always alert, always paying attention, always nervous about what might happen. The recent Jian Ghomeshi trial showed anything, it is that a women who is violently sexually assaulted will not only watch her attacker go free…but also be reprimanded by the judge. The horrifying Tumblr “When Women Refuse” demonstrates more dire outcomes of being a woman in the world and trying to go about your business: sometimes, brutal death. With these news stories inundating our social media and news feeds, is it any wonder that we are sometimes scared of being out in public, scared of being at home…and scared of you? A friend put it poignantly when she said that a woman who asks a male friend to walk her home from the bar for her own safety, is statistically more likely to be assaulted by him than any stranger. All those jokes about women going to the bathroom in packs? We do it for protection. We have to live with this.

4. We get interrupted CONSTANTLY.

In a Reddit thread, a woman said she had spent a week of meetings tracking how many times women were interrupted while saying something vs. how many times men were interrupted. There were 5 women and 17 men in the room. Women were interrupted 37 times. Men were interrupted 3 times. Two Canadian researchers went over 63 different studies about frequency of conversation divided by gender, and found that women spoke more than men in only two of them, while a British company with highly paid management positions equally divided between men and women reported that, in a two hour meeting, a woman spoke only once…and was immediately cut off by a male colleague. Yikes.

5. UTIs and yeast infections are very common (for ladies with vaginas).

The first time I got a UTI, I had no idea what was happening to me. It was late at night when I started to show symptoms, so I turned to Dr. Google and immediately learned that I was probably dying of pelvic inflammatory disease. I wasn’t, but I have gotten a few UTIs a year since then. The Mayo Clinic says one of the top risk factors for UTIs is “female anatomy”, and the NIH says the lifetime chance of having a UTI is greater than 50% for women. One study showed between 30-50% of participating women had a yeast infection in their lifetime, with 9% reporting more than 4 per year. I’ve been unlucky enough to get one just because it was hot outside and I had a danish for breakfast (the sugar is terrible for thrush); if you’re unlucky enough to live in the US, you can’t get effective medication for these over the counter and have to schedule a doctor’s visit. They’re itchy and painful and uncomfortable. It sucks.

6. For vagina-having women: so much queefing.

Really, nobody wants to talk about this, because it can be terribly embarrassing. But the vagina is a canal, which means it can occasionally get air pushed inside of it, which then must be expelled. The air, when expelled, sometimes makes loud noises. This doesn’t only happen during sex, although this is probably the most common reason that air might get pushed up there. It can also happen while doing yoga or shifting in your seat, or even just bending over. The human body is eternally bizarre and amusing.

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