Does anyone else ever feel under attack by a barrage of unnecessary comments from older women? Specifically from the baby boomer generation? This kind of rattling by older women of that era has happened to me for as long as I can remember. In the workplace, in my house growing up, at school from female teachers, even in public spaces from strangers in restaurants and on the street. It’s a little comment about your appearance here, a little comment about what you’re doing there.
There’s sometimes that judgmental scan up and down your body. To me, it’s always seemed that for them, there’s a very black and white extremist way of doing things. You either act one way, or you act another way. You’re either a career woman, or a mother. You can’t be both. You don’t get both-you don’t get to have everything. Life is all about extreme choices, and what you should and shouldn’t be doing!
Sometimes, when I’m talking to a baby boomer, I feel as though none of my choices are correct, and I panic. I feel under fire, even when we’re just talking about shoes. Whenever I have to have long drawn out contact with a women over 45, I usually leave the conversation cringing. When I’m related to said woman, it’s even worse. My hope is that the women I’m related to will never find this article to tell me their opinion about it. This will probably not happen, because in order to do that they’d have to figure out how to google my name on their phones. (Okay, that was an age-ist low blow, for the record, women in my family, I love how you all think you’re emailing me when you’re messaging me on insta and how you post statuses to Facebook still. Also, I guess Alexa is really starting to help them be able to find things with just voice prompts, and that helps.)
Here are some topics I have had older women try to talk to me about without me ever asking me if I cared about getting their opinion or not. Spoiler: I didn’t.
– Freezing my eggs (I’m only 27, thanks though).
-Whether or not I look better with short or long hair (it’s none of your business)
-How if any of the career choices made thus far have made sense for the long term path of my career, regardless of whether or not they’ve ever done anything in my field. (Cause they know everything about everything.)
-How short my skirt/dress should be (Don’t you have something else to do?)
-That I should never give up, and have a child, and get married. That wouldn’t be okay, given my career goals and all.
-That I should just give up and have a child and get married! (I know, it’s confusing).
-What “real” beauty looks like, and how much makeup should be worn by women (as much as they want to wear?)
-What hair on my body has to be bleached, shaved, or waxed off.
-Which parts of my body look good in what kinds of clothes, and what I need to work on (I seriously got given Spanx by a female family member as a gift this year. Another year it was diet tea).
-How their bodies suck, which is often accompanied by a long tirade of an explanation as to why it sucks. (Often accompanied by a list of which one of their friends are fat, and which one of my friends are fat.)
-Whether or not cursing is attractive or not (I mean, at this point, who the f**k cares)
-How it’s not okay to talk about sex or your vagina in a real way. Especially in front of a man. (if you do, it’s okay for it to be cute and bantery, like sex and the city, but keep your hoo-hoo, and any thoughts you might have about it to yourself. It belongs in your pants. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TALK ABOUT YOUR VAJAYJAY!)
I understand that this list reflects my privilege to make so many choices. I am 100% blessed for having this much freedom to make choices in my life as a woman living in the first world. That being said, getting verbally chastised/attacked by baby boomer women who we’re supposed to be fighting the patriarchy with gets exhausting after awhile. I mean, can you go yell at your sons for a second or something? I’m just kidding, please don’t take that literally.
Now, I’m not here to make big sweeping over generalizations, so if that list was not something you’re feeling about the older women you’re surrounded by, then good for you. You can stop reading right here. This probably not for you, and that’s fine. I know that this is not everyone’s experience, but I do know that many women I know talk about this very topic all the time. Some of us often complain about the lack of empathy older women have, and sometimes feel torn down by them. After the ninety-billionth time I got angry at my mother and every single one of my aunts about how their weird aggressive comments are a part of the patriarchy, I realized that half of our missed connection happens because of a huge intergenerational feminist gap. A lot of this gap has to do with the fact that the term intersectional feminism was only coined in 1989. For those of you who don’t know, intersectional feminism is the idea that women are not all one homogenous category. Race, class, religion, and gender all factor into how women are perceived by themselves, and others. Feminism is just understood in a different way by older people. I’m not saying that they understand it correctly, but the black and whiteness of what can be and what can’t be when they’re watching you make decisions comes from a lack of understanding that different categories factor into certain life outcomes.
Can you honestly imagine being raised by a 1950s housewife? I repeat, a 1950s housewife, who’s only expectations for her daughters are to shut the hell up, and to keep a clean house. Like Betty Draper on Mad Men, only real, and probably a hundred times worse. The smoking. The criticism. The vacuuming. The Stepford husbands who were all having multiple affairs. The diets. The blondeness. It’s easy to blame the 1950s housewives, but they were really just trying to fulfill society’s expectations. How the heck could a woman be brought up in this time period, and not emerge screwed up?
A lot of the baby boomer generation has worked tirelessly on feminism, making sure that women our age have had more freedom then they were allowed themselves. So of course, when we emerge asking them to fight the patriarchy even more, they think we’re all spoiled brats. Women their age with careers have had to kick, and scream, and scratch for the entry level positions that they think we think we’re entitled to. Of course they’re pissed. Of course they want to try to tell us what to do. Everyone’s always told them what to do. Their mothers told them what to do. Their grandmothers told them what to do. The Patriarchy told them what to do. They desperately, just want to tell you what to do. Sometimes, they just want to yell at us about being a snowflake. Sometimes, they want to give you mean advice, and make a rude comment, probably because they’re pissed off that it took this long for the Me Too movement to take place. But if women in their twenties can recognize that the behavior is out of line, then maybe, someday we won’t tell our daughters what to do. We won’t make judgmental, comments extremist comments about their appearances. We’ll tell them that their bodies are theirs alone, and that it’s okay to use the f-word like a conjunction, and they will be allowed to say whatever they want about their vaginas. Eventually they’ll probably be mad at us for something else that we’re doing that seems stupid to them, but hey, we’ll just have a new intergenerational feminist gap to bridge.
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