This Is What It's Like To Be A Woman In A Patriarchal Society

by Cady Kollen-Fuste
Woman with her back turned, in a leather jacket, showing two middle fingers
Kikovic / iStock

When your teacher in high school says the way you dress is distracting to boys.

When your professor says he wrote “blonde” next to your name on the class list so he can remember who you are.

When you go to an audition in LA (the one and only ever) at age 18, wearing a size 2, and they say, “Well, you’re definitely plus-size.”

When you politely decline someone’s offer to “get out of here” after they buy you a drink and they call you a “tease” or a “dumb bitch” — because one $6 well drink has given them the impression that they have the right to sleep with you.

When you pretend to wear a wedding ring or say you’re waiting for someone, so the creepy guy at the bar will stop badgering you — because the only way he’ll take no for an answer is if you offer yourself as the property of another man.

When you’re alone in an elevator, going up, and it stops to pick up an unfamiliar man on a floor before yours. That feeling as you instinctively hold your breath and tense your body, hoping he doesn’t follow you off the elevator.

When you hide the cover of the book you’re reading, authored by one of your favorite female comedians, so that you don’t have to listen one more stranger tell you that “women just aren’t funny.”

When you’re early in your career and your boss says that promoting his assistant — you — would be a “waste of a promotion” and then he promotes the male — non-assistant — on your team who is two years younger than you and only holds a BA while you hold both a BA and an MA.

When your boss says you remind him of his daughter.

When you have a big executive-level meeting at work and your new male colleague who is two levels higher than you explains a process that you created and worked tirelessly on over the course of two years — to you and everyone else at the table.

When you watch your male colleagues get promoted while you get passed over again and again and again even though you continue to do your best work.

When you are offered a position at your company to help another person — a man at the same level as you — grow into their new job by playing a supporting role, and you think, shouldn’t I have the opportunity to grow in my role, not help someone else grow in theirs?

When you go back to work 10 weeks after the birth of your baby, sleep-deprived and leaking milk, because you need the paycheck to support your family.

When you take an international phone call while pumping breast milk in a dark room and hope no one asks about the wah-wah sound in the background.

When you pump breast milk in a bathroom at an airport because there are no other options and then cry as you dump it down the drain.

When you sit across from a CEO and he calls Sheryl Sandberg disingenuous because she has two nannies. Despite the fact that he has a wife who stays home and a nanny to help with his young children, you nod and smile in faint agreement to avoid a contentious situation.

When you have to explain, let alone fight for, the fundamental right to make your health care decisions.

When men — politicians, doctors, husbands, boyfriends, others — believe that they have right to deny a woman agency over her body.

When you decide (as a young woman) not to get your birth control pack a week early because you can’t afford the copay, and the pharmacist says in a condescending tone that “it’s not as expensive as a baby.”

When the ACA kicks in and you find out you’ll save $60 a month on the special birth control you have to take due to your history of breast tumors and literally jump for joy.

When insurance tries to deny your claim for a mammogram because you’re “too young” despite doctor’s orders and your history of breast tumors.

This is what it is to be a mom, a daughter, a wife, a girl. A woman.