Despite my belief in the power of woman, there have been times when I wished some obliging young man would give up his seat for me, open the door, or offer to carry a heavy bag for me. I don’t think this is because I really want arbitrary rights assigned to me by gender stereotypes, I think it’s because the bags are really heavy. If I am engaging with sexism in this scenario, it’s that I assume the men around me are stronger/more capable than me, ergo, it would be easier for them to carry the bag. The idea that assumes it is inherently harder for me to do something than it would be for a man to do it for me, I do consider internalized sexism.
So I’m on day 52 of 90 day fitness program that’s kind of insane, and here is what’s great about it. I have no problem carrying bags. I don’t think about it, because it’s not hard. A few weeks ago I flew to California for a week and packed everything in my carry-on bag. Not only did I carry that tightly packed bag through the whole airport, but I very easily lifted it into the overhead compartment. It was so easy to do that I thought about offering to help the people around me with their bags. Similarly, the other day I was trying to get a stroller with a 14-16 pound child in it down some stairs. While I was trying to figure how to keep everything level while rolling it down the stairs, I decided it’d be easier to just pick the thing up. So that’s what I did, scooped up the stroller with the kid inside and carried it down the stairs. When we went home, I carried it right back up those stairs.
What I’m noticing here is a mental shift. I now assume that I can do things that are physically challenging, whereas before I assumed that I could not or that they would be very difficult. And sometimes, they really were very difficult, where now they are not. Also, now if something is difficult I say to myself, “is this harder than a Dreya roll? A dive bomber push-up? Is this going to take me longer than I spend doing those things?” If the answer to the first two questions is yes, the third one is usually no. So I assume I can do stuff, and if it’s hard, I assume that I can push through it. I don’t look around for obliging young men anymore. Now I can be an obliging young woman, and that is a really good feeling.
So the feminist theory question here is, am I only able to do this because I’m completing insane workouts every day? And if that’s true, doesn’t that mean that the young men who could lift the bags without doing the insane workouts really are stronger/more capable than me? I have two responses to this straw man. First, in my opinion the attitude change is really the important point. It makes me sad for myself and for other women who assume that they need help to complete basic and necessary tasks. It is okay for people (male and female) to need help with stuff, but the idea that any male present would be more well suited to a task than I is a sad one indeed. Second, if I have to exercise to make this shift, so what? If exercising and building some muscle takes some work on my part, fine. There are so many less worthwhile things I spend time on. For my own health, happiness, and empowerment, I am willing to work.