Clare Daudelin

Despite the weight of our experiences, or depth of our argument, any time we speak up or confront our peers, friends, community or the world — no matter who is saying they’re listening — our voices are endangered to falling on deaf ears.

Fed-Up, Fatigued, and Feminine: Existing as a Woman in a World of Men

May 24, 2023


Disclaimer — The language used in this article reflects the societal tradition of gender existing as a binary concept. In order to clarify the impact of this binary system, the language used in this article follows this two-sided idea of what gender is and how it controls our lives. This language is not intended to perpetuate this harmful cycle, nor dictate what it means to be a man or woman. Rather, we aim to start conversations surrounding this topic.

Our sex and gender controls our lives.

It determines how we are socialized and thus, the people we grow up to be.

It shapes the social rules and expectations of our actions, responses, and relationships.

And since we all exist within a patriarchal society, in which rampant and impactful power dynamics between genders are widespread, they often dictate our whole being, creating a subconscious motive — that even women fall victim to upholding: maintaining male dominance and superiority.

Here is the thing: sexism can be both blatant and disguised. The explicit acts of misogyny are the ones that are more likely to be publicly condemned — physical and sexual violence, cheating, verbal abuse, etc. — whereas implicit sexism is often what is overlooked.

It is the misogyny that is present in normalcy, through verbal subtlety, daily interactions, and general pecking order of our communities that perpetuate a culture of normalizing men’s success and women’s defeat. 

Our experience as women is too often at the mercy of this culture — understanding more and more as we get older that our external worth is somewhat dependent upon our male counterpart’s perception and understanding of who we are — and thus, we are very familiar with how it manifests.

Before we begin, we’d like to offer an explicit disclaimer about our usage of absolutes; we want our language to convey the general nature of misogyny. However, it is not our intention to make generalizations; we recognize the differing views many people can have on such a complex topic.

Our goal is not to point fingers and create more friction and hostility, but rather to start the conversation around our authentic experience as young women in a patriarchy.

In this article, our intention is to highlight the areas in which we see and are impacted by the male dominance — the portion which exists in our everyday lives as a veiled threat.

Gender Socialization

We have all been raised in a binary culture where our sex determines how we operate within and relate to the people and communities around us. And thus, as we grow up, we learn how to behave from the people around us. 

As we have grown up as little boys and girls, there has existed a compulsive association of traits as they are assigned to each gender and its accompanying roles. These traits are noticed, valued, and praised by the people around us; they are the first ways in which we are ‘seen’ by others — they become intrinsic to our identity, our sense of self.

Boys are first praised for being fast and strong, whereas the physical appearance of girls — especially how thin we are, how desirable our shape appears, whether or not our body has the right curves, or even the symmetry of our face — as well as our ability to be accommodating and helpful are the traits held and praised most highly. 

The way in which our gender was identified as a child also shaped the ways in which we were taught to interact with our peers and the world. This binary socialization teaches us the acceptable way to exist in this world.

If you were born as a female, then you most likely grew up in a culture that praised the practices and habits that ingrained in us an instinct to a more passive nature, in which empathy was the expected response to conflict.

If you were born as a male, then there is no predisposed pressure from your surrounding culture to make yourself small to accommodate the people around you, because of the way in which the masculine side of the binary is inherently more powerful.

There is no ‘correct’ way to be either masculine or feminine, yet our society is telling us otherwise. 

It is the unfortunate truth that when boys are being raised, our patriarchal society is telling them to vehemently reject femininity in all its forms, that it is weakness. Thus, this creates space for men to resent or fear women, as our femininity is seen as a threat in proximity to their masculinity. 

Additionally, this also creates a more narrow perspective of women — as men are taught to reject the genuine interest in things, actions, and activities that are associated with femininity — which takes away a facet of our personhood, leaving our physical appearance and sexuality in a state much more vulnerable to both the criticism and appeal of men.

To be clear, this is not the fault of any individual, but a byproduct of a centuries long tradition of berating women and the binary traits of femininity that accompany our existence.

Instead of all being raised as people, we’ve been raised as boys and girls — a categorical separation from the moment we entered this world — and we’ve grown up on an ideology that separates our worth as human beings based on these innate differences.

It sounds abstract when consolidated into a nutshell, but these descriptions highlight the fundamental differences between the experiences of men and women as we attempt to coexist in the same world.

The way that we are introduced to the world, and the things we are noticed, seen, and praised for shape which areas of life we connect with our identities.

Who gets a seat at the table? Who is speaking and who is listening? Who adapts? Who empathizes? 

Who is being impacted the most by this?

Emotional Ineptitude and Emotional Labor

Women are bending over backwards to accommodate men’s emotional incompetence.

And it’s exhausting. 

Through our distinct socialization arises a key difference in each gender’s characteristics: emotional intelligence.

In a study consisting of 55,000 professionals across 90 countries, it was found that women were 86% more likely than men to be seen as consistently demonstrating emotional self-awareness as a competency. 

Now, this is not an inherent criticism of men, for men and women are clearly taught — from the very day we are born — to deal with our emotions in two entirely different ways, and it is important to acknowledge this. 

Men are trained to hold power and dominance in high regard, and thus, looking inward is not prioritized. In fact, showing and communicating emotion is discouraged.

Since women’s socialization is focused on passivity and accommodation, it makes logical sense that we are naturally more in tune with our emotions; we have to be, for our social success is dependent on it.      

Women utilize emotions whereas men shy away from them — which is counterintuitive, given that emotion itself is the basis for a relationship, romantic and platonic alike. 

Thus, women reap the consequences of men’s emotional ineptitude, subjected to the unregulated empathy and emotional labor of healing men and salvaging relationships.

What do I mean by this?

Women are always caretaking. It is what we were trained to do.

When men are struggling or a relationship is crumbling, women are the fixers.

For example, in my experience, I am always and have always been the primary communicator and mediator — facilitating the necessary conflict resolution, asking questions in times of uncertainty, and figuring out the inevitable complications of human connection.

I am always the one to clear the air after a conflict — having a genuine desire to discuss it, learn from it, and move on in a healthier manner. Usually, I am met with avoidance. 

Romantically, when it is time to have the dreaded ‘What are we?’ conversation, I am always the one to bring it up — an individual pursuit of trying to escape the often-painful gray area. Rarely do I feel seen and validated subsequent to the conversation; instead, I feel like a liability who is asking for more than is deserved. The progression of a relationship too often lacks mutual effort.

If something insensitive is said, I too often bite my tongue, swallowing my hurt in acknowledgment that the odds of the feedback being well received are not in my favor — a conclusion I have come to after numerous instances of trying, elucidating a clear pattern.

But in swallowing my hurt, I swallow my worth too.

But in swallowing my hurt, I swallow my worth too.

And, unfortunately, these experiences are not unique to me. I have spent hours discussing these concepts with the women in my life; our experiences parallel one another time after time.

It is arduous, knowing that usually the success of the relationship is proportional to the emotional labor that women are willing to put in.

Because in my experience, too often, men come into friendships and relationships having done little to no self-assessment and lack the sensitivity and awareness necessary to understand and tend to another human — specifically one of the opposite gender. 

And this experience rings true for women of all ages; it is not solely a byproduct of high school immaturity (although that undoubtedly is a factor).

In marriages and adult relationships, women are constantly tasked with the emotional heavy lifting.

Usually, they are the primary emotional and physical caregiver for the children. They perform and delegate the household responsibilities. They facilitate the emotional work necessary for a healthy relationship. All of this is by default, with active responsibility required. 

Of course, men do help in these tasks, but they have the passive responsibility. 

Thus, women are left with emotional exhaustion and unregulated empathy, choosing between the conservation of our energy and the success of our interpersonal relationships with men. And through all of this, we are often not treated with the love and respect that we deserve. 

Megan Murphy, a feminist writer and journalist, wrote an article titled So long as men aren’t stepping up, women’s empathy needs limits,” and she explains this well: “We’ve stuck around with men who refused to talk honestly and openly with us, who shouted us down or shut us out — who refused to be our friends, never mind our partners. We’ve been understanding and sympathetic to our own detriment, while too many men did nothing to change, despite our commitment, empathy, and belief that they could change — that they could be better.”

Too often, womens’ endeavors to help our male partners and friends, and cultivate a healthy, worthwhile relationship occurs at our own expense. 

The onus is not on women to help men change. We cannot be working ourselves to the ground in hopes of being treated with respect.

It is not only taxing, but painful, to dedicate so much of ourselves to bettering our interpersonal connections with men and simply be met with such apathy and inertia.

Bro Culture

In our experience, which correlates with plenty of other women that we know, being around a group of men as a female minority often creates an unwelcoming and hostile — and sometimes even wounding — environment.

The hyper-masculinity.

The careless discussion of women’s appearances.

The locker room talk.

The lack of sensitivity and indifference to anything that does not affect them directly. 

The constant ironic depreciation and belittling of women. 

And just a general sense of exclusivity and collective egotism — implicitly asserting superiority over women. 

Men bond through these means, creating community by continually declaring their strength, manliness, and dominance through denying the natural parts of themselves which are traditionally viewed as feminine — the parts which encourage them, as humans, to be thoughtful, empathetic, and sensitive.

With this, the ability to recognize a woman’s worth — her humanity even — is sacrificed, prompting an environment of discomfort and uneasiness when women are among groups of men.

Our femininity is no match for the untouchable, unquestionable masculine bonds between men.

This notion materializes before us every single day, likely occurring way more than you consciously recognize.

In my freshman and sophomore year, a lot of the misogyny I witnessed and experienced was extremely blunt and unfiltered — usually occurring in the form of a joke.

“Go make me a sandwich” or “get back in the kitchen” were statements I heard often, followed by an eruption of laughter. For a while, I laughed too, thinking the sarcastic nature of the joke made it harmless. 

I was wrong, of course. Looking back now, I can see that. Ironic sexism is merely a ploy to escape accountability.

Nonetheless, these comments persisted, to the point where they became ordinary — not even warranting a reaction from the girls — yet the wall of laughter remained. I didn’t understand: how were my male friends and acquaintances still so utterly amused?  

It wasn’t until a year or so later that I realized what was going on. The countless comments were a collective assertion of masculinity, attempting to secure their subconscious desire for male superiority through repeated, communal remarks. It didn’t matter whether or not they received a satisfying outburst from their female counterparts; the validation from their friends was enough to protect their sense of power. 

Despite taking a more subtle form, this still rings true in my friendships with men today, even three years of growth and maturity later. 

Especially this year, groups of men have banded together and created an exclusive culture of “the boys” — heavily worshiping one another and celebrating their masculinity. 

They automatically applaud what “the boys” are saying or doing, even when it is wrong and/or misogynistic. 

In my experience, there have been countless times in which men at La Salle have treated women with such an utter lack of respect, usually in a romantic sense, and time and time again, their friends either defend, rationalize, or remain silent. 

Why? Because if someone were to speak up and hold their friends accountable for their treatment of women, it would threaten the very foundation of their friendship.

So, men allow these things to slide, authorizing the crude behavior to flourish and consequently, sacrificing women’s wellbeing — making us feel insecure and small.

The fact that men can maintain a sense of superiority solely through interacting with other men is terrifying.

Thus, instilling a desire in men to change can be extremely challenging, since their prideful masculinity can immediately be reaffirmed when they gather with their friends, despite any prior degree of confrontation from women.

If a girl, in a group of boys, were to speak up or seem bothered by a hurtful comment, we’d be met with knowingly confrontational questions: “Why aren’t you laughing?” or “Are you bothered?” 

Or my personal least favorite: “Uh-oh, she’s gonna get mad” As if our presence to these misogynistic comments are ruining boys’ fun.

When boys are together, the masculinity that they’ve been socialized to celebrate is safe-guarded by one another — creating a culture of power and dominance. 

Meanwhile, many women possess the deeply passionate devotion to change the status quo, but lack the necessary systemic power to do so. 

So, men’s involvement is imperative in changing these power dynamics, but so long as masculinity is the basis of men’s friendships, that seems like an unlikely reality.

We need to deconstruct these patterns, and rebuild in a way that women are valued for their humanity.

Here’s the thing: men have the choice as to whether or not to subscribe to this kind of friendship.

For those who chose to participate, they do so at the expense of women — and I’d argue, at the expense of themselves. 

And those who don’t are too often ridiculed, subtly casted as a weak social pariah, simply for rejecting masculinity as the foundation of their friendship. 

It’s a dangerous, harmful culture, and one that so desperately needs to be revised. 

It is one that overpowers women’s voices, time and time again. We are drained, getting to the point where surrendering to the ill-treatment feels more palatable than fighting against it. 

Stomaching the pain is less exhausting than being portrayed as delicate. Or hypersensitive. Irritable. Dramatic.

Accepting our fate as subordinates feels more productive than explaining — for the millionth time — how certain behaviors are riddled with misogyny.

We are desperately calling for men to reflect on how their friendships bolster oppressive gender dynamics. 

Male friendships do not need to be a performance of masculinity. But too often, they are — fueled by the dominance of the “bros.” 

Women are suffering. It is time for a change. 

Accountability and Enabling the Cycle

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

It has been proven time and time again within our society that change is possible, but requires a holistic effort in order to do so.

With the acceptance and perpetuation of gender roles, stereotypes, and Bro Culture, comes the inherent enabling of a cyclically harmful pattern of women’s oppression.

When a blind eye is turned or a double standard enacted, it continues the centuries-long tradition of placing the existence of men above women and perpetuates the ideology of how a woman should exist. 

I know that it sounds extreme, but in reality the repetitive instances of not holding men and boys accountable for their actions is like death by a thousand cuts. 

When I’m present to these instances, it makes me feel small. It reminds me that the people and world around me view my presence as second to men. It subconsciously reminds me and others of the gaping inherent and systemic difference in power between men and women.

These instances are small and quick. They go unacknowledged among a group of friends. They aren’t questioned, confronted, or even seen by bystanding adults. 

The lack of confrontation from any individual when these instances occur only enables and validates the actions of men. 

It is a direct result of how we have all been socialized. Women have been desensitized to instances of misogyny due to its abundance in our lifetime. This leads to a lack of motivation to address the issue and men aren’t phased because it flies above their emotional capacity to relate to and empathize with women.

From our male peers, it often comes in the form of belittling our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. As discussed above, it typically is in the form of jokes from male friends or overheard conversations in the hall, but it is not the degree of harm that’s the biggest problem — it’s the existence of these quips and comments that instill a reassertion of power.

I’ve observed instances of double standards here at La Salle, most often during sporting events. I’ve spectated many of these games, choosing to watch from the student section among my friends and peers. I wouldn’t trade the memories from this point of view for anything. Our student section’s dedication cannot be questioned, and the energy at high-stakes games is unmatched.

That being said, it is disheartening to witness sexist double standards in a setting of unity. It seems to be a repeated theme that girls are held to different expectations than boys when it comes to cheering from the stands. When boys repeatedly name-call or heckle at referees or opposing players, the threshold for how far they’re allowed to take it seems like a stark contrast compared to if a girl were to do the same thing. 

If a girl were to make a loud, direct comment at a referee or player, I’ve noticed that surrounding adults seem to respond with more criticism and disappointment than if a boy were to say or do the exact same thing. In the latter situation, a boy is met with a shake of the head, perhaps a chuckle, and a soft warning. 

Do you see the difference here? 

It is disappointment versus disapproval.

We are being held to different behavioral standards on the basis of our gender. 

The difference in response lies within the deeper patriarchal system that we are all too comfortable with.

Ignoring the misogynistic patterns of double standards, and accepting — and thus, enabling —  the damaging nature of  “boys being boys” is a small, small act. Yet each time a snide comment is made without a confrontation, it sends the message to girls and women that our existence is thought of as less than.

In Emma Pitman’s article titled “Ironic Sexism: The Male Gaze in Hipster Spaces” from a literary journal aimed at highlighting the voices and art from people on the margins of society; she discusses the areas in which she has found sexism in her daily life:

“It occurs in spaces and circles that I have ventured to expect more from. It rears its head during some otherwise enjoyable banter. It functions to remind me of the sexism I experience unironically. It asks me to laugh with it, and alienates me if I don’t, leaving me disappointed to the point of wondering if my optimism is a mistake; a naiveté I can’t afford.”

Don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you. Nobody is the exception to this problem.

It is a societal curse that needs to be broken. We all coexist with one another, so we all have a part to play in reconstructing our culture.

I can tell you from my own experience; we feel the comments made behind our backs, or directly to our face that solicit no outward reaction.

No matter the magnitude of individual instances of sexism or double standards, one theme remains true: every act of a man belittling a woman creates space for repetition. 

No act is isolated.

So long as we coexist, all actions remain interconnected. 

The joke isn’t harmless and it is a big deal.

Reflect. Speak up. 

Our ‘Why’

Despite the weight of our experiences, or depth of our argument, any time we speak up or confront our peers, friends, community or the world – no matter who is saying they’re listening — our voices are endangered to falling on deaf ears.

At times it feels like we are shouting, yelling “FIRE! FIRE!,” but everyone looks around, sees no fire in a room full of flames, and continues on. 

It’s exhausting. I don’t want to waste my breath, voice, writing, or time trying to convey to you that these things are real or that they hurt me.

Yet here we are. At the end of our petition on injustice — hours and hours spent thinking and rethinking about the ways in which we can convey our rage in a way digestible for the people that help perpetuate it.

In our confrontation of the sexist systems and culture that run our lives, we still are vulnerable to being written off — we are stepping out of the “Cool Girl” demeanor, risking the perception of our existence as being rigid, sensitive women who can’t take jokes.

We feel as though we are at our wit’s end. 

But, we still care. We care about our own wellbeing, men’s wellbeing, and the coexistence of the two. 

It is ingrained within us.

But it is so deeply unfulfilling to put so much energy into a one-sided relationship.

To those who have made it this far into our manifesto, our articulation of our frustration, we beg you to not only listen but hear us.

So, What Can Men Do To Change?

It is easy to make misogyny feel impersonal — generalized to the point where it feels out of your control. But here’s the thing: all of this is occurring right here, at La Salle, every single day. 

The women in our community are constantly experiencing misogyny — along with millions of other young girls in our world. 

The problem is local, national, and global. But, change starts on a grassroots level. And we must start changing.

It is absolutely necessary to remember that men are not inherently sexist. It is not a biological defect, nor an inevitable byproduct of gender. 

Young men are raised on a diet of misogyny. Thus, the harm they cause to women is learned.

So, it can also be unlearned.

To the men and boys reading this:

It is your responsibility to step up and evaluate your role in upholding aspects of our society that oppress women in their authentic state.

Femininity is not a weakness, nor should it be taught or thought of as such. Doing so villainizes women’s existence, and depreciates our presence in the world.

We are not inherently less than.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we write about our experience as women, nothing will change unless you choose to hear what we have to say.

Once again, in Megan Murphy’s article, discussing the limits of women’s empathy, she provides a powerful call for reflection: “Please meditate on how easily we accept women’s pain as collateral damage in men’s self-discovery.”

So, please, listen to the women around you. Hold their voices in high regard — the friends, the mothers, the teachers, and all other female figures you interact with — because too often, it comes from a place of pain, a place of not being heard.

Once you choose to fully listen, it comes time to self-reflect. It comes time to assess how you are using your power — how you genuinely treat women, without the blindfold of protection to dodge accountability. Do you belittle women to magnify yourself? Reflect honestly and authentically; it is OK if the answer is yes. We want acknowledgement and authenticity — that is the first step toward change. 

Finally, it’s time to act. Take what you know and exercise that knowledge by holding yourself and others accountable, for how your seemingly normal, everyday actions are impacting the women around you.

These problems are too rampant in our lives for us to be okay with their continuation. We won’t accept being treated as men’s subordinates. Women have carried the weight of men’s mistreatment for too long.

We are tired. 

We are exhausted.

Just as we see and feel all of the hurtful comments, the same can be said for the positive. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so any amount of change is good — but still, one good small action can never outweigh the thousands of other negative ones.

Nevertheless, the good adds up — but it must take a collective effort for us to overcome ourselves and finally be able to live as equals. 

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About the Contributors
Photo of Clare Daudelin
Clare Daudelin, Editor

Senior Clare Daudelin is a part of the National Honors Society, National Art Honors Society, and both the La Salle girls soccer and tennis teams.


Photo of Maya Raphael
Maya Raphael, Editor

Maya is currently a senior at La Salle. She spends a large portion of her time learning about a myriad of social justice issues but takes a particular...

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  • K

    Kamryn HoughtonMay 29, 2023 at 11:34 pm

    Ladies thank you for this insightful article. You share the pain of many and motivate men in a positive way. Great work! I loved it!

  • C

    Chris KrantzMay 25, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    There is so much to think about and talk about in this article. It truly deserves a full-unpacking (and with your permission, Clare and Maya, I’d like to include it in our class discussions of Things Fall Apart and Pedro Paramo next year). One of the important points you make with regard to Bro Culture resonates deeply: “When boys are together, the masculinity that they’ve been socialized to celebrate is safe-guarded by one another — creating a culture of power and dominance.” I have experienced this at every level of life (and I hate to tell you now that you’re leaving La Salle, I saw it at its worst in college). And it’s easy to see why it exists. Given the patriarchal constructs that have existed for thousands of years, it’s no wonder that so many men are so ill-equipped to do the kind of self-reflection and public examining that is required to make us more “thoughtful, empathetic, and sensitive people.”
    On a personal note, I grew up in a house with four brothers and a father steeped in the patriarchal mythology of the Canadian cowboy. Our mother passed away when we were just kids. Let me tell you, it took years, if not decades–and the influence of many kind and brilliant women–to shed the imprint of the kind of patriarchal thinking to which your article alludes. I wish I had had sisters like you two, Maya and Clare; I’m sure I would have learned to be a much better human being so much earlier in life. Once again, perhaps for the last time, we thank you for such exemplary work. You make us all proud.