The Emotional Pay Gap & The Joys Of Womanhood
I’m frequently reminded how much I love being a girl. If it’s not Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, it’s Brené Brown’s Call To Courage. If it’s not Brené Brown’s Call To Courage, it’s Joan Didion’s 1961 essay On Self-Respect. If it’s not Joan Didion’s On Self-Respect, it’s Tracee Ellis Ross’s My Life Is Mine. And if it’s not Tracee Ellis Ross’s My Life Is Mine… it’s TikTok.
No, seriously. Have you seen us on TikTok lately?? Who gave us permission to be this cute and funny?!
On TikTok, it’s the women, not the men, who make me snort and cackle and squeal. It’s the comedy queens – not kings – who remind me that, sadly, sexuality isn’t a choice because there is no way a person in their right mind would choose to be with a man if they could choose to be with a woman. We’re just too entertaining! Too witty! Too clever! Guys will post a twelve-second TikTok about blacking out on bourbon and think they’re Dave fucking Chapelle, but women, on the other hand, will somehow fit an entire dissertation on the commodification of the female body or the toxicity of misogynists who believe that masculinity is the rejection of femininity into a sixty-second clip that simultaneously makes you pee your pants with laughter and want to dump your boyfriend.
We have the patience of saints and the strength of Greek Gods. Only women know what it’s like to wake up with a UTI from Satan and go to work with nothing but a Pump bottle of cranberry juice and a prayer to Jesus. Only women know what it’s like to deliver a presentation at work wearing a pair of knickers stuffed with cheap toilet paper in place of a proper sanitary pad and clenched butt cheeks. And only a woman can breastfeed her newborn child in her nation’s parliamentary chamber while still fulfilling her duties as a senator.
On a recent episode of podcast mini-series Sentimental In The City, Dolly Alderton reminded me of another reason why I love us: Our capacity for intimacy. In the episode, Dolly took to task the lie that we’ve been sold that “all women are obsessed with being in relationships, and all men are obsessed with being single.” She explained why, in fact, because of our capacity to cultivate intimacy in the non-romantic relationships in our lives, as we get older we actually become more comfortable and fulfilled and content in our singleness, whereas the older men get the more insecure and lonely and incapable they are of being alone because they don’t have that intimacy in their platonic relationships and therefore need to cultivate it elsewhere. What it boils down to, Dolly said, is “an emotional pay gap”.
And the more I think about it the more I agree: Women, naturally, have more intimacy in their lives. And I don’t mean the romantic or sexual kind, I mean the intimacy we have with our sisters and friends and flatmates. I’d argue that we have more softness and coziness and vulnerability in our friendships than men have in theirs. There is not a single confession or fear that I would hesitate to share with one of my friends or sisters. In an entry-level conversation with my flatmates, it is not uncommon for us to cover off our fears of infertility, vibrators, whether or not to freeze our eggs, the state of our menstrual cycle, negotiating a pay rise and childhood trauma all within the space of a television ad break. And that’s not even on a Friday! Or with alcohol!
As Dolly mused in her advice column for The Times last year, “I think Mother Nature gave women their friendships as a token of consolation: “It’s going to be rough,” Mother Nature said, “…but you’ll have each other for solace and solidarity.” Sisterhood is survivalist.”
There is so much we don’t have: Autonomy over our bodies. Equal pay for equal work. The freedom to walk home alone after a night out. And there’s so much we have to worry about: Biological clocks. Bleeding through our knickers. Peeing after sex. So, actually, you know what? Fuck it. We deserve the emotional pay gap. I hope it never closes.
It’s ours, ladies. We’ve earned it.