255 Comments

I found out I was pregnant 6 weeks ago. As an adjunct professor, I knew I would need to work through labor, delivery, and post partum in order to keep paying our bills. I was extended 50% of my pay for 6 weeks as maternity leave. 50% pay would have been insufficient; I am our primary breadwinner. The sheer panic, terror, and incandescent rage I felt knowing I would not even get a week to care for my infant is hard to quantify. It made those early weeks of pregnancy the most stressful of my life. And I thought, almost daily, about a miscarriage or abortion for this very wanted pregnancy. Ultimately, nature (or the herculean amount of stress I was under) made the decision for me: I started miscarrying 12 days ago. And I was grateful.

The absolute lunacy that is the lack of paid family leave in America cannot be understated. Even being pregnant was wildly hard on my body. Moreover, it was something I could not grasp fully while we were simply "trying" to get pregnant, but something that became horrifying and desperation-making as soon as I *was* pregnant. Now, post miscarriage, I think we may choose to remain child free. The physical damage to the body, the lack of support for women, the lack of affordable child care, the collapsing climate all make motherhood one of the riskiest activities a woman can undertake today. And frankly, I'm not sure it's worth it. Unless, of course, you have the money. But really, people with money are the only people the American government wants having babies anyway.

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I am so sorry you went through this. Another reason we need paid family leave is postpartum depression. I had it after my first child was born, and it was really, really tough. I was lucky to have 12 weeks of paid leave and then an additional six months of unpaid leave. Without that and the support of family, I would probably have killed myself. Not exaggerating. Work culture right now is incompatible with pregnancy, the postpartum period, and family life. We need paid family leave like they have in every other developed country.

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Wow, I'm just so sorry about all of it. It should not be like this.

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I'm so sorry you went through this and I totally understand the feeling of being grateful.

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And also the lack of support for parents in academia, a place *ostensibly* filled with thoughtful, critical people, is just fucking wild.

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It’s all so awful and I am so sorry you are going through this. I feel so angry for you.

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All of the above -- and less coherently, i have been thinking a lot about cleaning (household cleaning mostly) and the tyranny of standards, especially as it's a way in which racial and gender hierarchies get reinforced. cleaning is never seen as care work. but it is. white women, especially progressives, are super cagey about talking about the support they can pay for, whereas it's taken-for-granted among men (mostly those who don't have women to do or negotiate this for them). likewise, i'm so impressed by my students (college grad and undergrad) who are pumped to talk about gender inequities and teach me phrases like "weaponized incompetence" and know so much and are less willing to put up with a lot, but then the women do a lot of care work, especially emotion labor, for men they know. the men "try" -- they're less likely to take up space in class than previous generations -- but they definitely are completely unaware of how much they expect their needs to be met in so many ways. when i don't call on them. when I spend less time on their paper. when I tell them their ideas need work. basically any time, I, an older woman, don't tell them they're amazing or fabulous for being "aware" of misogyny. and there's a way in which this all leads back to convenience -- I'm just not sure what it is, yet, but I hear a lot of men talking about being "inconvenienced," as if this is a benign or ordinary expectation.

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Weaponized incompetence is a fantastic concept. A few years ago I read a blog post by Joseph Heath (phil prof) about absentmindedness as domination. It was in the context of a university dept and making more work for your colleagues but I think it's a similar idea and probably even more applicable to home life.

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Working through this with spouse right now as we prepare for first baby. The emotional labor of educating spouse and calling out weaponized incompetence and persistently trying to address before that task gets exponentially harder is exhausting. (Also trying not to cry too much because hormones)

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In the same position, but I know so little about babies and my husband loves to plan and prepare and so has read three parenting books already to my 0, so I'm planning to weaponize my own incompetence ;)

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My husband did the bathing demonstration in our childbirth class and appointed himself chief bather, to the point that my kid isn't convinced I KNOW how to give him a bath? Suspect he knows that my baths would be less luxurious - yesterday, the little emperor had bath snacks (frozen blueberries), a candle, and my husband reading Beverly Cleary books while he lounged.

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The Little Emperor is now the name of my YA novel and I will credit you for this idea.

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That's what I did! I told him flat out that I am full time gestating and he needed to get the house ready and figure out how to keep an infant alive. It's worked very well (kid is three weeks old), except for the fact that I have no idea what stuff we have or where that stuff is (or what some of it is), but I'll figure it out as needed.

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Will report back.

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Godspeed. I'm rooting for you.

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Yes! This is why I think paternal leave is so important - the period between when he went back to work and I went back to work is where all of the "traditional mommy role" stuff got solidified. My husband went back to work after one week and I after six, so that extra month is where I had to learn to parent solo in a way that he never did (and frankly never will, unless somehow he manages to get a month-long vacation from work)

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Yes, yes, yes. So much of this isn't innate knowledge, it's just stuff you learn from reading books, watching youtube, trying different things, paying attention to what works. It's a process, but it's not something that women are inherently better at.

My husband is currently planning to take 12 weeks, because he works a flexible job (tech) with unlimited vacation. I can already tell right now that he thinks he will be able to sort of work and sort of take care of the baby and he's not setting the expectations that he'll be out, and he assumes I'll be there to help and pick up the slack. We both work from home right now. I'm making arrangements to get a co-working space near out house starting when I go back so that I physically can't swoop in to do the work for him, or he'll never learn. I am super nervous about this because I know we're setting ourselves up for conflict. In this instance, I think the conflict is going to be more effective than us arguing about it in the abstract now...(maybe this makes me a terrible communicator).

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I say some version of that all the time! "I wasn't born knowing this! I googled it"

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I complain to my therapist all the time that it feels like parenting is a team sport if I am in the house. I never have time off at home.

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YEP. I take a shower and get out to find my husband playing on his phone while our daughter is getting into everything.

When I'm sick, he won't take care of her in a different part of the house - he leaves her alone and she climbs into bed with me. I convince him to go to his parents' house so that I can get some time off.

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OMG THIS. The definition of "parenting" is So different for him. I come home from errands and he's on the laptop doing fantasy football while she watches TV. Which means, if "we" stick to our plan for limited screen time, it's on me to entertain her fully for my "shift" which also includes the time I need to prep and cook dinner. I'm so tired, all the time, and I know how lucky I am in so many ways and it only makes me more tired and there is no end to the tired and there is no way out for any of us.

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OMG. 100%. I called my husband out for not remembering (almost) anything I asked him to—like grocery items, my take-out order etc. He told me that he just couldn’t and that if I want him to remember things, I should “write it on a post-it for him”. So I..the other grown-up—also working a full-time job AND doing much of the childcare—should take the additional step, so as not to bog his brain down with extra “details”. It was completely unrealistic of me to expect him…a grown man…to remember Mayo at the store. To which I replied, “I am your wife, not your administrative assistant”

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"I am your partner not your administrative assistant" is said a lot around here.

It's amazing to me that they think our female brains are better at opening the fridge and doing a visual scan of what's there then updating a grocery list. My big lesson in working with men and being married to one over the last few years is that I can't step in to shield them from the negative consequences of their decisions and behavior. For my husband, thankfully it's smaller stakes like - maybe we just won't have the kind of yogurt you like for a few weeks until you can remember we need it.

From a fight earlier this week - "just make a list, and I'll do all the things on the list" - "there is a paper list, a google spreadsheet and a registry. you have access to all of these things." - "........."

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"I am your partner not your administrative assistant" is said a lot around here.

It's amazing to me that they think our female brains are better at opening the fridge and doing a visual scan of what's there then updating a grocery list. My big lesson in working with men and being married to one over the last few years is that I can't step in to shield them from the negative consequences of their decisions and behavior. For my husband, thankfully it's smaller stakes like - maybe we just won't have the kind of yogurt you like for a few weeks until you can remember we need it.

From a fight earlier this week - "just make a list, and I'll do all the things on the list" - "there is a paper list, a google spreadsheet and a registry. you have access to all of these things." - "........."

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I started pointing out every instance of when I was doing emotional labor to my male partner because it was a topic we had gone around and around on for a long time. He just "didn't see it" and so it was impossible to correct. Well, after casually and cheerfully calling out every time I was responsible for planning get-togethers with friends, for reminding him of his own parents' birthdays, for instigating thank-you texts or phone calls for gifts received, for being the de-facto payer of bills and taxes, for managing our shared calendar and being our project manager as a couple...he said "wow, is everything emotional labor?" I replied, "Sounds like you're starting to get it."

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Actually, that’s not emotional labor. It’s simply labor.

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Yeah the emotional labor is (in part) him making you prove it

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OMG, yes this!

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I also had to call my partner out on this. Our friends always text me because they know I'll respond in a timely manner and/or ask follow up questions and/or also be the one to text if my partner and I want to do something, the list goes on.

He would fall back on, "Well you're older than me," as if a three year gap can explain away basic social/household/etc. functions. The exhaustion was overwhelming!

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Yep. In his mind he just assumed that I was "naturally good" at this stuff which is why it didn't seem like emotional labor to him. Plus, it's another category where men get praised for doing the bare minimum while women get crap if they mess up.

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“Weaponized incompetence”! I fucking love Gen Z.

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My husband is constantly grumpy about having to clean anything … we have a 6 year old. He thinks she should clean up after herself independently. He also thinks he did this as a child. I am 100% sure my mother in law who was gone full time did all of this invisibly which now makes him believe parenting should be effortless and if I were somehow different / better

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Yes, it's amazing how much invisible cleaning my boomer mom (and lots of others) did! It made moving out on my own overwhelming, and cleaning is still something that is overwhelming to me as a 34 year old mom. Annoyingly, my mom doesn't empathize at all and falls under the "I suffered while doing it all as a mom and full time worker, so why do you struggle so much with it?"

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Yeah so much this. Also work was different for them (both of my child’s grandpas had union jobs with no work that came home with them, paid overtime etc) and made enough money that female partners working was a bonus or felt more optional. We both have graduate degrees and on some level have made career choices that prioritize some degree of satisfaction over high pay, but we are still not super satisfied and our standard of living is not much higher than our parents’.

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Yep, my parents and my in-laws worked jobs that didn't come home with them. They all had unions and pensions. My mom and mother-in-law were each able to take 10 years off from the workforce to stay home with their kids before going back full time.

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We’re just living parallel lives over here!

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Forever thankful for my mother. That woman would stand at the top of the stairs in our house and go, "What do I see?" after we said we were done picking up. That mentality of, "What do I see that's out of place?" has stuck by me for over two decades and is something I use on my partner. "Is that supposed to be there? No? Okay, then put it the f--- away."

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Ack my phone is being weird. Meant to add “then the house would just stay clean”

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Also meant to say she was home full time. Alas.

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Have you suggested that HE be the better parent and teach her how to clean then? Or do you worry he would yell at your daughter?

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Ahh yes. This leads to the next issue which is, I work in children’s mental health and in addition to that have spent like hundreds of hours on parenting blogs/forums/actually taken classes. He has gotten halfway through one book. So he tries to yell at her or put his foot down which ends in tears and toys taken away etc and doesn’t work, also. Then it’s a problem that “we’re not on the same page” but my friend, your page is the wrong one.

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Yes!

The number of times I've wondered, "Are my standards too high? Am I expecting too much?" are absolutely ridiculous. And my standards aren't that high: I just would like to come home to a house that is as tidy as when I was working from home (or at least close enough).

I've also had so many discussions about like..."Yeah, you did the thing, but I do the thing without being reminded and no one thanks me so why am I thanking you?" Exhausting.

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There are so many moments of "weaponized incompetence" or "weaponized ignorance" that take me back to a moment in high school. I was actually arguing with another woman who tried to tricky me and another woman into doing more than our fair share of the work (thinking we wouldn't compare notes). When called out, she countered with how it's only fair for me to do more work since I'm "so much better at economics" and I snapped and shouted at her in the middle of hte classroom, drawing every eye, "That comes from WORK! I DON'T HAVE MAGIC UNDERSTANDING ECONOMICS BEANS!" There have been so many times in my life since when I'm like: It's not a compliment that I'm good at something if you're only using it as an excuse to make me do it. I don't have magic beans.

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I am not a mother, so while I've experienced a lot of damaging misogyny my whole life, at 64, some of this I can empathize with but have not experienced as a non-parent. However, there's a certain special kind of misogyny reserved for older women who are not married and not mothers, and it too comes from everyone and everywhere, men and women alike. We have failed on every level to meet our perceived obligation as a woman, and usually it is just happenstance, not choice (though certainly my family labels it that way, as in "being alone is what she wanted, she's antisocial.") The stigma is real. We too have to do everything on our own, including paying for everything while still being underpaid in the workplace. There's a lot to say on this as well, and I wish that mothers felt more like allies in my own circumstances. Donna Ward's book "She I Dare Not Name" is an important contribution to making these women visible.

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Thank you for sharing your perspective, Lainie and for recommending Ward's book! You are so right about this unique type of misogyny you speak of and I'm starting to experience it firsthand. I'm also single and not a mother. Recently I was asked by a friend's son who is near my age (I'm 42), engaged to be married, but once divorced, "Why haven't you ever been married?...You seem really normal." I asked him, "Is having been married and divorced by 40 more fitting to your concept of 'normal' than never having been married at this age?" This isn't the first time I've gotten such a question, but it's the first time I had a smart reply. :)

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I got a Facebook message out of the blue from a high school acquaintance a couple years back that just said, "How the hell are you single? You're a good-hearted woman, smart, and beautiful?" I actually responded, "If this is a serious question, then the simplest answer is that I'm not opposed to a true partnership of equals with either a man or a woman, but I don't prioritize it enough to go out looking for it."

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Ugh, I hate that - when you can almost hear their brains searching for what's wrong with you that you're not visibly, performatively mated.

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Probably I should have not volunteered the emotional labor of explaining my existence to him.

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This is very relatable, Katy! With the unfortunate nature of things, we do at least get more than one chance to perfect our response. ;)

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I honestly cannot imagine saying some of the shit people say. But maybe I say other stupid shit that I am ignorant about and don't know it. I hope not. But I would NEVER say that to anyone?

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The mind reels, doesn't it?!

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I am 20 years younger than you and a widow and let me say ALL OF THIS. I was widowed when young and I did not want to marry again. And everything I have done - living and working in Europe, buying a house on my own, fixing it up on my own while on a lower end of IT pay, not wanting another marriage or children- seems to piss off or frighten married women of MY age.

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Yes. Married women and men alike often seem to think we're a threat and desperate to take their man away, which is offensive and ridiculous. I'd just like to have some community and not feel stigmatized because I'm not defined by a husband or children or grandchildren. I've learned this year how much I relied on at least having the support of a good job and good benefits and a collegial workplace, and a good long-term landlord, all now lost to the pandemic.

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Yes! I am deeply fortunate in a way in that I do have a cultural safety net in Afro-Caribbean/African American culture of an 'auntie' so I have cousins to fall on, and I do have friends across the color spectrum who lived lives of chosen family, and this year having the chosen family have never been so important.

The whole 'stealing a man' is WHEW. It's not only offensive, but laughable- because of after widowhood and singledom, the idea of a man occupying my space for more than a weekend is now intolerable to me.

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thanks so much for recommending this book! I read this creepy article in the Guardian recently on so-called "femcels," constructed there as a female counterpart to "incels" but, and this will shock you, without the bitterness, anger, violence, and entitlement of the latter community. Can you imagine?!!? Women, single and not really into casual sex so therefore "celibate," just kind of... going on with their lives? It was such a ridiculous conceit, that there was any parallel there. (And in the Guardian, really?)

I do have kids but also have zero close friends who also have kids. I realize now that it's because I don't feel any support for myself as a woman, full stop, among other parents--just varying approaches to these absurd standards for mothers, but always tiresomely cognizant of them. With child-free friends we're all still ourselves; we talk about politics, culture, what we're reading, etc. I don't have to commiserate about the ways I meet or don't meet the demands with which I'm in contact every other moment of my life. Anyway, I hope this doesn't make you feel like just a means to my self-realization rather than an end in yourself, but know that there are plenty of mothers who understand that women like you are our past and our future and we desperately want to maintain our connection with you/our non-service-role-relative selves whenever we can. I also think it's really important that my young sons spend substantial time around women who are not mothers or babysitters or teachers. Motherhood is a terminal condition but a relatively briefly visible one.

Just a few days ago I was discussing with a friend this concept of invisibility being inversely related to a woman's perceived distance from some imaginary peak of the "childbearing" years. For her this decreased visibility as a sexual object correlates with professional success, so it's a positive phenomenon. I don't have that kind of career so I can't say what effect I feel my plummeting perceived desirability has had in that sphere but I can say it makes me feel more at ease generally in public.

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Thank you! It's hard to just be a person, it seems, if you're female. And to be clear, I did want to be a mother. And I came very close to marrying, twice. I was pretty old when I really began to understand my own trauma and dysfunctional mother and why those relationships ended, so if I could have lived my life differently, I certainly would have. But as a teenager in the 70s getting my charter subscription to Ms. magazine, I don't think I imagined that decades later I would be perceived to have no value because I didn't marry or have children. I thought choice and the ability to be human was what we were fighting for, but somehow everything now is more constrained than ever, the rules more rigid, the tightrope we all have to walk higher than ever with no safety net.

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"Motherhood is a terminal condition but a relatively briefly visible one" wow, so true.

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Thank you for your comment and book recommendation! I have never married, have no children, in my 50s and I often feel invisible. I started to read a well-reviewed book about Burn Out, but stopped 1/3 in because it was SO geared towards working wives/moms, and really seemed to be about surviving being a working mom. It erased me and reified a misogynistic system--and it was written by two women! IAlso, I just came home from a weekend trip with 5 amazing women I've known for over 20 years. We meet up annually, they are all married with children and I often leave our time together feeling invalidated, less-than, or erased in these really small pernicious ways. I don't have the language to describe it (yet) and so it feels like I'm being difficult or sensitive, and I end up feeling worse about myself. It feels sad because I love these friends so much, and I know it's all unconscious, but I think they just cannot relate to me. Perhaps they think I'm selfish or lazy or lucky or strong, but I'm none of those things to exclusion. Just as they aren't. (Also, the feminist in me is bored of hearing about all the ways their husbands/partners are going to successfully or unsuccessfully care for their own children of, at this point, 13+ years.)

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Hi KM, I understand. It's just such a strange position to find ourselves in, and you've expressed it eloquently. "Perhaps they think I'm selfish or lazy or lucky or strong, but I'm none of those things to exclusion. Just as they aren't." Perfectly said.

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(oops--Also, the feminist in me is bored of hearing about all the ways their husbands/partners are going to successfully or unsuccessfully care for their own children of, at this point, 13+ years while their wives are gone for a whopping 72 hours)

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Nov 7, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Misogyny looks like me suffering a catastrophic leg injury and my spouse being unable to take even a single day off from upper management corporate job to care for me following my surgery & hospitalization for fear of how it would be received by his superiors. However, it was totally acceptable for him to take a few days off to take a long-planned weekend with his college buddies. Let me be clear: he had canceled the weekend with the buddies, and I chose to arrange friends and family caregivers for myself to offer him respite from the grind of caregiving while working full time and taking up the household and parenting responsibilities. It was just astonishing to me - the unspoken rules of acceptable PTO (boys weekend) and unacceptable PTO (caregiving) in the context of a high-earning corporate job with all-female superiors.

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Yep. My husband had to go back to work for an emergency TWO DAYS after I gave birth to my daughter. He had two weeks of vacation set aside for paternity leave but he was denied the second week off because "they needed him". I NEEDED HIM!

I'm angry about it again with all of the talk of denied national paid leave. His company prides themselves on their Roman Catholic heritage, too. It's run by older white men so of course they don't see their behavior as problematic.

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This comment leaves me torn between two things that simultaneously rattle around in my head: first, the need for more people to bring our “full selves” to work and be clear about how responsibilities in our personal lives affect how/when we can work (I.e. a CEO sharing that they need to leave every day at 4 to do school pick up goes a long way to normalizing childcare responsibilities provided other employees are granted the same flexibility). I feel like the pandemic has made it very clear to employers that we have full lives beyond our work-selves, but maybe not enough?

And second, that you absolutely do not need to justify your PTO. It’s an employment benefit and you’re entitled to it and you should take it for whatever reasons your desire, period, full stop.

Either way Liz, I have second hand anger on your behalf about this situation because your husband should have absolutely requested and taken those days off to care for you. :(

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Curious if people think these unspoken roles on PTO apply the same way for women in higher-earning corporate jobs (obviously far fewer women in this category). Is a girls’ weekend acceptable? Is caring for a child/spouse acceptable for of PTO if you are a woman?

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Girls weekend, yes. Care for work, no. In the part of tech I inhabit it feels like there’s pressure to use your PTO almost ostentatiously (I am a high level IC and there’s something of a hacker/artist stereotype at play there. My peers (of both genders but worse for women) who manage people at a similar level find it much harder to take time off)

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Weirdly, yes, a girl's weekend is more acceptable because it means you are using vacation time for an actual vacation, rather than the uncomfortable reality that instead you are using time off labelled as vacation for something unfun like caregiving.

As someone who has chronic health issues, this is something I have encountered in all three of the jobs I've held since I was diagnosed in 2016. It's because no one wants to admit that the pitiful allowance of sick leave isn't enough for everyone nor do they want to change it.

It made my last employer super uncomfortable that I never took a full week's vacation in the 3+ years I was there. Trust me, I really wanted to, but I had to use all of my vacation for sick leave. They awkwardly questioned the four long weekends I did take in those three years for vacation time as well - "are you sure you want to do that considering your typical leave pattern?" Like I wasn't allowed to take a long weekend because what if I got sicker than usual!

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Ugh, the double standard--also, there is the expectation that one takes a "vacation" and comes back rejuvenated and ready to be overworked and undercompensated some more. If you use that time, instead, to try to care for yourself or recover from a worsening of symptoms, it make sit harder for your bosses to feel entitled to your labor in this unjust system.

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This is so good and (speaking as one of these dudes) provides really crucial texture for the variety of cis stright guy who would think "oh, I support leave policies and a revolution in child care and also I pitch in around the house... i'm already with you." While the policy lessons are really important (and we need more men to support them), you can't push for social change without excavating all the cultural/rhetorical tentacles that make the current system so pernicious.

As I read this, it reminded me of how, one of the key factors that enabled Sweden to build and sustain the world's most comprehensive childcare/leave/family support policies was that its system was originally designed, in large part, by a feminist sociologist (Alva Myrdal) who was OBSESSED with all the little ways that both the physical space of the Swedish home as well as the spiritual space of social interactions reinforced misogy and the idea that women were handcuffed to unpaid familial care work. She knew it was going to take more than a single law to transform "how" Swedes viewed women's role. She then put all her research both into proposals like leave policies and child-based UBI but also into the design of public housing, creating the idea of, as she put it "a 'kollektivhus' an ideal family hotel with cooperative organization to take care of your material needs and unload your [sole] responsibility for your offspring."

That's to say: shout out to feminist sociologists and also shout-out to the kind of pieces that shed the light on all the corners we have to rethink.

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Garrett YES! Also tell me where to read more about this, please.

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Alva Myrdal: The Passionate Mind by Yvonne Hirdman (https://bookshop.org/books/alva-myrdal-the-passionate-mind/9780253351326 ) and The Swedish Experiment in Family Politics: Myrdal and the Interwar Population Crises by Allan Carlson (https://bookshop.org/books/the-swedish-experiment-in-family-politics-myrdals-and-the-interwar-population-crises/9780887382994). I learned about both those sources from Keith Murphy's excellent "Swedish Design: An Ethnography" but Myrdal has more of a cameo appearance in that one.

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Nov 7, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Anyone else in corporate America see this shit come up constantly in women’s affinity groups? I work at a professional services firm and occasionally join the women’s groups meetings.

First of all, *every* topic of discussion only focuses on motherhood. Obviously there’s a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of “women in the workplace” and “working moms” but it’s wild to me that women cannot have identities beyond motherhood, even in places where they’re supposed to be valued for their skills and professional contributions. I also know it’s easier for companies to pat themselves on the back for for being good to women by doing something like extending parental leave from X weeks to Y weeks than it is to acknowledge and combat sexism, harassment, and implicit bias.

Plus, even the motherhood-focused topics are things that shouldn’t be relegated to women’s only spaces. Recently my women’s group announced that they’re creating a part-time return to work option for those returning from partners leave. Why is no one giving the dads this option? Why isn’t this being announced in the company town hall meeting instead of the women’s affinity group Zoom call with 20 people on it? How will women actually feel comfortable taking it if their male counterparts are discouraged from it?

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I'm a freelancer, so I don't encounter this too much, which is maybe why I was caught off guard a couple weeks ago by a Twitter chat hosted by a professional organization in my field. The topic was how to prepare your business for you to take planned and unplanned leave, and I was looking forward to it because I haven't had an actual break in ages and would like to feel equipped to schedule a week off at some point, but the discussion ended up being like 75% parental leave (all or almost all moms) and 25% family vacations. For me as a single woman with no dependents and no concept of work/life balance (because I have to work too much to get by financially without a partner), it ended up reinforcing my jerkbrain feeling that I don't deserve time off work because I would only be using it to take care of myself and not anyone else. OOF.

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THIS! THIS! THIS!

I decided to stop participating in a group that referred to themselves as ‘change makers’ when the topics/sessions all started looking like:

Statistics about women’s burnout at work/home. Learn ‘resilience tactics’ or ‘self care strategies’ to help cope.

The subtext here being… learn resilience because this workplace surely won’t change! Take care of yourself away from here because we won’t make space for you to say no!

The most noxious thing being that C-level women from Boomers to Millennials were picking the topics and presenting. Internalized misogyny runs rampant in these groups.

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Yep! At one job in a large city we got complimentary gym memberships for 3 months at a gym 3 blocks away to deal with stress/burnout, but those had to be used on our own time. I used a commuter bus that only ran a few times a day, so that membership was worthless to me. Honestly I feel like the gym knew this would be unusable to so many workers, which is why they were happy to give them away.

It would have been so much more useful if we could have taken a long, paid break to use them even just once or twice a week!

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Appreciate this perspective so much! The women’s network at my company recently announced a panel on “work life balance”. I was pretty enraged when I saw that of the three panelists, the two women did not have children, but the man on the panel did. Maybe good to show some balance this way!

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I feel like one big, overarching, *exhausting* thing that a few comments here touch on but that no one has stated explicitly is this: We women do so much emotional labor with one another that is specifically about navigating misogyny and its impact on our lives.

• The endless conversations we have about shitty men -- or even just blah, checked-out men who don't participate in their own lives as husbands, fathers, or just people -- reassuring one another that no, what he did/said/didn't do/didn't say wasn't okay, trying to haul a friend back from gaslighting herself over his behavior, etc.

• The discussions we have about our health, whether/how to deal with doctors who don't trust our own assessments of our bodies/pain, trying to decide whether/how to treat a medical issue when there might be a total lack of research into it because it's something that only impacts women.

• The professional organizations/committees we volunteer our time and efforts for in order to counteract the misogyny we face in our work.

Of course, we love our friends and we want to help where/when we can. But we could all be having so much more enriching *fun* with our friends if we didn't need to do this *work* with one another all the time.

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The amount of relationships and whole MARRIAGES that have been saved, or at least extended, because of girlfriends looking out for each other and forming emotional support groups!

Monetizing relationships is bad but some of us deserve gift cards for being substitute therapists.

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THIS. I half joking have said I should start charging $40/h to be an Agony Aunt!

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Uffda, this is a lot to take in. I have never considered my closest friendships in this context, but yeah the amount of time and energy we spend helping each other navigate hostile systems and situations is staggering. I really need to sit with this for a bit... I feel like a secret image just popped out of a Magic Eye drawing??

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Very much agree with this. I mean - there is so much good television out there and navigating "shitty (male) bosses/shitty (male) spouses/shitty (male) persons of authority" is still taking up so much of our social space with one another........where there is SO MUCH GOOD TELEVISION WE COULD BE DISCUSSING. (sort of joking on the last point but also totally serious)

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well, you basically described how I feel today after spending way too much time writing comments and replies about those very things. I've spent so much emotional labor and work on navigating misogyny and its impact on our lives in this comment section :(

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All. Of. This. All of it!

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founding

The thing that I wrestle with (despite knowing full well it is utter misogynistic bullshit!) is how still being single in my late thirties feels like a failure. I KNOW that the toxic way society treats women who remain unpartnered is the mechanism by which the patriarchy tries to trap women in the unpaid caretaking labor of marriage/ motherhood. And yet…! Aside from specific spaces (shoutout Spinster CS), the tone is always that there’s something I’m doing wrong, and need to correct, that I’m essentially failing or undesirable as a woman/ not trying hard enough/ being too picky.

And as someone who genuinely seeks partnership and would love a great relationship, it’s really hard sometimes to separate out what I want and why vs what every cultural product / society has been telling me for my entire life.

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Just turned 40, "very" single, which had never been what I would have pictured for myself at this age. I get frustrated with being excluded from a lot of discussion about "You aren't a mother, you wouldn't understand" as if being single and childless were entirely a choice to be "less" of a woman, and not just how things have worked out in my life. Or "You're lucky you don't have kids because..." as if I don't often think about how that door is either closing or closed. On one hand, I think there are plenty of ways to lead a fulfilling single life, but in other ways, it's not like it's what I set out to do.

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Preach!

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My wife was told at a gynaecology appointment last week that she would not be considered for a hysterectomy because someday her sexual orientation might change, she might divorce me, marry a man, and want to have his baby. This was at an appointment where she cried and told this man that she spends one week in every four wishing she was dead because her pain is so unbearable, and where she still only asked for a hysterectomy to be considered as a final resort after trying everything else. The potential that an imaginary man might someday want to use her body as an incubator weighed so much heavier than her own life and wishes. And it was completely impossible, of course, to write off the idea that this woman (who's known she was a lesbian since she was seven years old and has been with me for five years) might end up back with a man.

(If this story sounds familiar to anyone it's because her tweet on this recently went viral and has led to stories in Buzzfeed and several other places)

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I'm incandescent with rage reading this. To deny your wife the bodily autonomy to choose for herself and to resolve her suffering is deeply dehumanizing.

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I saw your wife’s tweet on instagram, and I did appreciate how she neatly sums it up this absolute garbage of “medical care.” I really, really hope it continues to go viral so that lots more people will see how many layers there are to the ridiculousness.

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That is unconscionable. I have endometriosis and without the compassionate medical care I have received, I would be debilitated. Burdening women with menstrual pain or disorders is not medical care, it is abuse. I wish your wife so well on the road to finding the medical care she deserves.

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My husband died almost two years ago (Jan. 30, 2020). I am still struggling with my grief over his death, which was painful and extended and could not be alleviated or stopped, and my anger, my fury over the absence of any concern for me. Extraordinary emotional pain. Physical pain--I wear a back brace and was wholly unable to care for him at home. Told I "did not love him," despite the fact that during 54 years of marriage, I was the family support while he went to schools and worked part-time in the ART WORLD, waiting for the big chance that never came, volunteering for boards of art institutions in order to "create a network" that did shit. Raising two kids, and wasn't he a grand house-husband, taking the two children to school, participating big-time in the parent-teacher association ("Why couldn't you come to your daughter's dance recital, Mrs. D? She was lovely." (BECAUSE I WAS WORKING MAYBE.) Because he got all the social and familial accolades, while I scrounged for ways to help a child deal with life-threatening behavior.

And my shame, my self-disgust for accepting this role, the woman who could do EVERYTHING and why? Why did I think that was a good thing? Why did I think, during the Women's Liberation movements, that I should, much less could, do all of this? It wasn't liberation. It wasn't feeling empowered. It was feeling burdened more so, and wasn't he so good to hire someone to clean and mop. I am educated, intelligent, and very sad. I enabled this.

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You deserve to give yourself compassion and understanding and pride in what you did in a difficult context.. If you had pushed back against it all, there would have been a price to pay for that too, and you made the best decisions you could. I don't mean to lecture or give unasked-for advice, I just understand that voice of self-punishment, at 64. It's a hard journey sometimes, and you deserved better.

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Thank you for that kindness.

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I have written and deleted my comment three different times, but this is just to say YES. I love my husband and he's a good partner and parent, but all those fiddly little things that fall into my lap, I wish he would think to pick some of them up without me having to ask him and then he makes excuses. We're out of cheese so we can't have tacos tonight? Well, I don't get home until 9pm and you have a car... oh, no, nevermind, no tacos, you'll just find something else to eat. You won't drive two miles to the store to buy a gd block of cheddar but you'll expect me to grab it after I've been out of the house for 13 hours. If the kids' room is messy, ask them to pick up one kind of thing and put it away? No, okay, whatever, we'll just step over piles of stuffed animals and books instead of you taking the time to hang out in there and keep an eye on them. If you don't like what I planned for a kid's birthday, you're welcome to take over the entire task of planning a 7yo's birthday during a pandemic. It's not even weaponized incompetence, it's just "I don't want to expend effort that way", but he will spend two hours working out, which is far more effort than buying the fucking cheese.

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I know this feeling so well. I walk around our house and I see the things my husband doesn't see...and I wonder how I see it so differently than he does? It's like I am a docent and our home is a confusing modern art museum that my husband finds incomprehensible. But sometimes I walk with him through the gallery of shit I see that he doesn't, and a small epiphany occurs. I will think of you the next time I run out of cheese. All my best to you.

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Ugh, yes. This morning I noticed in the fridge that we are out of prune juice. My husband poured the last of it for her this morning but didn't tell me. He's not going to pick it up on his way home from work, either - he'll just magically expect that I'll know and pick it up. And if he doesn't, like has happened in the past, he'll wait for me to find out tomorrow morning and then get annoyed when I send him to the grocery store before work to get it. Prune juice isn't a luxury, it's so our daughter has regular bowel movements! It pisses me off that this stuff is staring him in the face but he'll expect me to do something about it.

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Misogyny looks and feels like calendar invites, or lack of them. My husband is a lawyer, and his calendar is full of meetings, phone calls, "important" things. Who is sending me a calendar invite to laundry? Dishes? CVS runs for cold medicine? I make my own calendar invites for school drop-off and pick-up, but do I just schedule the rest of the my day too? Do I even want to see what that looks like? Whole blocks of necessary tedium?

Listen, I don't have anything against calendar invites on the face of them, but the way we value certain tasks over others makes me want to throw my phone off a ledge. My husband's meetings, and therefore time, is untouchable. Since my calendar remains mostly unscheduled, my time belongs to the universe. It can beckon me at any minute to grocery shop, schedule after-school activities, etc. If I was going to go for a run for some much needed quiet and reasons? No big deal, I can be flexible, I AM flexible. Just send me a calendar invite.

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this is so real. calendars feel like mundane tools but what they signal and reinforce about our time and who should handle what ends up controlling us.

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I once explained that as a "flexible" person, what that really means is that my stuff is the first scanceled, and last prioritized. I'm always working around everyone else's needs.

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Exactly, Liz. I am working on being made of firmer stuff. Not inflexible, but not so easily swayed.

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I did this my whole life, with regrets at 78. So, here is some tough love. Make a hard copy PUBLIC VISIBLE calendar. Include all those VERY important TIME-CONSUMING things you just mentioned, IF you still want to do them. Also, include some appointments for YOU. Take time to think about your passions, your needs, your wants. Schedule them, like a theater date, a fashion show, a concert--any kind of concert. Shopping for you. Take a class. If not enough time is left for the OTHER THINGS, negotiate. What you do for your family is work. UNPAID work in the mind of society, the family, the partners who expect it of us. Who will tell you that the family IS the payment. If you can negotiate this first, with yourself (it will be very hard; you are breaking taboos) and then with your husband, at the very least you can gain self-respect. You might consider the cost of household help. See if that leads somewhere. Hard fo the lawyer, but hard(er?) for you. Only we can change it.

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As a professional home organizer for the past eleven years, I've done all client intake for the company. Countless hundreds of people (overwhelmingly upper middle class women) have opened up to me on the phone about the expectations they are not quite meeting. I'm so used to talking these women through the guilt of hiring help with keeping their homes tidy and presentable that I only notice it when a man calls. Men have zero guilt, without exception. They are actually emotionally easier to work for because we don't have to dance around their own disappointment in themselves for not being able to "do it all".

Women, on the other hand, are relentless in our judgement of each other/ourselves and our homes.

Relieving others' stress by decluttering is rewarding to me and my team, sure. But we are constantly facing the challenges of showing these over worked, under appreciated people that asking for help IS taking care of the situation.

Your piece here today goes deeper still. And I don't know how to even *start* to bring up this next level of misogyny with clients...

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The best years of my adult life where when I decided to embrace being a picky bitch (I'm pretty particular about a lot of things), and then a spooky bitch (I love Gothic novels, death positivity, horror, etc). Not apologizing for what I like, or explaining why I was into something, was incredible.

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When I first started dating my husband he would mention occasionally that his dad had been particularly active in taking on traditionally female-owned household tasks (laundry, etc). As I got to know my now in-laws, I was a bit shocked by how…not true that characterization was from my female perspective. Even now that my father-in-law is retired, my mother-in-law (who is still working) makes dinner for both of them every night, does most grocery shopping, handles all social engagements, does all of the “project management” for their lives, etc. It makes me wonder how many of the men in my millennial cohort profess to be open to equal division of labor without a true understanding of what that means. My husband is thankfully a willing participant in improving our balance but it’s a work in progress.

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Wow, yes to absolutely all of this. I used to work at a museum where there was a group called "Women in Science" and I still remember the time one of the older scientists said that in many ways, she had an easier time when the sexism was much more overt 30 years ago because she could point to it and name it in a way that's difficult now. That's really stuck with me through the years.

I'm often infantilizated; I'm a short, "cute" woman who is assumed to be young and inexperienced though I'm 31 and have owned a business, held senior roles in the museum world, and work as a freelance writer. It's frustrating and demeaning and yet it's also given me opportunities I likely wouldn't have gotten otherwise. There is a certain type of older white man in many C-suite level positions of power who often sees his daughter or granddaughter in me and transmits affection accordingly (and/or there is a sexual element to his attention, which is disgusting and so much to unpack when considered with the aforementioned point.)

I've worked under Gen X and boomer bosses who were women that came up in boys' clubs and had long ago decided the way to cope was to work twice as hard and make almost no noise so as not to remind anyone that they are, in fact, women. This means not advocating for themselves and the women who work under them, yes, but I also saw again and again how it meant staying silent in moments of racial discrimination in policy or leveled at colleagues.

It's much harder to argue these points because on an individual level they can often be explained away. It's only taken as a whole that their full impact is truly on display. It's a much harder, more nuanced conversation to have, and I'm so grateful you're calling it out here.

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Nov 7, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Thank you so much for all of this. Another aspect of misogyny that I find in my life is the ways I see people in my professional community behave. Women are often supportive of one another, absolutely - unless they have a lot of power over other people in some way (this is especially true of white, cis, straight, able-bodied women, as you've mentioned here). Meanwhile, the boys' clubs of the literary and journalism-adjacent and academic spheres that I spend a lot of time in still absolutely exist, but they're more subtle. Women (cis and trans alike) and nonbinary people are often excluded from intellectual conversations occurring between men. Women allowed into those conversations rarely pull other women up with them. The intellectual spheres of masculinity are still alive and well with all that entails: the ideas that (so-called) logic, critique, disdain, and snootiness are more intellectually rigorous than compassion, sincerity, excitement, or praise. The idea that being truthful equals being ruthless. It's exhausting, the ways that masculine-coded ways of thinking and being within professions are still highly seen as professional and correct and objective, while feminized/feminine-coded ways of thinking and being within these same professions are seen as weak, un-rigorous, overenthusiastic, etc.

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In the academic sphere, I felt that I couldn't critique an argument in the "right" tone. I was either too soft or too hard. There was absolutely no correct way for me to practice my craft. No problem for the dudes, though.

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