This list/essay was originally published in the radical feminist anthology Sisterhood is Powerful in 1970. Unfortunately because of copyright issues I can’t reproduce the whole thing here, but I was chuffed to find it available on the net, courtesy of the Duke University online archive.

It’s heartening to see that we appear to have made some progress since the anonymous author compiled the list; but it’s a shame that so much has also stayed the same for women in the 30+ years since it was written.

Some snippets:

“Woman is:

—being labeled a tomboy when all you wanted to do was climb that tree to look out and see a distance.

—hating boys–because they’re allowed to do things you want to do but are forbidden to–and being told hating boys is a phase.

—feeling proud of and disgusted by your own body, for the first, but not last, time.

—feeling basically comfortable in your own body, but gradually learning to hate it because you are: too short or tall, too fat or thin, thick-thighed or big-wristed, large-eared or stringy-haired, short-necked or long-armed, bowlegged, knock-kneed, or pigeon-toed–something that might make boys not like you

—masturbating like crazy and being terrified that you’ll go insane, be sterile, turn into a whore, or destroy your own virginity.

—having your first real human talk with your mother and being told about all her old hopes and lost ambitions, and how you can’t fight it, and that’s just the way it is: life, sex, men, the works–and loving her and hating her for having been so beaten down.

—being bugged by men in the office who assume that you’re a virginal prude if you don’t flirt, and that you’re an easy mark if you are halfway relaxed and pleasant.

—coming home from work–and starting in to work: unpack the groceries, fix supper, wash up the dishes, rinse out some laundry, etc., etc.

—feeling responsible for more lives–your kids’ as well as your man’s–but never, never your own life.

—learning to hate other women who are: younger, freer, unmarried, without children, in jobs, in school, in careers–whatever. Hating yourself for hating them.

—getting older, getting lonelier, getting ready to die–and knowing it wouldn’t have had to be this way, after all.”

That last one is just so sad; I’m absolutely determined not to let it happen to me.

Anyway, I was thinking about what would be in the list if it was written in 2008 rather than 1970:

Woman is

—Doing better than the boys at school, but still earning less than them once you’re in work.

—Being responsible for the childcare, whether that means giving up your own job or finding a nursery/childminder.

—Feeling guilty whatever childcare option you choose.

—Being told that you’re unnatural/selfish if you decide not to have children.

—Wondering whether to get that boob job/face lift/liposuction/designer vagina/collagen treatment, ‘cos suddenly you’re looking older than other women your age, and they’ve all had a “little help” to look that way, so why shouldn’t you?

—Trying to teach your daughters that none of that shit matters, and realising just how hard it is to do that when everything they see on the tv/in magazines/in the msm/on the Internet is telling them something else.

—Getting raped and being made to feel it was all your fault because of the way you dressed, the amount you drank or whatever.

—Being subjected to domestic abuse and finding you have nowhere to turn, because your immigration status is insecure and you have no recourse to public funds.

—Being subjected to domestic abuse/rape or some other form of male violence and learning that people care more about donkeys than they do you.

—Daring to dream that a woman can make it as far as the US presidency, then realising it was just a dream.

—Having to fight for rights you thought were yours already, like the right to a safe legal abortion, or the right to equal pay.

Feel free to add to your own suggestions in the comments.

And for those who like lists, Andrea Rubenstein has drawn up a pretty comprehensive one illustrating why we’re nowhere near to being equal yet over at Shrub.com.

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