When PolicyMic editor Elena asked me to come up with a list of underrated advantages to being a woman, I was pretty excited. It sounded like a topic that could merit both humor and insight, and that turned out to be the truth.
As I've done many times for other stories I've written, I turned to my network of friends and colleagues to query them on this very interesting question. Some of the answers were pretty funny, which I greatly appreciate because I believe the world is a cruel, harsh place for those who are unable to laugh, especially at themselves. Others were quite interesting, thought-provoking, even touching. Here's what we came up with:
Particularly in the dog days of summer, when men are often forced to roast in pants and long-sleeved shirts, we ladies have the option of sleeveless blouses and airy dresses. And don't even get me started on formal wear. Just look at Oscar night — a plethora of colors, cuts, shapes and jewels. The men? Generally some variation on the black tuxedo — not that most men don't look smashing in a classic black tux, but they don't stand out as much.
Even when the rest of the world has to keep it together. Also, that gave me an excuse to include a Nick Miller joke. And, really ...
As a female, I never had to worry about having to hold a textbook over my lap during puberty (this video was one of the highlights of my 7th grade biology class), and I've never been given the Jon Hamm treatment.
"But people just stare at your breasts instead," a friend pointed out.
True. But as long as they are respectful about it, I don't get hot and bothered. By all means, don't blatantly ogle or leer, don't make comments, etc., but when I make an effort to display what God and Victoria (she of the Secret, not the queen) gave me, a subtle (subtle!), appreciative glance is not unfounded.
4) We're not perceived as threats...
Yes, this can have its disadvantages as well, but since this list is focused on the positive, let's be glass-half-full, eh? This weekend, for example, a couple of elderly Chinese ladies were having trouble entering the subway because they were swiping their cards too slowly. They allowed me to assist them, possibly because I have a face like a candy striper who bakes apple dumplings (or like a certain '80s pop culture icon), but also likely because I'm a female. And yes, sometimes we're not in the mood to help strangers, but I feel for the guys who try to be good Samaritans and get dirty looks for their efforts.
5) ... Or more specifically, as perverts
I'm not a parent, but I do have sympathy for the parents who are feel anxious about sending their children out into the big, scary world. However, I also have sympathy for this guy. And this guy. And for all the other dads at the playground, or the uncles or friends who are doting and adoring fellas. Yes, there are genuine perverts and real creepers out there, but there are also mothers who abandon and harm their own children. We don't say "well, because a select few women are abusive mothers, all women are likely to be abusive mothers." Society is quicker to profile men in that manner.
I think that's all that needs to be said there, and thanks to my friend Emily for that one.
7) People are willing to help
Yes, yes, we are women, we are capable, we are strong, hear us roar. We are also sometimes short and things in stores are on high shelves. Generally, not always, but as a rule, people are willing to assist if you ask nicely. I've also been around long enough to know that saying "can you open this jar, please" does not negate my intelligence, nor does it demean me in any way. If a man offers to help put my suitcase in an overhead compartment on a plane, the only expected quid pro quo is a polite "thank you."
8) We can breastfeed
Considering the number of stories I've read and written about breastfeeding in the last few years, I could argue about whether this is an "underrated" advantage, but since the contribution actually came from a man, I'm going to include it.
"I actually found myself a little envious of the ability for (my wife) to bond in that special way with my children that I would never be able to do." — Frank, father of two (soon to be three).
9) And speaking of breasts...
Okay, seriously, y'all, they're kind of awesome. I confess, like many women I know, I have some insecurities about my body. However, and this has nothing to do with what others might think of them, I'm quite happy with the girls, and feeling confident about part of my body is a pretty positive feeling. They look fairly fabulous with any outfit, if properly hoisted they can improve the whole silhouette, they're basically a fantastic accessory. Just be tasteful, and don't get carried away, alright?
10) We're more adaptable (apparently)
This is another theory presented by a male associate. I found it quite interesting. He posits that women are better able to evolve with their environments and circumstances than are men. He used high heels as a metaphor, explaining that while the shoes might be uncomfortable, many women find ways to adapt to the discomfort rather than simply eschewing the heel. Men, he said, would be more likely to give up. Frankly, I told him, I think the men are wiser in that case, but he assured me the high heel example was simply symbolic, and that he admired women's ability to be flexible and adaptable. There are counterarguments to be had, but his intentions were good and respectful, so I'll continue to consider the perspective.
11) There's less of a stigma against women who don't live up to gender stereotypes
There is pressure on women to be feminine, but in my observation, I see even more pressure on men to be masculine. As a woman, as a sister, and as the potential future mother or aunt of a girl, I am grateful for organizations that fight for women's rights and that foster development in young ladies. People like Debbie are awesome. It's also nice to hear, via both news and personal anecdote about more men "leaning in" at home. But then I also read stories like this, and it makes me sad and frankly, disappointed. It's more socially acceptable, for example, for girls to play with "boy" toys than for boys to play with "girl" toys. Men who choose careers that are traditionally perceived as being "women's work" are often viewed as "unmanly."
Under the same heading, but on a more humorous note, my friend Kate pointed out that women have the liberty of ordering "fruity drinks" without anyone casting aspersions.
12) We can write lists called "Twelve Underrated Advantages Of Being a Woman"
I feel like "Twelve Underrated Advantages of Being a Man" wouldn't go over as well. (Though I'd kind of like to read it. Anybody want to take a whack at that one?).