On The Status of Women In The Western World: Everything is Not Okay

One of my biggest pet peeves is the question, “How are you?”

It’s become so shockingly meaningless that I always have an internal, visceral reaction of annoyance when asked the question…even though I’ve caught myself asking the same question to others.

This empty question annoys me because people don’t really care to hear the answer and we usually never give an honest answer if we aren’t doing well. Whenever someone, a friend, a stranger, asks how we are doing, we often reply, “okay, great, etc.”

It’s meaningless.

So why do we ask the question so flippantly, as if it’s the equivalent of saying hello to someone?

For me, the question of “how are you” speaks to the larger issue of the misplacement of positivity and gratitude in our society.

Am I saying we overly positive?

No, I’m not saying that.

What I am saying is that our tendency to answer the “how are you question” with a positive and light response represents a larger tendency in our society in which we like to collectively bury or ignore our problems and pretend like everything is “okay.”

But when it comes to examining the big issues that still plague us as a society, we apply that same mentality of burying our problems in order to go about our day.

One of the most pressing problems that we smooth over as “okay” is where the issue of gender equity stands today. So often, I hear people talking about all the wonderful progress we’ve made in combating gender discrimination. I get emails and messages via social media from readers who say that there has been so much progress for women, that I should acknowledge it and spend my time worrying about bigger problems.

I like to call this the myth of “look how far we’ve come.”

It’s this myth that doesn’t allow us to fully combat this issue of gender discrimination, because when we ask the question of “how are you,” in the context of women and the struggles they must overcome in our current world, things are definitely not okay–but often, the answer for those who refuse to fully acknowledge and absorb what’s really going on is still, “Everything is fine. Everything is okay.”

This is the equivalent of putting one’s head in the sand and is something that both men and women do.

The other day, a friend of mine, a woman, told me that I should focus on women in “Third-World countries” with respect to my writing and advocacy, because women in the Western world don’t need empathy.

For the record, empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy doesn’t mean you have pity for someone or look down on them.

While I don’t disagree with her that women living in countries that regularly employ physical, economic, and emotional violence as ways to control them deserve much needed advocacy, the idea that Western women don’t need “empathy” is ridiculous at best and incredibly dangerous at worst.

This column isn’t about a lack of gratitude, or not honoring the women (and a few men) who have helped get the gender battle to where it is today. It’s about turning off our auto-pilot and realizing we–in the Western world–still have far to go in the fight for gender equity. Many of us (mostly men) move about so easily in our lives, unaware of the imbalance, but for so many women, they are painfully aware.

This past year, I’ve been told by lots of people that I am “too angry,” when it comes to advocacy for gender equity. It’s funny, because I’ve been angrier before, it’s just my anger had nothing to do with women’s rights, so people didn’t have much to say about it.

As a man, I’ve always been given room to feel angry, but now that I’m addressing something related to women, my anger is now criticized and maligned.

I’m angry that our system of government has been co-opted by one sex, leading to an incredible imbalance in governance.

I’m angry–angry that women don’t see accurate representations of themselves in the media. Angry that the media, at large, has attempted to write off the sexism women face by declaring as The Atlantic did, “the end of men,” when men continue to dominate positions of power and influence.

I’m angry that women’s voices are still muted in many subtle ways.

Do you ever want to tell someone, maybe someone you aren’t close to, or perhaps a stranger that everything is “not okay” when they ask ubiquitous “how are you” question?

I do. And with respect to gender rights, I’m tired of saying “Look how far we’ve come!”

Because that’s the equivalent of answering “Everything is okay.”

And as far as I’m concerned, everything is far from okay. So I’m not going to give the same scripted answer anymore, until things really are fine.

As long as I share an elevator with two young women who couldn’t be older than 12 and overhear them talk about how they have to cut down on carbs, everything is not okay.

As long as the United States still ranks 81st in the world with respect to women representation in government, everything is not okay.

As long as there are only two women in this room, everything is not okay.

As long as women hold just 17 percent of the seats in Congress, everything is not okay.

As long as men still blame women for this gap in Congress by making the claim that more women vote than men, so it’s up to women to vote for women, everything is not okay and not getting better. And if you think this is just about voting, you clearly don’t get it.

As long as there are 31 United States senators who vote against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women act, everything is not okay.

As long as people who hate women, who have waged a war on women, try to gaslight the citizenry by telling us that the phrase “the war on women” is merely a political ploy and not based in reality, everything is not okay.

As long as I see stories about Hillary Clinton’s hair, makeup, clothing when I never see a single story about U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s hair or clothing, everything is not okay and it’s not getting better.

As long as we are told the reality television programs that consistently portray women as conniving, unhinged and erratic are simply a guilty pleasure, and not a destructive misogynistic form of entertainment, everything is not okay.

As long as women have to face street harassment (a.k.a. cat calling) that makes them feel unsafe, humiliated, and degraded, and as long as people wave off this harassment as “boys will be boys,” everything is not okay.

As long as there are magazine covers like this one, where a “bachelor” gets to smile and enjoy the limelight, while the women in the cast are portrayed as crazy, cat-fighting maniacs, everything is not okay

As long as people say “You must be on your period” to women and men when someone is either a.) speaking their mind or b.) happens to be in a bad mood, everything is not okay.

As long as people (including women) keep using “pussy” to indicate weakness, everything is not okay. Yes, it’s a big deal to continually refer to a woman’s body part in a derogatory way to indicate weakness in anyone or anything.

As long as women lead 40 percent of small businesses, but get less than 10 percent of venture capital funding, everything is not okay.

As long as women only hold 16 percent of board seats on public companies, causing an imbalance in leadership of the companies that employ millions of people across the United States and around the world, everything is not okay.

As long thousands of untested rape kits languish in police departments across the United States, allowing thousands of sexual predators to go unprosecuted, everything is far from okay.

As long as 1-in-4 college women will face, according to the US Justice Department, an attempted or completed rape, everything is not okay.

So is that it? Is that all it’s going to take in order for me to acknowledge that everything is okay? That things have gotten better? To take a break?

Nope.

The idea that you can look at a group that faces discrimination and simply declare that everything is okay because a bunch of laws have been passed or because someone who is a part of that group anecdotally claims that things have improved, is ridiculous.

Remember, we can’t pass laws or individually force people to abandon their social conditioning.

It’s a depressing reality, but this is the burden of social conditioning. It took thousands of years for us to get here, and it may take thousands of years to get out.

This idea that we don’t need to be angry because everything is getting better or because people look at their lives and feel good about where they are, is individualism at it’s worse: “Because my life is okay, that means no one like me needs help.”

I feel responsible, as a man, not because I feel that my gender can can save women, but because I am where I am today, in large part, due to male privilege and the sacrifices that women in my life have made for me and for other men.

So don’t tell me not to be angry, because I’m pissed off that so many of us can pretend like nothing is wrong.

My friend Susie uses a phrase that perfectly represents where we sit today on the issue of gender imbalance.

“The house is on fire and the kids are upstairs,” she says.

Except by acting like everything is OKAY, we’ve just called off the firefighters.

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27 Responses to “On The Status of Women In The Western World: Everything is Not Okay”

  1. Avatar of findpatti
    findpatti July 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    when people ask “how are you?” i look them in the eye and respond “I’m perfect”.
    It leaves them shocked and/or angered.
    and I feel just a little smug and mischievous as I walk away with their mouth left wide open.

  2. Avatar of smibbo
    smibbo June 25, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    “How are you” among strangers and acquaintances is really “are you feeling decent enough that we can interact in a respectful or at least neutral manner?” AKA “can you put your problems aside for some socializing?”

    If you don’t feel fine and you can’t put it aside, then you say something like “not too well, sorry” – you are apologizing for being unable to step out of your negative state which is considered the polite thing to do. You are, in essence, saying you are not fit for basic socializing which is honest but not rude because you’re making it clear it is not a personal thing.

    So far as how far we’ve come? we’ve come a long way but yes attitudes are still rife in our culture. The subtle issues of gender inequality are more individualistic now. Which makes it hard to apply or discuss feminism in a broad way that covers all strata. Civil Rights advocacy in general has reached this point. Do you think poverty-stricken women here in America are really overly concerned with the fact that women are underrepresented in the corporate and political worlds? no, they are concerned with the fact that if they have kids they’re less likely to be hired, most likely to be harrassed and fired and their pay will still be lower than a man’s. That doesn’t mean broad feminist issues are unimportant, but it does mean you have to stop thinking general feminism is going to make everyone happy. Backlash occurs when people feel an issue doesn’t speak to them personally.

  3. Avatar of jerryseinfeld
    jerryseinfeld June 3, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    60% of undergraduate students are women.
    60% of law students are women.
    55% of medical students are women.

    as long as these inequities exist, are things “not OK”?

    Feminism is a great thing when discussed in good faith. The problem is, with people like this writer, you never seem to see them advocating for social action in the OPPOSITE direction.

    No such thing as “enough” I suppose. Do you favour equality, or do you favour women? Be honest, at least, if you’re putting on the mask of virtue.

    • Avatar of Truant
      Truant July 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      “60% of undergraduate students are women.
      60% of law students are women.
      55% of medical students are women.

      as long as these inequities exist, are things “not OK”?”

      In regards to more undergraduate students as women- women are out performing men in all measurable academic achievements at the university level. In fact, since the 60s and 70′s, in the US, female students have traditionally performed better in school than males, just less of them translated good grades into college degrees.

      Source: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/womcolge.htm

      In addition, even though there are more women doctors and lawyers now, the pay disparity, even in these elite fields is not decreasing. According to an article in the Journal of American Medical Association, women doctors started out with lower salaries, and made on average less than their male peers.

      http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1182859

      According to the US. Census Bureau, the pay gap between men and women differed by about 76% in 2010, down from 77% in 2009.

      Source: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

      You bringing up these statistics is misleading in that they do not indicate that the status of women in the western world is catching up to and/or equal to men. It just indicates that women’s performance is more outstanding in terms of academic achievement compared to men, but overall, when they graduate, they still must struggle to attain the same pay and equality in the workplace that men have.

      So yes, as long as THESE disparities and inequities exist, things are not OK. I think that was the whole point of this article, which I think you either missed or refused to see.

      Just curious though, what kind of social action would you advocate in the ‘OPPOSITE direction’?

  4. Avatar of AnnaMae
    AnnaMae May 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    I thought this was interesting…
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/05/10/f-mothers-day.html

  5. Avatar of LorraineM9
    LorraineM9 May 14, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Here are some beautiful quotes which confirm what you have written. Thanks for writing it, it has to be said! :)

    “Divine Justice demands that the rights of both sexes should be equally respected since neither is superior to the other in the eyes of Heaven. Dignity before God depends, not on sex, but on purity and luminosity of heart. Human virtues belong equally to all!”

    “The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly.”

    “Women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.”

    All quotes by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

  6. Avatar of elfen_berzerker
    elfen_berzerker May 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    “As long as there are magazine covers like this one, where a “bachelor” gets to smile and enjoy the limelight, while the women in the cast are portrayed as crazy, cat-fighting maniacs, everything is not okay ”

    Have you ever watched the show? To describe them as anything else is madness.

  7. Avatar of paddlehappy
    paddlehappy May 2, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I understand the concern that there are many barriers for women, no matter where they live, and that there is a need for compassion…. yet I must say, the “I’m fine” attitude that we may have about the issues women face with regards to gender equality are also the same issues that men face with regards to gender equality. Women are not the only ones that are neglected and misrepresented. Think of the way media portrays men. The all-men-are-dogs mentality is displayed in music, television, movies…. the list goes on. Or take a look at the Homer Simpson portrayal of a man; stupid, needs guidance, and sort of floats through life and is generally ok as long as he has his endless supply of donuts and beer.

    Gender equality is not about one gender, there are two. Why is it ok for a man to express anger, but everyone gets squirrely when he expresses sadness, insecurity, doubt, fear? Why is it that most men sufferring from anxiety or depression let it go without seeking help? Because for every man who does seek help, there are another 3 hiding behind some mask…. afraid to get the help, because they’ve been moulded to believe that men are week if they seek help, or there is something wrong with them if they are depressed. Women are not the only ones chastised or left to feel uncomfortable being honest with their emotions…. men are too. Sure women are forever given that message since birth that good girls don’t argue, good girls don’t raise their voice, good girls don’t get angry…. we are programmed to please and conform. but don’t you think men are too? I just think that for some reason we more readily accept this mis-representation of man in media ( and don’t raise a stink about it as often) than we do that of the misrepresentation of women because we’ve gone astray in what we describe as equality. We should stop looking at the gender entirely and maybe just see humans? Isn’t that equality? Who cares how many women are politicians…. are the politicians doing what we elected them for? And regardless of their gender? Why does gender need to be some measure of OK-ness?

    Sure I agree that media portrays a warped sense of beauty and it affects young women… but is that about gender equality? or is that about media manipulating the young mind. Because little girls get obsessed about how they look based on what is fed to them as “the norm”, but little boys have an opinion too. I wonder… has anyone ever studied the effect that media may have on the boys of our world….. how people are portrayed in media affect their ability to define and identify themselves with ease and feel comfortable in their own skin for who they are?

    Personally, as a female, I am utterly sick of the topic being “gender” equality…. I would like to see a day in my life where we drop this whole idea of needing to even a score card of righteousness and fairness, and see people, not a gender they were born with. The reason why we have never “solved” it is because we are still looking at a symptom, and not the real issue at all.

    • Avatar of elfen_berzerker
      elfen_berzerker May 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      I’m actually amazed this made it past the moderation.

    • Avatar of AnnaMae
      AnnaMae May 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      I think this author also shows how unfair it is to be a man and not be allowed to show your emotions… but you’d need to read more than one post.

  8. Avatar of Chris
    Chris May 2, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    Hmm this is an interesting connection from the way how “How are you” is being used in society to gender equality… :-)
    I wrote in an earlier comment that a different usage of “how are you” and such is not neccesarily better, so I just want to focus on the main topic.
    First of all, yes I fully agree we are certainly not yet at the point were one could say that we have reached gender equality. Neither in the US, nor in western Europe. And yes, the existence of other, even worse problems does not mean we should ignore or leave alone others like gender equality. There still are enough topics to be addressed and worked on.
    But without wanting to marginalize the problems women face in todays world, I think we have to accept that due to the fact that we have reached quite a lot already, it is becoming more and more a fine line of what are real and serious problems that need to be worked an and what not.
    Yes, there is an underrepresantation of women in politics and business. There are still more barriers for women when it comes to promotion then for men. But especially when looking at numbers, it is also important to look at the numbers below. How many women are going into politics or want to work high up in the coporate sector? Is it “better” to vote for women then for men? No it’s not. One should not vote for a woman because she is female. Or the other way around. But for their politics, goals and so on. It just should be the same chances for both, men and women, to GET to the point where one can vote for them. Or not.
    Is it really an evil plan of the media to portray female politicians only as pretty or not? Or is it the sad fact that storys like these just sell better? Street harassment is a serious problem which women have to face day to day. But if the usage of “pussy” as a swearword is related to gender equality, isn’t the usage of “dick” or other “male” swearwords too? And yes, TV and even more so-calles “reality TV” often portrays women in a bad way. But the same is true for men in many cases. Any better?
    No, men do not face the trouble women do. But there too are problems in our society.
    While we all need to work on continuing to improve gender equality, we should also be careful not to cross the line too often. Because this is the best thing that can happen for those who think all is ok:…

  9. Avatar of uberfrau
    uberfrau May 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    As long as men can pull together a concise list of concerns which women have been railing about for years and receive notice, acclaim and praise, everything is not alright.

  10. Avatar of JustSeeking
    JustSeeking May 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Oh yeah, and this was titled something about “How are you?” wasn’t it? :D

    I haven’t played that how-are-you game for a while now, except in my job, where “courtesy” is necessary for operations to flow smoothly. Your post this time reminds me that when my family was preparing to make a military move to Germany, we spent some time with a German couple in order to learn about the country. One of the things the woman told us was that we should not ask, “How are you?” unless we wanted to know the answer. Some 10 years later, we had occasion to go back and visit her. She picked us up at the train station. When we got settled into the car, I said, “So, how is everything?” For the 30 minute car ride to her house, she told us about her husband having World War II shrapnel removed…aGAIN…and her daughter had been fired from her job because she refused to let the boss in her pants, and other things that I don’t recall now. Instead of making me feel put-upon, as Americans so often seem to feel, I felt welcomed into her life and concerns. She wasn’t expecting us to do anything for them. She was just answering the question on the assumption that I asked it because I cared about her, which was quite true. That she told the truth allowed us an opportunity to add any beneficial contributions we might be able to make while we stayed with them.

    I don’t answer “fine” when someone asks me how I am, if I am not fine. I might say something like, “Best not to ask me that question,” if the truth is the sort of thing people want to pretend doesn’t happen. (e.g., I’m trapped in an area where you are only worthwhile if you are a white, male, God-fearing, patriotic American.) If I’m in a bad mood, I might say, “Not so hot, but I doubt you want to hear the details.” Or if I’m feeling slightly nicer perhaps I will say, “I’ve been better.” I’ll tell ya, it shuts those false-pretense comments right up. If I am in a worse mood, I might say, “You don’t want to know.” If I am in a really bad mood, I might say, “Don’t go there with me. You don’t want to hear it.” Or sometimes I will flat ignore people who ask me how I am. Like you say, they don’t actually care. They are just pretending, and I detest pretenses. I put up with it to the degree that I can stand it. I try not to rip people up simply for doing what they have been taught to do, but some days it really takes all the self-control I have, and there are times when I am so pressed that I have almost none of that needed control.

    Perhaps you can find a better way to handle those moments. Hopefully.

    • Avatar of Chris
      Chris May 2, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      I found this very interesting since I am german, so thank you for sharing! There definately is a difference in the way “How are you” and other courtesys are treated. Even though what you experienced isn’t exactly the “normal” thing, that someone actualy tells about their life this openly, but it is true that it might be a more “meaningful” question over here.
      But besides the nice thing that “how are you” is a at least semi-serious question here, is has a downside too. Because people might actualy answer it, a lot of people don’t even ask. People ignore each other more often and the every-day way how people communicate is just more… cold, or at least less friendly then for example in the US. I guess all I want to say with this is that evyrthing and every way we treat things, has up- und downsides…

  11. Avatar of JustSeeking
    JustSeeking May 1, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    You tell ‘em, Yashar! :)

    You know, not long ago you wrote a column about how men should try to understand what it is like to be a woman. I think you are finding out first hand. By advocating for us like you do, you are being told the exact same kinds of things that we get as a matter of course. You are experiencing anger, discouragement, perhaps depression over it, yes? You are learning what it is like to be a woman. All you have to do is to stand up for us. Pretty soon, people will be saying you are crazy and/or neurotic, too.

    From what I have seen, you are a man who knows he is a man and does not need to prove that by beating women down emotionally and psychologically, just because you can get away with it.

    About 15 years ago, I had the occasion to buy something in a small shop. The clerk was a young lady who could not have been more than 20 years old. Somehow we got into a conversation about social expectations of women, and she was saying, “Not me, by gum!” And I said, “Look, very little has changed. All that has happened is that it has gotten much more subtle.” Men don’t say things like, “Don’t worry your pretty head about these things,” anymore, not because they feel women are smarter than that but because they are afraid of getting sued. Now the added assumption is that women can’t keep their mouths shut and men are innocent.

    Yes, women contribute. We let this happen to us regularly. I used to think that I would vote for Hilary Clinton if she ever ran for president, because of how well she held up under all the flack she got during Bill’s presidency for not behaving like a proper woman. Like you, I have been disgusted with how the media focused on her hair and clothes, rather than her. And when they did focus on her, it was to call her things like “Billary”. In the end, I did not vote for her because she proved to me that she would do anything at all to get what she wanted, and I did not want that kind of person running our country. On the other hand, I didn’t vote for McCain either, because I believe he is a voilent man who believes violence solves all problems, and I don’t want a person like *that* running our country either.

    Yashar, don’t let your focus get trapped in the negative whirl that people are trying to drag you into. Remember that there are a lot of us who appreciate very much what you are doing. And those of us who do are living with the same contempt that you are experiencing.

    • Avatar of iSoulShines
      iSoulShines July 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      Yashar,

      I have just stumbled across your site this morning, and have been captivated and fascinated reading your articles. I feel your fire, your passion, and your message wholeheartedly. You are an eloquent writer and a peaceful warrior, and I feel honored to read your words and absorb your exposition.

      You are offering me, and many other woman, a piece of hope and empowerment that we may not have been able to find elsewhere. You are giving voice to the thoughts and feelings that we suffer from daily, without knowing how to express. I completely adore that you are a man who can step out of the “male comfort and privilege” to empathize and appreciate the life of women, while still honoring and understanding the position of men.

      I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for taking the steps, doing the work, and pioneering for humanity. I hope you find peace and purpose amongst the hateful words and diversions that may be hurled at you, and the strength to continue with sensible determination.

      Know that, although at times, you may feel like you are rallying for a lost cause, please remember that you have forever changed my life, and the lives of many other men and women who read your words. I will never be the discouraged and dispirited woman that I once was before I read these words. I have been uprooted from conventional cultural thinking, renewed with a song to soothe my wounded soul, and have been set straight onto a path of empathy for all humans, men and women alike, because we are all suffering.

      Thank you!
      iSoulShines

  12. Avatar of manyhats.onehead
    manyhats.onehead April 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Thank you. While gender inequality is always lurking around in my head, showing itself in innocuous ways in my own life, I can’t help but wonder if our pursuit of equality can ever provide us with the privilege to raise our own children without risking our future.

    I enjoy the luxury of having a full time salaried position that allows me to work at home, but it hasn’t always been so. From the time my eldest was born over 21 years ago, I have had to work outside the home to provide the basic needs for him and his three sisters. Security was not something I ever had in a bank account or a marriage. In order to provide them with basic needs, I had to educate myself and spend 10 years crawling and clawing my way up the corporate ladder so that I could provide for my children. I feel I have sacrificed my children for a pay cheque.

    I left my first marriage for the safety and security of my children. Remarried now, I am as trapped as ever because walking away from this poor relationship means my children lose out on food, clothing and shelter. My salary, while good, will not pay for both housing and food. I would have to give one of those things up. Government support is not an option – I would have to take on a second job.

    Mothers who work full time may or may not have equal income, equal career advancement opportunities, equal benefits or equal workplace or societal respect, but it must be said that they also do not have equal stress when it comes to being a parent – they have more! Employers do not care if children come home from school to an empty house, or that after school activities are not an option because mom can’t get off work to take them. They don’t care if a child is sick, or if nobody is there to cheer a child on in a school recital. They expect mothers to be at work giving 110% without fail. The mother who takes time off for anything family related is labelled as unreliable, uncommitted, unsuitable for corporate culture or just mediocre. Her job security is at constant risk. Women don’t advance quickly or as high because they take maternity leave.

    Gender equality is so important, locally and globally. I am an ambitious woman who is fortunate to work at an enjoyable job. I am well suited for the corporate world, but given the choice all those years ago, I would have chosen to raise my children and be respected for it. However, the government cannot take 33% employment tax from someone who does not have a pay cheque – so who is more important in their eyes?

    My role as a woman in society has little value, but my role as a mother has even less.

  13. Avatar of listenheed
    listenheed April 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I definitely understand what you’re trying to say about the relation between sexism as a whole and its connection to the “how are you” question. I’ve found, though, that it can be a useful tool on an individual basis, especially between friends.

    I agree with you that “how are you” is used almost as a greeting, and it’s the automatic response of “good” or “fine” that often buries the real emotion, by hiding it. So, I often use the response as a gauge.

    I know my friends, and if the response seems too trigger-sensitive and automatic, I’ll ask them more questions about their state of mind. Or if there’s a hesitation, indicating that they’re actually thinking about the question, something’s probably up. And sometimes I don’t even have to ask further questions; a friend will feel “Good,” slip off their tongue, see the sincerity with which I’m asking the question, and insert something like, “Well, no, I’m not that great, actually…” As you can see, I rarely leave it alone after the question.

    Using the same method would of course be problematic with strangers, as well as those problems that are beyond the individual that you have indicated above (though they usually do lead to individual problems). But I find it helpful by asking the question with sincerity and not just as a line; that often creates an atypical response that can be used for meaningful conversation.

  14. Avatar of Dana
    Dana April 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    You nailed it again.

    Pretty much.

    A note about the diet thing. I think it’s just as harmful for fat-acceptance advocates to tell us all that we should go on and eat the whole damned cake because it’s our “right”, as it is for people on the other side to criticize someone who’s bloated from hormones (or whatever Ashley Judd’s “problem” was).

    I’m tired of people telling me to eat junk food in the name of loving my body. Unless you go out of your way to find a Paleo, coconut- or almond-based cake recipe with whole-food ingredients in it, junk is exactly what cake is. Not only doesn’t it give you anything that builds or maintains your health, it takes away from the health you already have. It is a waste of physical resources, money, and time to eat the stuff.

    And this goes for slender people as well as fat. There are so many people in a “normal” weight range out there who eat and drink pretty much nothing but crap. When they bother going to the doctor at all, because of course they’re skinny so nothing’s wrong with them, the doctor tells them they’ve got messed-up cholesterol or high triglycerides or high blood pressure and “oh, it’s hereditary, here’s a pill,” but they never connect it with their diet. And they get type 2 diabetes. And they have heart attacks and strokes and cancer. And they never make the connection, because they aren’t fat.

    But I promise you it all goes back to the damned cake.

    Even people who push eating healthy get it wrong, in spectacular ways. Vegans, for instance, have decided that our problem is that we eat too much meat, and never mind that (1) humanity has been eating vertebrate meat for at least a million years [and insect "meat" long before that]; and (2) women historically have had less access to meat than men have had. Oh no, we must malnourish ourselves further, in the name of animal rights. Meanwhile, I never hear about vegan salad-bar restaurants or vegan vegetable recipes. I always hear about vegan bakeries.

    I’m tired of it. I walked away from that crap a long time ago and I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

    I’d worry about those twelve-year-olds in the elevator if I spoke with them and discovered that they were being told to indiscriminately avoid all carbs. Fruit, vegetables, and nuts are carb foods and as long as you don’t have an allergy to a particular one, they’re perfectly healthy to eat. A twelve-year-old telling me she eats Paleo wouldn’t bother me at all.

    It is all a matter of context. And the rules of human nutrition don’t change just because you believe something different.

    I mean… Do you get upset about twelve-year-olds who eat kosher?

    • Avatar of kdoctor726
      kdoctor726 May 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

      I don’t think he’s commenting on eating a certain diet. He is speaking about the fact that the girls probably don’t care about the health benefits, they care about being skinny and cutting nutrients at an age where getting nutrients is so important to growth and development. I think if cake made you skinnier even though it’s extremely detrimental, the girls in the elevator would be overheard saying they need to eat more cake. And he probably would get upset if they were talking about eating kosher if it was a new lose weight fast kosher diet.

  15. Avatar of JacquelynJoan
    JacquelynJoan April 30, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you!

    • Avatar of pree
      pree April 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      I can very well understand what you mean by saying the status of women in western world: everything is not okay. One year back when anybody used to ask me this question how are you, I had to stop saying I m ok. I was so shocked to see the kind of insensitivity people have around us the kind of problems I was facing in life how can someone dare to ask me this question this is how I used to think. You know in third world countries when a woman like me who is not coming from so called poor class background is treated like insane when she is in problem you see according to them I have everything people are fighting for here and I have a habit of cry over petty issues like my husband is misbehaving so much and threatening to kill me for no reasons. I m someone innocent kinds who does not even know the meaning of this word called problem/gender inequality and so on. I should learn how to adjust in place of complaining. I can relate myself with you after reading this column. My problem was never problem here even if I had life threatening serious issues from my psychopath husband that to along with a small child. This comparison with so called poor woman is something I could never understand. In place of listening and understanding my serious problems I was having in my relationship people were advising me to take treatment for depression. If I m unable to sleep in the night I should take sleeping pills and if I m unable to wake up on time in the morning or unable to do my daily work properly I should take another pill for that. This comparison with what is happening with poor woman still haunts me. As if I m not human being, I was deprived of basic psychological and emotional needs a human being requires to survive. I don’t know how did I survive all that along with a child here. I just wanted to save my child so I kept fighting and finally I have some peace in life. I m out from that crappy relationship but still not completely ok. The torture I have gone through cannot be explained in words. When people don’t know the basic requirement of woman from so and so background I will suggest that they need to go back to school to learn it. At work when I was performing well I was denied promotion for being too good at work and when I was unable to perform I was denied promotion because of obvious reasons. The seven whole years of my life were like I was fighting with death day and night with no hope of survival and with lot of conditions to perform in those kinds of circumstances. People were lecturing me in place of helping me. I think men are lost in their own make believe artificial world they have forgotten how to treat woman, she is a human being first, they badly need to work to learn the basic human requirements first in place of asking for more. I still have good relations with men but I have understood that they think very small and see everything blurry. My prayers were answered that’s why I survived and now I seriously feel that it’s them who need treatment for depression and many other psychological disorders so that they can see and analyze things better before being bossy . Depriving someone from sleep and food is too abusive and combined with death threats itself can kill someone emotionally and then physically from some illness one may develop from living in these kinds of circumstances very easily. You should also write something about’ it happens sometimes in life, its ok, be positive: how much positivity is required do we have some limit’?

      • Avatar of iSoulShines
        iSoulShines July 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

        Pree,

        I am so sorry you have had such a painful and difficult life. I can feel your pain, even though I can not relate to the exact situations you have been in.

        I am so glad that you have found a new direction, a new way to keep moving forward, a new hope.

        I am so proud of you that you found hope and guidance. I encourage you to continue telling your story, and offering help to other woman who may be in similar situations. I can assure you, you are not alone.

        You are strong. You are smart. You are a good mother. And you are loved!

        Peace and Blessings,
        iSoulShines

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