I am not a shrinking violet. I have always taken the bull by the horns; if something needs doing, I do it. If I don’t know how to do it, I figure it out, by reading, or asking, or googling…until I get the information I need to get the job done. I am not afraid of manual labour, nor am I too frail to get my hands dirty, yet I am very much a girly-girl. I cook, sew, shop, and love my clothes, make-up and nail polish, and more importantly, I love to be spoiled occasionally. What woman doesn’t? At the very least I want to be given the same considerations given to those women who aren’t quite as willing as I am to tackle any job,,,,, and therein lies my struggle.
I have a friend who has never pumped her own gas, or mowed a lawn. That’s ‘mans’ work in her opinion, and not something a girl should do, so she doesn’t. She may be capable of performing these tasks but has chosen not to, delegating them to the man of the house and after almost 40 years of marriage he still scrambles to do her bidding. And he’ll often do so with a surprise bunch of flowers, for no reason at all. (where do you find these Patsy’s?) If I told my husband he needed to fill my car with gas before I drive (and by the way, I think it’s ridiculous…if you can drive your own car, you can bloody well gas it up) he’d just tell me to walk, then later ask if my broken arms had mended.
In fact, like really must attract like, because most of my closer female friends are like me, i.e. they are not afraid to look after themselves. Now that’s not to say we don’t want the assistance. Much of it is our way of sharing the workload. (womens liberation wasn’t just about burning our bras) Sometimes it’s our way of helping ease the workload of men and sometimes it’s simply a matter of us finding it easier to just do it rather than wait for another to. I would think men would find that a relief, and maybe they do, but clearly not a relief worth rewarding.
I have been criticized for taking on tasks more suited to a man (small home repairs) but more often than not it’s faster and cheaper for me to try to figure it out on my own. If I can’t, or if the task is beyond my physical scope, I’ll willingly ask for help from a man, but that’s not my first choice because I don’t bear the ‘damsel in distress’ role well. I just don’t see the point in playing the role of helpless female. I do however see the benefits….now because after years of taking the bull by the horns I realized too late that playing the helpless female would’ve yielded me more reward.
In my experience it’s the damsels in distress that get all the attention, all the assistance, and sadly, all the considerations. (A helpless female in stilletto’s and a tight skirt drops her keys in a parking lot and half a dozen men scramble to her aid. I mention at a gathering that I just had a truckload of soil delivered for a garden project I’m tackling and all the able bodied men in the room shrug because they know I can do it alone…I would prefer some willing help but because I’m capable, help will not be forthcoming)
It seems that in proving myself to be capable I inadvertently labeled myself as ineligible for the small niceties afforded the ‘helpless female’. Because I can do it no one offers assistance when I tackle a job deemed unfeminine. Instead I get ignored and I’m puzzled as to why. I would’ve thought my competency and willingness to share the load would garner me warmth and appreciation but I’m stunned to see just the opposite. Does it somehow emasculate men when women ‘handle’ things without asking for assistance? I would’ve thought the male population would be happy to finally not have to ‘rescue’ the damsel for a change but apparently not. In fact, I have friends who say they’ve experienced resentment from their male partners when they take on a ‘mans job’. When did competency become a crime?
Just because a woman can unclog a drain, (by the way, I learned this watching a utube video because I couldn’t afford a plumber) shovel snow, pump her own gas, and paint the living room, doesn’t mean she isn’t deserving of those special considerations; a bouquet of flowers, a door held for her, or an offer to put out the garbage for a change. And when you see another helpless female in need of rescue consider showing some gallantry to the female who makes your life easier by NOT playing that damsel in distress.
Taking on more than our feminine share isn’t as much a choice as a necessity, one I would think men would appreciate more, but instead we are showered with indifference. It’s too late for me to change but if I had it to do all over again, I’d sit back, relax and play the damsel in distress waiting for my knight in shining armour to rescue me because it’s the only way we capable women will catch a break.
2 thoughts on “The damsel in distress”
Excellent post, Emily, thank you. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, how this is STILL unclear to so many, that people are people and the fewer categories we feel the need to divide them and their *supposed to’s* into the better. Some of us simply lean toward what we’re good at, enjoy, or just want to bloody well get done without having to resort to stilettos. If men want to do women a real favour (I can open my own door, thanks), let’s start with what they’re paid for equal work (in any field).
So true! This has puzzled me for long, too. There are situations where the helpless female is ignored – largely a matter of what kind of males are around.