This week, Duke University published a new study, which found that women wake up grumpier than men. The study’s authors attribute the additional grumpiness to women needing more sleep than men. Me? I think there is just a lot to be grumpy about lately.
First, the wage gap between men and women grew over the past year, instead of narrowing like it is supposed to. Economic downturns usually hit those who are already suffering discrimination the hardest, so it is no surprise that, when the going gets tough, women and racial minorities are the first to get cut, the last to find jobs, or the most likely to find themselves in lower-paid and less secure positions. Still, considering the fact that female-headed households in the United States are more than twice as likely to be poor than male-headed households, maybe it should also not come as a surprise if we are sour.
Secondly, women are still being discriminated against in applications for new mortgages or refinancing, at least in Chicago (and there is no reason we should think Chicago is the worst case scenario when it comes to gender discrimination). The disparity is even greater when it comes to African American loan applicants. Given that Wells Fargo agreed to pay $175 million in 2012 to settle accusations that it discriminated against non-white mortgage applicants before the economic turndown, this news is not earth-shattering. Then again, having definite proof that your mortgage broker might turn your loan application down just because you don’t have the right genitalia can make a girl grumpy.
Third, a quantitative review of women in literary arts in 2012 shows that we are depressingly under-represented in the media, both as authors under review and as writers. Whether this under-representation is because women write about topics that are not considered “serious” enough for these periodicals, or because women themselves are seen as “light,” it is sad. And sad is just another word for grumpy.
And then there is this: a new survey showing that most women in the United States say we should have dated a guy for at least a month before he sees us without makeup. Sixty percent of the respondents said they wouldn’t take their makeup off while sleeping if spending the night with a new boyfriend.
I cannot decide which part of this survey makes me the maddest. First, there is the obvious exclusion of the three to five percent of the respondents who are dating women. Then there are the questions about the true state of equality in the United States and the stereotyped visions of women needing to wear makeup to be properly clad.
But I think what really got to me is what this survey says about the rock-bottom levels of women’s self-esteem in this country. Why would so many women believe wearing makeup is essential to the future of their relationship with a man? Why would they choose to sleep with someone they do not trust enough to see them naked?
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy wearing lipstick as much as the next person, and I absolutely understand the power of putting on a mask. But that is precisely the point. Makeup is a mask. That so many women believe they have to wear one, even in bed and with their partner, is a measure of just how mad we should be.
So for Duke University to say that women wake up grumpy because we need more sleep is a bit like the typical comment about pre-menstrual syndrome. Sure, on certain days we may need more sleep or be hormonally disposed to flare up. But this does not mean there isn’t plenty to be mad about.