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Don't Tell Women They're Not Trying Hard Enough

By now you’ve probably heard the divisive comments made by Phoebe Bridgers at the Grammys on Sunday directed at former Grammy head, Neil Portnow. She addresses his assertion from a few years ago that women in music need to “step up” and wraps up her thoughts with a succinct and candid suggestion: rot in piss.

Whether you believe this type of statement goes too far or not, one thing is clear—Female creatives are angry. Hell, I would say women in general are angry right now. The level of vitriol in this statement speaks to the fact that women (especially American women) are chronically exhausted from the effort of existing within systems that don't support us, and some that are even actively working against us.

We are coming out of a multi-year phase in which millions of women had to leave the workforce in 2020 and 2021 due to nationwide lack of available childcare. Faced with the unrealistic expectation of simultaneously being a full-time parent, a full-time employee, and a full-time domestic worker, many finally acknowledged the basic limits of human capacity and took a step back from paid employment. Our society is just not set up to give parents the support we need, and when the minimal support of public school is gone, there is nothing left. Women tried to keep going without it, but three jobs was just too much. We tried.

Women are also now running for office in record numbers seeking to change these systems that are not helping us out. They are running in response to the passage of abortion bans, proposed bans on birth control, and other policies seeking to strip women of their bodily autonomy. We are having to face a future in which our health is de-prioritized and simple act of getting pregnant is becoming increasingly dangerous. Women have fought for these protections before and have won, and having to put forth a large scale and organized effort AGAIN to assert our basic human rights is exhausting.

Even in the writer’s room this sense of general exhaustion is palpable. I recently wrote a song with country artist Emily Rose in a writing session turned therapy session about the pressure to achieve Instagram-worthy perfection in every endeavor of motherhood. In this age of helicopter parenting vs. free range parenting vs. gentle parenting vs. whatever the hell the next trend will be, mothers are constantly striving for a mark we can never seem to hit no matter how hard we try. This song is titled, appropriately, “Guilty.”

So if you see a woman today in a coffee shop, on the street, or in an office, just know that she is probably exhausted. There is some capacity of her life right now in which she is fully maxxed out, and the tape holding her together is thin. There is probably a long list of people she would like to grab a mic and tell to rot in piss, but she doesn’t. She’s tired. And whatever reason you choose to give for the fact that a woman has not achieved what she set out to achieve in her day or even in her lifetime, pick something else. She’s tough enough to take it, I promise...just don’t ever, ever, ever, EVER tell her that she's not trying hard enough.

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