Happy or Right? The Modern Day Woman’s Dilemma. ~ Sara Plummer

Via elephant journal
on Apr 27, 2013
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photo: Sara Plummer
Photo: Sara Plummer

I considered calling this article, “How feminism f#*ked us” or “A feminist contemplates getting her boobs done.”

The truth is, women’s liberation was essential, empowering and beautiful, but in our modern day male/female relationships, it totally hurt us.

Today’s relationships are hitting a major wall, and it’s not that surprising. The gender pendulum needed to swing—probably just not this far and not without an opt-in warning label.

Let me explain.

I am the product of the generation that watched Demi Moore march her shoulder pads into the boardroom to take on Michael Douglas head to head.

I am a recovering femi-nazi who saw men as the competitor on the playground, classroom and debate floor. I got the best grades, won the foot races, and fought for gender equality—damning the man as the glass-ceiling oppressor. I even wrote for the feminist newspaper at UCLA and swore off makeup.

I was raised to be a proud, strong, dominant, opinionated woman.

Strangely, at 5’9 and blonde, I still managed to ask more boys to the prom than ever asked me.

Weird. What was amiss?

If only I had learned earlier that heterosexual men don’t want to date other men.

They aren’t programmed to prefer an emasculating, dominant woman who is better than them at many endeavors. Frustratingly, many seem to be biologically attracted to the 1950s supportive, polished housewife over the challenging, feminist, ball busting CEO. Sucks, I know.

While I am grateful for those early empowering experiences, and will raise my daughters to be self-assured and strong, it no longer surprises me that I took it too far and was consequently skipped over time and time again in favor of the feminine cheerleader/model type. Men want confident, supportive, loving beauty. They want indicators that they are succeeding at being a man.

No, it’s not the media trying to sell us an ideal. It’s simply biology.

The media may be capitalizing on biology to sell us more crap we don’t need, but they aren’t creating the ideal, they are just exploiting it.

Straight men are attracted to women. Curvy, giggly, eyelash batting, fertile, youthful, dressed up women are what catches their oh-so-visual eye. To ignore centuries of sexual selection strategies evolved to be hardwired into our primitive and emotional brain centers isn’t superior or enlightened thinking. Even with many of us wishing our biology would catch up to our cultures preferences and progress, ignoring what is for the sake of what should be, is a recipe for failure in our relationships.

So as a strong woman, I have a tricky decision to make. Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? Is it more important for me to be heard and respected, or loved and adored by my partner?

As my biology’s preference to be adored by a man battles with my feminist training to be equal to a man, I have to come back to whether I want to righteously martyr myself for this cause and be right, or enjoy pair bonding with a desirable sexy male and be happy.

Would it really kill me to throw on a pushup bra despite years of being trained to not objectify myself? Am I allowed to be annoyed at how visual he is, or should I feel lucky to at least know the rules of the game and how to win at keeping my man attracted?

I can be kickass in the courtroom and boardroom, but if I don’t dress up and make my man feel like the king of the castle who is adored, needed and sexually desired, I’m going to be left for his sexy secretary. I can dismiss these facts in the name of what is right, or I can get with the old evolutionary program and be happy.

Impressive Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, says in her memoir that her divorce was partially due to her husband not feeling needed by her empowered-self, and his fear that he may never be as successful as she. She also says that she regrets being so absorbed in work that she neglected him.

What is an empowered, talented, strong woman to do? Are we capable of being dominant in our outside lives and still soft, supportive, and sexy for our chosen partners? Do we have to pick a side?

God I hope not.

Men and women clearly deserve equal rights. We are complimentary to each other but we are still very different.

Women can be strong and still be women. In fighting for feminist equality, we squished the delicate, feminine, special strengths that only women can possess. We dismissed our sexuality, our softness, our nurturing abilities in homage of characteristically male strengths. I am among the first generation to expect to be equal to my male counterparts in every way possible. But equal, without explanation, infers not different. And we’re still very different.

After banging my head against biology’s wall long enough, I have made up my mind.

Being right is just frustrating and painful. My thoughtful pre-fontal cortex may choose to be successful and dominant, but my more primitive limbic system is the one that high jacks and releases hormones when I feel lust, want babies, and crave the care of an attractive man. The limbic system will always win at dominating my feelings. It’s what worked for my ancestors and consequently what got past down to me. I can make a different choice based on calculations done by my prefrontal cortex, but my limbic system will still dictate how I feel about it at my core.

So, today, I choose to be happy.

I choose to honor his differences. I choose to dress up and giggle at my guys jokes. I choose to pretend I can’t open the pickle jar and play into his masculine need to be needed—even as my inner feminist gags. I rock occasional cleavage and stilettos. I choose to smell nice. I wear makeup often. I don’t point out when he’s wrong 50 percent of the time—or at least try not to. I ask for his help.

In accepting his biology, I understand his involuntary habit of checking out other women occasionally and appreciate his difficult choice to be monogamous. I communicate my needs without expecting him to be a mind reader. I try not to nag. I let him come home to a peaceful house and sit restfully on the couch for 30 minutes after a long day.

In return, he is motivated to honor and try to understand my natural biological preferences. He cherishes, provides, protects, chases, and adores me more than any partner before him. He pins me against the wall, kisses me and tells me I look pretty today.

I am happy. I’ve found a way to balance my strong sense of self while nurturing my inner feminine and honoring his inner masculine.

While grateful for feminism’s successes and strides, there is no place for it in my relationship. I’m much happier than I felt when I was right, even if I do get a bit annoyed at the biological reasons why.



Sara PlummerSara Plummer is a UCLA alumna, writer, wellness, fitness and relationship coach. She spends her free time adventure traveling, cycling, practicing and teaching yoga, fitness modeling, doing stunt work, and discussing public policy. A Los Angeles native, Sara now loves San Francisco and enjoys working with LiveWeal.com— a company that helps conscious businesses expand. Her passion project is a controversially titled couple’s therapy book that addresses the limitations of our outdated primal brains and our resulting vast gender differences. She coaches and helps men, women, and couple’s enjoy each other fully by honoring how they are designed. She can be found at www.saraplummer.com, www.liveweal.com and www.goodgirlsguide2.com.


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5 Responses to “Happy or Right? The Modern Day Woman’s Dilemma. ~ Sara Plummer”

  1. Erika Iverson says:

    Wow. I guess the difference between us is that you see your choice to act a certain way to make your relationship as a rejection of feminism. I see it as a result of feminism. Feminism means getting to choose how you want to be in the world.

  2. Margaret R. Fleming says:

    I completely agree with Erika's post above. In my case, I have a partner, husband, lover, friend (all the same man) who hears and respects me AND loves and adores me. For me, all these things are mutually dependent and I would not desire his presence in my life in all of the afore mentioned roles if any one were missing. I wouldn't consider being in a relationship where I had to choose to be either heard and respected OR loved and adored, as the author suggest is the necessary choice. I am quite sure feminism, the hard work and dedication of many before me, has made that possible for me. For me, feminism was never about trying to be like a man to be considered worthy or equal. (Those pressures came from other sources and I rejected them.) I am very confident about the power, beauty, and strength of my femininity and no person who is less confident, male or female, nor any confused dogma nor twisted definition of feminism could take that away from me. My husband and I create a peaceful home together and take turns resting as appropriate. It works for us. For those on a different path, I hope you have found or will find what works for you.

  3. kniplingsdyret says:

    "I choose to honor his differences. I choose to dress up and giggle at my guys jokes. I choose to pretend I can’t open the pickle jar and play into his masculine need to be needed—even as my inner feminist gags. (…) I don’t point out when he’s wrong 50 percent of the time—or at least try not to. I ask for his help."

    You know what? This is actually like treating men as children. It's underestimating them. It's saying that their vulnerable egos need to be pampered and stroked in order for them to feel good. Men aren't babies, FFS.

    Who wants a man who can't feel confident and good about himself unless his partner pretends to be weaker and less assertive than she really is? To pretend, giggle and do things that make her "inner feminist gag"? If it's really necessary to act giggly, passive and helpless in order for a man to feel strong – then he can't really be very strong.

    Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against asking my boyfriend for help if I need it – and I usually do need it if I have to reach something on the top shelves or fix something with my bike or whatever. And I help him out if there's something I do better than him.

    It's that simple. It has nothing to do with feminism, but everything to do with respecting one another's character. I would never dream of insulting his strength by thinking he needs me to be weak.

    Let me point out that "power dynamics" differ from couple to couple. That's fine, nothing wrong with that. If you want to be mainly passive and supportive, go right ahead – IF THAT IS YOUR NATURE, mind you. That's the point. Healthy relationships should give both parties the freedom to be who they are.

    And what on earth does smelling nice have to do with all of this? People SHOULD smell nice, for heaven's sake. I don't think feminists are against smelling nice.

  4. @Kokitsuneko says:

    I have to agree with @kniplingsdyret. Reading this article made me feel a little bit annoyed too and also stroked at my view of "feminism." But, reading @kniplingsdyret's comment, it made me feel better. It made me realize that guys and girls will always need each other but also not need each other. We all have our own differences but we all complement each other, especially our "soulmates," "partners," or whatever people think their other halves are to them. Our partners should be our yin or yang, we shouldn't need each other but we do. It's okay to not think about who's doing what for who (AKA sometimes called "keeping score") and just let nature coexist as naturally and as peacefully.

    It makes me happy too that I can just do the things I am able to do on my own as myself, as a woman; and not feel irritated or insulted if a man offers to help me or helps me in the things I am not able to do on my own.

    I hope I find a man who complements me as my other half and I can complement him as his other half just right; and it doesn't have to be perfect.

  5. marcus says:

    you made a good point.