Exploring Human Potential

Is Being A Woman In America “Just Too Hard?”

Posted on | March 6, 2024 | 6 Comments

Mike Magee

Britt Cagle Grant, the 47-year old Federal Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit made news this week. The Stanford Law graduate, blessed by the Federalist Society and Leonard Leo, and former clerk of Hon. Brett Kavanaugh, was nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate on July 31, 2018.

Now six years later, on March 4, 2024, her words in rejecting DeSantis’s “Stop Woke Act” (otherwise known as the “Individual Freedom Measure”), are particularly crushing to her supporters: “By limiting its restrictions to a list of ideas designated as offensive, …it penalizes certain viewpoints — the greatest First Amendment sin. Banning speech on a wide variety of political topics is bad; banning speech on a wide variety of political viewpoints is worse.”

In a political universe, where choices are particularly binary, the Justice appeared to be exploring middle ground. When still a Presidential candidate in 2022, Ron DeSantis used the bill as the leading edge of a divisive campaign based on white nationalist victimization, stating, “No one should be instructed to feel as if they are not equal or shamed because of their race. In Florida, we will not let the far-left woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces.”

Ron and Casey DeSantis have mirrored in many ways the fictional Barbie and Ken – soon to be featured in the 2024 Academy Awards where they have been nominated for eight Oscars. The comparison of Ron to Ken needs little explanation. And Casey herself is used to the glare of the public spotlight. The former host of PGA Tour Today who met her husband on the golf course and was married at Disney World is beautiful and smart as a whip. She graduated with a degree in Economics from the College of Charleston.

With this most recent turn of events, the DeSantis family seems to be following the plot line (with its twists and turns) of ‘Barbie’– this year’s favorite for 2024 Picture of the Year. And performing in that film you will find a female disrupter at least as prominent as Justice Grant.

I am speaking of the brilliant actress and nominee for Best Supporting Actress, America Ferrera, who played a 39 year old mother and Mattel employee, Gloria,  and delivered what one film critique describes as “the ‘Barbie’ monologue we all talked about.” You can find the two minute speech in its entirety here, and it is well worth a listen. Ferrera herself described the big speech this way: “funny and subversive and delightfully weird.”

When I first heard the speech (as a husband of 54 years, father of a grown daughter and three daughters-in-law, grandfather of six granddaughters, and brother of six sisters) I choked up at one specific line – “It’s too hard.” It comes in the next to the last paragraph.

Here is “The Speech” with Gloria speaking to Barbie who is encountering the “real world.”:

“It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”

But in our binary world, is it enough to agree with Barbie when she suggests that “Naming the problem can break the spell?”

Or must we list again a litany of facts that document the harm done – 1 in 5 women victims of rape or attempted rape; epidemic (41%) domestic abuse and violence; unequal pay; forced birth enacted by male super-dominated Red State legislatures; absurd maternal/fetal mortality rates; no paid maternity leave; no universal preschool; Congress is 72% male; and I could go on. But I and many others have been this way before, in search of the right facts, the right message, to find the elusive “middle ground.”

Justice Grant’s appearance this week drew me back to March 24, 2005, when another Federal Justice from the Eleventh Circuit ruled for sanity in a Florida case, opposing both the Governor (Jeb Bush) and the President (George W. Bush). That Justice allowed Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube to be removed at a Pinellas Park hospice, where she died peacefully on March 31,2005. 

Terri had struggled with a hidden eating disorder (a condition shared by 9% of Americans), which went undiscovered when she sought evaluation for infertility. On February 25, 1990, she collapsed in the lobby of their apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was resuscitated but from that day forward remained in a “permanent vegetative state.” A epic 15 year “culture war” ensued before final Judicial relief was grudgingly earned.

Shouting from street side the day she died was Randall Terry, leader of Operation Rescue, who somehow believed that Schiavo had not suffered enough, and what our country needed was a heavy dose of “traditional masculinity,” defined by the American Psychological Association, in 2018  as a blend of “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—and on the whole, harmful.” 

Is there a middle to be found when it comes to the health of women in America? As our fictional Barbie suggests, if we believe that “naming the problem can break the spell,” perhaps others like Justice Britt Cagle Grant might unexpectedly come along.  So let’s remain optimistic and continue to seek out and expand the middle by raising our voices as participants in this democracy. Otherwise, we are likely to witness other Terri Schiavo’s coming along, destined to die because being a woman in a Trumpist America is “just too hard.”.


6 Responses to “Is Being A Woman In America “Just Too Hard?””

  1. Lawrence Williams
    March 7th, 2024 @ 6:48 pm

    Never in my wildest imagination would I have believed that my friend Dr. Mike Magee would be quoting dialog from a movie called “Barbie” and telling me that it provides some perspective on the disastrous plight of women in general and specifically women’s health in the 2024 United States of America. But here it is.
    Now, I guess my response in this matter is:
    1. I absolutely agree with Ms. Ferrera’s speech and with Dr. Magee’s elucidation of the the current realities facing women in general. An environment full of impossible barriers to their very existence in a decent world. I don’t think there has been such a nearly impossible task set before any individual since Sisyphus saw the rock roll back down that hill in the depths of Hades.
    2. What can I do as a man to help correct this curse that my wife, my 3 daughters and my 2 granddaughters have to face? I have done my best not to engage in any of that “men’s bad behavior” that they would have to answer for but somehow I doubt that that is enough.
    So I ask again….what can I do?
    Thanks yet again Michael for a most thought provoking and timely article. As always my very best to you and Patricia.

  2. Jeanette Takamura
    March 8th, 2024 @ 1:32 am

    We served on an aging commission together. Thanks for the quote. I personally disliked the movie as I thought it shallow in its representation of gender discrimination and its intersection with race and socioeconomic status.
    In any case, keep up the good work.

  3. Larry McGovern
    March 8th, 2024 @ 1:20 pm

    “There you go again….” producing thoughtful, fact-laden, connecting-historical-dots commentary. Thanks, Mike.

    I too was struck by the “Barbie” monologue! And today is International Women’s Day, which I only found out today actually started in 1908.

    Also struck by the tragedy of TERRI S and the atrociousness (that’s a word, right?) of R TERRY.

    Keep up the good work, Mike!!

  4. Mike Magee
    March 9th, 2024 @ 11:09 am

    Thanks, Larry, for all you do in lending your voice in support of the most vulnerable in society! Best, Mike

  5. Mike Magee
    March 9th, 2024 @ 11:11 am

    Thanks for your expert insights, Jeanette. Having served with you remains fresh in my mind. It was a pleasure. Best, Mike

  6. Mike Magee
    March 9th, 2024 @ 11:18 am

    Thanks, Larry. I think the most we can do is speak up whenever it is appropriate, and bear witness. One more thing – optimism. Hopefulness (as Biden so well illustrated this week) is not weakness but strength, and needed now more than ever. Best, Mike

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