debbie millman

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Commentary: What It Feels Like For A Girl

I have often wondered what it would be like to be a man. I have occasionally suspected that my whole life would have been a whole lot easier had I been born male rather than female, aside from my complete and utter lack of sports acumen. I say this not only because I question whether or not I have more testosterone than I really should have as a woman (because I think I actually do) but rather because it seems a lot easier to be man in the working world and to have it “all,” so to speak. I also say this because when I am being bossy I wouldn’t have to worry that I am being perceived as bitchy, when I am moody I wouldn’t have to worry about being thought of as premenstrual, and when I am strong I wouldn’t have to worry about being considered overly aggressive. Us women have to worry about these things, and frankly, men simply don’t.

I grew up in a house where both of my parents worked. In fact, for many years, during my mother’s second marriage, she was the only one that did work. So when I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I just assumed that I would work. Having a family and a house in the suburbs did not even register in my fantasies of adulthood. My idea of the future was always about a career, financial independence and self-expression. My choices never included being a mother, at least they didn’t until I hit forty and worried that if I didn’t make a move soon, I would never be able to be a mom. It seems unfair that we girls have a built in expiration date to have biological children, and as I approached the finish line to my maternal window, I found out that, once again, given the choice, I didn’t want to go to the extreme lengths it would require for me to have children. I often joke about how much easier it would be for ME to have a wife—and I still joke about it, but now I wish I didn’t have to joke. It is hard to do it all when you work 60 hours a week, and while I adore what I do, it would be nice every once in a while if someone else could pick up the dry cleaning or buy all the pet food that I need for my four furry friends.

But in the grand scheme of things, I do love being a woman. Mostly because I like the clothes and the shoes and the make-up and being allowed to cry at sappy movies, and being allowed to watch sappy movies without fear of being a sissy. But I also love being bossy and strong and decisive. And I love other women that are like that too. My friend Stephen Hinton sent me a link today to an article in the New York Times about what is now being referred to as “girl crushes.” Apparently, according to the Times, "this is a new phrase that many women use in conversation, post on blogs and read in magazines. It refers to that fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished. And while a girl crush is, by its informal definition, not sexual in nature, the feelings that it triggers - excitement, nervousness, a sense of novelty - are very much like those that accompany a new romance." Stephen sent me this link because of my own admittance to a fervent infatuation I have on my friend Emily. What is interesting to me is that this crush is all about what I love most about women--and being a woman: the ability that we have now to be both beautiful and accomplished—with and for each other. Maybe it is with these new types of relationships we can redefine what it means to “have it all.” In the meantime, while we still may have difficulties having it all, I think it is nice to know that we can be it all, albeit with some strong stereotypes still to combat. But as Shelly Lake once said, “well behaved women rarely make history.” Well, I say this: here’s to being bad.

5 Comments:

Blogger null said...

Were you eavesdropping on my brain this weekend?

—eb

8/16/2005 08:44:00 AM  
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8/20/2005 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Debbie,

Maybe you ought to ask yourself, what would be the consequence of just plain ignoring whether people thought you were 'premenstrual' or 'bitchy?' When I tell my staff to do something in a urgent way, some of them whine to themselves about it and decide I'm a bossy prick. How is this any different than being called a bitch? There's some gender momentum behind it, I guess, but the emotional outcome is the same.

So, why focus on the distinction? Just be what you're going to be and let the gender issues die a quiet death. At some point, the only people making gender an issue will be activists.

Maybe I'm mistaken. I'm not a woman, so I can't know for sure. However, most of the women I've worked for have been solid leaders for whom I busted my ass, and gender was never an issue. Character, skill and leadership ability were. Perhaps equality is just transparent.

And I do ask this out of real curiousity. Why does it still matter?

R.

8/25/2005 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Meldog said...

I happened to read your posting since my daughter has your blogspot as a link on hers. I can appreciate all that you say. I was married at 20, had 2 children by thirty, my husband died when I was 42 and I am now 51.

Going through life alone is difficult, but I see it as a challenge. I have made it this far and by God I am not giving up now.

I do, however, long for someone to share a sunset with or a nice quiet dinner, other than my girlfriends. Most of my friends are married and are now entering the time in their lives when they can start enjoying time together, without kids, jobs or other life altering commitments.

I will probably be working for the rest of my life and long for the time to travel and drink wine all day long.

But, I still enjoy being a woman in this crazy mixed up world. Even if it is totally male dominated.

12/15/2005 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Claudia said...

Hi Debbie,
I am a graphic designer myself and I really enjoy your radioshow Design Matters.
Now I just discovered this worderful and honest way of communication.
Blogs are truly amazing. Thanks for your ideas and inspiration.

One more thing. Do you still have that New York Times link about girl crushes.
I would love to read it.

Have fun
Claudia

2/14/2006 11:14:00 PM  

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Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at FastCompany.com and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on DesignObserver.com. In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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