Afflicted by Affirmations

I know that some people find affirmations very useful. They can be encouraging, can give some people strength and security, and can help people “reprogram” themselves after bad experiences and emotional problems.

But certain manufacturers have gone too far, in my irritated opinion.

I’m not someone who benefits from most “affirming phrases.” And I sure as heck do not need to be uplifted and encouraged by my sanitary products. Just because I have two X chromosomes and the biology that goes with them doesn’t mean I want to read chipper and empowering slogans when I look at packaging, especially packaging for stuff like this.

Actually, I’m heartily tired of the “you go Girl! Show the patriarchy what you’re made of” rah-rah junk. The US is not a patriarchy, women are not oppressed by society at large, and we can do anything our minds are capable of and that our bodies are strong enough to do, if we want it badly enough. This ain’t Saudi, or Guatemala, or China. If girls have the talent and the desire, they can be theoretical physicists, professional athletes, soldiers, astronauts, pilots, engineers, brain surgeons, garbage collectors, farmers, loggers, truck drivers, corporate presidents, accountants, teachers, costume designers, dancers, authors, and anything else. Yes, we have certain biological limitations and things we have to keep in mind. (So do smaller, leaner guys in some cases.)

I’ve worked for a business that was pretty darn patriarchal. The owner was well-meaning, traditional, but quite willing to hire a woman who could do the job and pull her own weight, just like the guys. He preferred that the women in his family stay with more traditional roles, but also acknowledged that without a good, well-educated wife and mother, the family would be in a lot of trouble. One of the supervisors was a horse’s patoot and felt threatened by a smart, unmarried woman without a father near-by to keep her in check. He also had serious problems at home that he took out on all his fellow employees, male and female. (At least he was even-handed about that.)

I’ve worked with (and around) guys who took the “male head of the family” too far and got in the way as I tried to do what I needed to on the job, because they could not stand not intervening when a woman did physical labor. That was what men did. Women had their sphere, men had theirs, and it made them feel as if they were failing their duties if I moved planes and equipment by myself. That got… annoying… quickly, because it wasn’t safe for any of us.

MomRed, Grandmother Red, my other grandmother, my great aunts, they all worked outside the home. At one point, Grandmother Red was de facto in charge of the largest parts warehouse in Houston, keeping track of and sending out everything from automotive engine parts to washers for sinks to gas-valves for baking ovens to Steelcase™ desks and cans of mimeograph fluid. One aunt worked for the Houston Fat Stock Show, another was a seamstress, one was a civilian secretary in the US Navy. One acted on Vaudeville and never drove or took a train if she could fly – this being in the 1930s-50s!

I don’t need affirmations to tell me that I can do what I want to and what I am physically capable of achieving. A pound sign and “go girl” don’t mean zip. Giving me room to try and to fail, and to learn and try again is a lot more important. And saying that I “should” be an engineer even if I’m not wired that way, and dumbing down the coursework so that I can be patted on the head and called an engineer? That’s more damaging to me and to every person with two X chromosomes than is the outright discrimination and abuse in places like the Sudan or China.

You want girls to go farther? Then skip the affirmations on feminine hygiene products and just get out of our way. Let girls be girls, let boys be boys, and if we go different ways, then hey, let us go different ways.

19 thoughts on “Afflicted by Affirmations

  1. I never even knew that such “affirmations” existed. They sound yucky, quite frankly. I mean, if I found my deodorant suddenly emblazoned with “Go for it, you big masculine hunk!”, or words to that effect, I’d switch brands on the spot! Ewwww…

    (On the other hand, if someone told me that “The check is in the male”, I’d cash it!)

    • Bringing new meaning to the term ‘carp per diem’, especially for Austin or Key West.

      (Puts up Wile E. Coyote mini umbrella)

    • My husband uses Old Spice deodorant (and man, is it hard finding the standard stuff these days) and they put cute sayings on them, now.

      They’re actually cute, though. (Says the person who finds their commercials hilarious.)

      “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t exist.”

  2. It’s bad enough when a parent or family have ambitions for you for which you are unsuited by ability or inclination, but when strangers seek to define you to make their theories work, you have a kind of slavery driven not by greed but by pride.

    I don’t think any sane person can honestly say “I am humble.”

    GKC, =The Diabolist=:
    “I am becoming orthodox,” I said, “because I have come, rightly or
    wrongly, after stretching my brain till it bursts, to the old belief
    that heresy is worse even than sin. An error is more menacing than
    a crime, for an error begets crimes. An Imperialist is worse than a
    pirate. For an Imperialist keeps a school for pirates; he teaches piracy
    disinterestedly and without an adequate salary. A Free Lover is worse
    than a profligate. For a profligate is serious and reckless even in his
    shortest love; while a Free Lover is cautious and irresponsible even in
    his longest devotion. I hate modern doubt because it is dangerous.”

  3. Amen.

    I wish I was unaffected by affirmations– but I’m not.

    They get stored up until I really need them, until when getting a ‘you got this!’ would be the world…and I remember these absolutely meaningless random affirmations, and even if I do get one from someone I trust, it’s gutted.

    • Then there’s the additional negatives.
      What happens when someone internalizes the constant affirmations, and then is faced with reality?
      You can’t really “have it all”.
      You can try almost anything, have the talent to achieve, work hard, even excel, and then life can still kick you in the (metaphorical) balls.
      .
      It’s even worse when the poisonous but unstated subtext of “and if you can’t, it’s the fault of men in general, and the man closest to you in particular” that so often accompanies the affirmations is passively accepted. Only to erupt as a full-fledged monster later, when life inevitably occurs.

  4. During WWII Mom was the head bookkeeper for the Union Pacific Coal Company, a job that was typically held by a man prior to the war. She worked for various companies after the war, helping put Dad through college, When I came along, she took over the more traditional role of housewife and mother. She had no problems with that, except when some “working moms” had the temerity to make a comment that it was OK for her to take on additional responsibility (in charitable activities, etc) because she didn’t “work.” Do not, repeat do not be in the blast zone when someone said that.

  5. Today, I replaced a toilet tank fill valve. Having never done this before, my husband and I drove to the store so I could look at the shelf and see if I needed to figure out what gpf or other criteria I needed to find out, in order to get the right one. Found out they’re standardized instead, and promptly bought one. Took it home, followed the destructions carefully, only dribbled a little water on the floor.

    The very last page in the instructions, after “flush the tank, check for leaks, throw out old parts, put away tools…”
    was a large-font, bold, YOU DID IT!
    …I was simultaneously amused at that, happy that it was finished, and annoyed that the affirmation made me feel batter. Might have even grumbled about being the “ding! You leveled up!” culture as I tossed the packaging and put the tools away.

      • I know! I had to supply the reward treasure myself! I chose a cherry mead-fortified cider.

    • I’d giggle at that one, it sounds like someone’s sense of humor accurately gauging the approximate mental state of the average person fixing a toilet.

  6. You’re not the only one that sees it. Some of the men’s stuff has that crap too, and freakin ads… REALLY??? Sigh.

    • Oh. Gads. The ads.

      It’s like they grew up watching Home Improvement, and didn’t notice that Tim “The Tool Man” was a freaking genius, just a liiiiiittle lacking in the ‘figure out where to stop’ department.

  7. Some years back (5 or so, IIRC, and I well may not…) I read that (again, IIRC) F.E. Warren AFB sent 20 all-female missile crews into the field to perform missile launch crew duty. 24-hour(+/-; more + than -) alert duty shifts. I was retired well before that. Should anyone be interested, four Warren crew members wrote and performed songs about the missile biz, back in the ’70s, as The Groobers, and available on You Tube.)

  8. I know that this post is two days old, but I just have to throw in an “Amen!” here. When I’m feeling miserable, suffering from cramps, and worried that I’m about to make a mess of the armchair, the last thing I want is a “Rah, rah, girls!” affirmation. Just give me a freakin’ pad and get out of my way!

    It’s ridiculous that the transgender crowd wants to get rid of all that stuff because “Men get periods too,” but, well, if they actually DO manage to get the sanitary people to put their products in plain wrappers, I’ll take it.

    • Yes! I didn’t comment on that “little” bout of folly, but I won’t complain about a lack of decorative packaging.

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