Response to “Blueprint for a Woman’s Life”

It pains me to link to the site, but letting it go without comment was gnawing at me. So, maybe before you read my post, go read this one: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2011/08/16/blueprint-for-a-womans-life/

Shining a Light on True Meaning

There are 442 comments and I felt mine would be lost in the shuffle. I sent it to one of my friends, she passed it on to someone else, and the three of us were furious about what this professional blogger wrote.  One comment suggests that she wrote it to create a furror. Whatever her intentions, she succeeded in creating a post that a lot of people talked about. Shockingly, there were women who were lauding her words, and agreeing with the rubbish she wrote.  In fact, over 3,000 people “liked” the article.

I may not have the “credentials” that this professional blogger does, in that I’m not 45 years old, my career advice doesn’t run in over 200 magazines and I haven’t founded 3 startups, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a solid rebuttal case for almost every point she made in her ridiculous list. What I do know, I learned from a variety of life experiences outside of the classrooms I taught in, outside of the hometown I grew up in, outside of the country I love and outside of the box others painted me into. I’ve learned that accepting who we are and building light and joy into our lives will bring satisfaction. You cannot buy those things. That being said, let’s dive into my issues with her ideas of what it takes to be a successful woman.

1. Do Less Homework

She doesn’t value teachers, as illustrated in a later point where she tells parents to homeschool their children because school will screw them up. However, as a former teacher, I have to disagree. Homework is a way to practice the skills you learned in class. I keep trying to tell my nephew, we rarely assigned homework to punish our students. After all, the teachers have to grade the homework; all students have to do is do it. Not doing your homework and playing sports and video games instead is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, this was the least reprehensible suggestion she made.

2. Get Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgery doesn't *always* make you look better

This is a touchy subject. I’m a Californian and more than one of my friends have had plastic surgery so I don’t judge women who choose to do it. But, the suggestion that women SHOULD get plastic surgery proposes that the way we were made isn’t good enough and the standard set by the world is the one we should judge ourselves by instead of the standard we set for ourselves. She says with plastic surgery women will have a wider choice of men, which makes a grand assumption (men prefer women who’ve had plastic surgery to those who haven’t) and sells men short as well. Our entire society is not superficial.

3. Go to business school right out of the gate.

She ends with the belief that business school is stupid. But, my favorite selection is: “Men like women who are smart but not making more than they are. (I do not have a link for this. I have instinct.)” If we agree that instinct is based on experience, then I wonder what kind of experience and people led her to that conclusion. I know a lot of men and I can’t say that any of them fall into her instinctual category. I also think most of my girlfriends are smarter than their mates, but their marriages and relationships are strong. I think men find smart women sexy and challenging. I also think that if a man is threatened by a woman’s intelligence, it’s a reflection on his insecurity. The same goes for women who are threatened by a man’s intelligence. She is clearly insecure about her own. That being said, Penelope’s instinct culled from her small group of like-minded individuals doesn’t count for much. Her bravado continues to dismay me.

4. Start early looking for a husband seriously

I’m possibly most disgusted by this one because I don’t believe you should or shouldn’t start looking for a husband seriously at any time. Perhaps I’m a romantic because I believe in fate, but trying to orchestrate your life will leave you confused at your inability to succeed, frustrated by your failure at making everything happen exactly as you want and exhausted from working so hard at it. Love is supposed to be more natural. You’ll find him when the time is right and you’ll just know. If that doesn’t happen in Penelope’s time frame your eggs aren’t going to get rusty and shrivel up, especially not by 35. There is no science behind her assertions. I think we’re all susceptible to divorce if we choose a partner based on fear or don’t work hard and commit to marriage. She addresses divorce in another note, so we’ll get to that in a bit.

5. Milk maternity leave for all it’s worth

My friend Nicole said it best: “This is the exact kind of sentiment that gives fire to the argument of those against maternity leave.” Maternity leave is about spending time with your baby, bonding, nurturing, and loving your new born. It’s a time for the mom to heal and it shouldn’t be dialed down to something as degrading and simple as “milk maternity leave”. She makes one good point about not taking it: “If you are taking care of a newborn baby and working full-time, you’ll be doing everything with your eyes closed.” Maternity leave should be about the mom and the baby, not manipulating a system. She goes on to say: “Make them fire you. It’ll take their legal department a long time to give permission for that, and you can be collecting a paycheck the whole time. The extra cash can fund the rest of your transition.” Is this advice meant to build women up and help them cultivate positive and healthy reputations? No. I’m not sure what the purpose is, but it’s not what a good human should do. Advising someone to make money through deception is a serious offense, but unfortunately moral depravity isn’t always punishable.

6. Guard your marriage obsessively

She’s saying two things here: Stay together no matter what and do everything you can to make sure your husband stays true at any cost. She says, “If you love your kids, you stay married to their parents”…Even if the father beats the mother? …Even if one parent commits a heinous crime? …Even if one spouse is a serial cheater? I didn’t get married with the idea of divorce in mind, and my opinion on divorce remains that judging someone else from the outside is far easier to do when you’ve never been on the inside. If my mother hadn’t divorced her first husband, I wouldn’t be here, so I can’t say I’m “against it”. I do think that marriage is a serious commitment and the union should be entered into out of respect for the institution (regardless of who is getting married). I’m bothered by the fact that she thinks she has the right to tell other women that the marriage is their responsibility and their happiness isn’t valuable or worthy enough to consider divorce. Seriously, who does she think she is?

Secondly, guarding your marriage “obsessively” is dangerous. If you don’t trust your husband, this is the issue you need to work on. Guarding him won’t make anything better. Working on your marriage, protecting it by keeping dangerous elements away, loving each other, valuing your commitment and listening are important elements to having a strong marriage. Being obsessive is unhealthy.

7. Practice austerity.

This is not a bad idea. I also think we should practice austerity. I think Penelope should practice austerity with her advice and blueprints. Managing your life with reverence to time and money is responsible. However, I believe that the intention behind why we do things is at least as important as doing them. It may not be important for anyone other than ourselves. We should understand why we do the things we do.

She doesn’t tell her readers to practice austerity for their financial benefit. She uses this section to judge working moms. “Don’t say you are not with your kids all day because you need the money. That would be a lie.” There are multiple scenarios I can think of where moms have to work outside the home even with little ones there and, again, judging the mom isn’t helping her. Maybe it makes Penelope feel better about her life. That’s a fourth grader mentality: put someone else down so I feel better.

Why are people listening to her?

8. Do a startup with a guy

These are two paragraphs which basically say that a woman can’t succeed on her own. It doesn’t matter what facts she makes up, she is saying that women cannot succeed without the help of men. This is simply not true. She is so negative and uninspiring. Why anyone would listen to her is beyond me. “Smart women in their 20s are looking for husbands.” So women who aren’t looking are stupid? And looking for a husband is now what qualifies a woman as smart? There are inherent issues with her argument. It ignores all different types of women who are not focused on marriage, who have different values and different goals. Women like me. Women like you.

9. If you can’t get men to do a startup with you, do a lifestyle business.

Better idea: Do a start up yourself!

10. Homeschool. Your kids will be screwed if you don’t.

“The world will not look kindly on people who put their kids into public school.” This is an interesting assertion because it’s based on no facts and is vacuous and self-proclaimed wisdom. The debate between homeschooling and sending your kids to school is a valid one when using words which raise us to a level of debate and critical thinking. I take personal offense because she is assuming that I was screwing her kids over when I worked 8 years as a teacher as I was slaving over grading papers and giving helpful feedback to students learning to write essays. Whether homeschooling is better for an individual child depends on the child, for me and my own, they’ll be at a school learning to socialize with other children.

Penelope also has no experience in homeschooling her children which she admits to at the end of the paragraph (“last week, I decided: I’m taking my kids out of school.”) From this we understand that she makes statements based on guesses. From this, we can devalue her entire blueprint. If we know she doesn’t really know about one topic, but says she does, we can assume she does the same with every other argument.

11. Spend money on household help and Botox to keep more doors open longer.

If you have the money, by all means, get household help. Why not? I hate cleaning and if I can swing it, I’ll have house cleaners help me out at least once a week. I’m not sure that will help me keep more doors open longer.

Botox? Absolutely not. Botox tests every batch on animals. They suffer excruciating deaths. The concentration of the Botox has to be tested each time. For that reason alone, it’s off the table for me as an option. Another good reason to avoid using Botox is that long-term effects have never been studied. A third good reason to avoid Botox is simply because if you think fixing that forehead wrinkle is going to make you happy, you’re obviously avoiding bigger issues. Better to figure it out now then shell out even one dollar on a false cure.

Additionally, Botox will not be a component of my successful marriage or figuring out how to raise kids. Those two do not go hand in hand.

12. Break the mold in your 40s.

“Women get more unhappy as they age.” Again, she makes a blanket statement she must have postulated from her “instinct” or “experience” except that, to begin with, it’s impossible to verify that statement and secondarily, it’s an absolute. ALL women do not become less happy as the age. Her last statement is thoroughly disgusting. “Figure out how to have a lot of sex to leverage your hard-earned talent.” This is the final word of advice to women about being successful? What a wasted opportunity.

I could write a lot of platitudes about how to be happy, succeed and feel content. This post was more about the negativity in the world by first recognizing it, addressing it and then flushing it down the toilet. I hope the next time you come across something like this online, or someone like this in your own life, that you’re able to do just what I’ve done. Listen to what she says and think about what she means, but isn’t saying.

Sometimes it’s worth our time to stand and fight, sometimes it’s better to be graceful and walk away. This time I chose to stand and fight, and now I’m walking away grateful for who I am and what I stand for.

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11 thoughts on “Response to “Blueprint for a Woman’s Life”

  1. Thank God someone has their head on straight about Penelope’s post! I scrolled down through the comments and was absolutely shocked that so many applauded her for such a nauseating article! It’s already difficult for me to take anyone seriously who tries to impose their personal opinions on me, but to make such ludicrous statements about how a woman should live her entire life? No thank you. I’m glad you stand for self-acceptance and personal choice!

  2. “But, the suggestion that women SHOULD get plastic surgery proposes that the way we were made isn’t good enough and the standard set by the world is the one we should judge ourselves by instead of the standard we set for ourselves.”

    The standard set by the world determines who dates us. And for women, beauty is the main thing by which they are judged. If there’s some simple plastic surgery fix for a problem, it’s probably gonna be good.

    “I also think that if a man is threatened by a woman’s intelligence, it’s a reflection on his insecurity.”

    This is why we don’t like smart opinionated women. They insult you, think their intelligence is a license for imposing their opinion on you. It’s not about how secure you are, it’s about not finding cruel people sexy.

    “If that doesn’t happen in Penelope’s time frame your eggs aren’t going to get rusty and shrivel up, especially not by 35. There is no science behind her assertions. ”

    http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/down.htm

    Your risk of having a baby with down syndrome is 5 times greater at age 35. Plus your beauty is vastly less. If you chose to wait then the man you get when you decide to settle down will be much less attractive and fun than the one you could have gotten at age 20.

    “Advising someone to make money through deception is a serious offense, but unfortunately moral depravity isn’t always punishable.”

    Agreed. It’s beneficial advice, if immoral advice.

    “I’m bothered by the fact that she thinks she has the right to tell other women that the marriage is their responsibility and their happiness isn’t valuable or worthy enough to consider divorce. Seriously, who does she think she is?”

    If you divorce to find happiness then the chances are that you won’t find it. You’re much less attractive due to your age so you will have far more problems finding a guy, and you have lots of baggage such as kids which guys don’t view kindly. It’s a practical matter. Unless the guy beats her or cheats on her, as you said, divorce is a bad idea.

    “Why are people listening to her?”

    Cause she says it like it is.

    “Why anyone would listen to her is beyond me. “Smart women in their 20s are looking for husbands.” So women who aren’t looking are stupid? And looking for a husband is now what qualifies a woman as smart? ”

    I think it’s pretty clear why people listen to her.

    • Thanks for your response. Unfortunately, you missed the entire point of my blog. The way she writes devalues women. It may come down to you don’t think it does and I do, but raising my daughter to believe that she MUST value herself the way society does is antithetical to who I am as a woman and who I will be as a Mom. I want my daughter to grow up with the belief that she can succeed on her own terms: because she can.

      Not all smart women insult people or believe their intelligence is a license for imposing their opinions. I know wonderful and brilliant women who are also humble and kind. To name a few: Victoria Fridley, Dr. Linda Hewett and Kathy Markovich.

      “The man you decide to settle down (with) will be much less attractive and fun than the one you could have gotten at age 20”. Your values are clearly different than mine. I sought a man who was respectful, responsible, ambitious, loving, among other things. Fun and attractive were certainly on the list, but not the main two and they didn’t weigh more than others.

      Regarding divorce, I stand behind my original statement. My mother divorced and met my fantastic father who wanted to adopt her child. Love and marriage cannot be factored down to “it’s a practical matter”. You get one life to live and you should find your place in happiness.

      It’s still not at all clear to me why people listen to her. She tells it like it is according to her view, which I find negative and anti-woman.

  3. Penelope’s post makes me feel like we’re heading back 50 years ago, when my mother and grandmother had little choice over their careers and life, and had so few opportunities. It was simply not fair. And a lot of things in life are still not fair, but coming from a developed western country we have something of an obligation to try and leave this world a better place – because we have the education and opportunities that allow us to do so.

    Spending our money on botox, doing a crappy job so we don’t have to think about while we’re at work 2 months after giving birth (only four countries in the world do NOT paid time off for new parents: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States), and spending all our time maintaining relationships that make us feel bad is not going to help us succeed in this life, or leave the world a bit better. They are going to make it a whole lot worse.

    I celebrate my friends who have fascinating careers, who are independent financially, who are able to provide every opportunity to their children when and if they choose to conceive, because they worked hard, did their homework, married well when they knew what the wanted (or didn’t marry because they couldn’t find what they wanted), and are contributing to society through their talents, passions and skills. That is what I want for my friends, and that is what I want for all women today. If I have a baby girl one day, that is what I want for her. And every bit of writing like what Penelope has written is doing absolutely nothing to help this world, just sending us back to the dark ages of oppression, fear and a life of sadness.

  4. You believe that devaluing women is bad, that society devalues women by imposing its values on them, you don’t want your daughter to have an attitude of failure. But that doesn’t take into account, no matter how much you believe in yourself, no matter how much you value yourself, there are things you need from society, and if you don’t play by its rules you don’t get those rewards. That can mean you get a lot less value out of life.

    “Not all smart women insult people or believe their intelligence is a license for imposing their opinions.”

    And if you don’t, your intelligence is less of an issue, and you can be smart in a relationship.

    “I sought a man who was respectful, responsible, ambitious, loving, among other things. Fun and attractive were certainly on the list, but not the main two and they didn’t weigh more than others. ”

    Surely you sought those things because you found them attractive? Those things, and other things conventionally defined by women as attractive, they’re harder to get the longer you wait. You can find a more respectful, responsible, ambitious, loving man at a younger age.

    “You get one life to live and you should find your place in happiness. ”

    You might find happiness, like your mom. Or you might find an alcoholic man who beats you, he might be the only man who wants to settle down with you. Love can be factored down to practicality. The more you bring to the table, the better guys you can get.

    “It’s still not at all clear to me why people listen to her. She tells it like it is according to her view, which I find negative and anti-woman.”

    Your view is that you should trust in fate and you will find the one. Some women do find the one. A lot of women don’t. They gamble and they crash and burn, they’re alone forever. Her view is much more practical. They seek ‘natural’ love (not that it’s that natural, in the past people started pairing up at age 12) and it doesn’t work out for them.

  5. I read her entire post & yours… I was completely frustrated by hers, although, I partially agreed w/ some of the things she said (just not for the reasons she sited, etc.), and agreed w/ a lot of what you said… Some things she brought up were just ridiculous: plastic surgery, botox, not doing homework… But some things I really think are good: guarding your marriage, maternity leave, home schooling, being frugal (or whatever fancy word she used– i’m not so fancy). Unfortunately, the way she addressed these topics just made me want to punch her in the face!

    • I absolutely think we should protect our marriage, but the “guarding it obsessively” sounds destructive, and obviously being frugal in difficult economic times makes sense, but I had the same visceral reaction to how she said it. Since we don’t punch people in the face, I figured a blog response was the best I could do. My biggest issue was how she was presenting how women should live and that women were listening.

  6. That article is disgusting. I kept wsiting for the punchline, the nah nah you fell for it, and it didn’t happen. I am shocked at the number of comments approving of her post! I just feel like throwing up now.

    • I know….it’s appalling. I don’t know about this “invisibility” factor she’s talking about because I’ve never experienced it, but I’m also not at the age she says it happens. I do know that when I get there, I will not want to be noticed JUST for my appearance. I hope the work I’ve done up until that point will suffice and speak for itself. If it doesn’t, I won’t be getting plastic surgery to amend the situation. I’ve learned how to make my voice heard.

  7. I think people missed one of the major facts in her writings, the downfall of Asperger’s syndrome Penelope has. I’m not justifying, just pointing out she never uses subtle meanings and references, she doesn’t recognize that. Her writings are pretty harsh, but with feminism getting subdued and increasing rethorics of 50’s (actually those opinions never really left) concernig workforce, I cannot help the feeling she’s painstakingly right in some points she describes.

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