We need to look past these myths to know the truth, says Lucy Mangan
Well. I. Never. According to a new landmark study by Yale University, women are not freezing their eggs because they want to progress in their careers without losing the chance to have a baby. Instead, it’s the difficulty in finding a man ready to settle down and have a family that’s apparently spurring them on.
I’m so glad that we now have official confirmation of what anyone who has female friends, lives in the actual world and doesn’t concoct tabloid headlines for a living has always known. Men don’t have to settle down until they want to these days, so they don’t. Women’s fertility window, however, remains much the same as it ever was. All the while, the chances of a sociocultural movement to curb men’s entitlement/accelerate their emotional maturity/sort out whatever complex knotty mass of issues is keeping them from stepping up remain slim; ergo, back-up plans must be made.
I do not mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with freezing your eggs in order to concentrate on your career (as long as you are fully cognisant of the likely success rate and so on – I basically consider Not Just Hoping For The Best a rule to live by in all matters). Just that I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. And the numbers don’t add up. For work to be women’s main motivation, there would have to be many more fascinating, all-consuming careers than there are. Work’s work. Unless you’re a sociopath, it’s the stuff outside it – friends, family, the cat who hates you – that you live for.
Anyway. I love it when a myth is blown. It has the same bracing, restorative power as hearing someone call Brexit a “mad riddle” and David Cameron a tw*t live on TV. This one comes hot on the heels of other research showing that women ask for pay rises just as often as men do – the remaining problem seems to be that men are 5% more likely to get them. But again, the myth – of women’s lack of confidence or ambition in the workplace – is blown, and the true fault – endemic sexism in the higher echelons of the workplace – more clearly seen.
I’d like a lot of other myths blown too. The one about millennials not being able to buy homes because they spend all their cash on avocado-based fripperies has been fairly thoroughly debunked (by some gorgeously simple maths that shows you’d have to do without avo-anything for 80 billion years to buy a rotting hut in zone seven). But what about the one where women only dress to attract men? Or women not supporting other women (especially in the office)?
Myths almost always serve to uphold the status quo. If individual stupidity can be blamed, no one needs to be held liable for a housing policy and political ideology that leads to crazy house prices. If women really dress for men, then only women are responsible when it leads to catcalling, assault or rape. If women don’t support other women, well, *helpless shrug*, you can’t begin to do anything about the lack of female representation as you go up the corporate chain.
Myths are powerful and insidious. They speak for a greater collective knowledge that urges you to ignore your experience. That you and your friends dress – with specific, deliberate exceptions – for yourselves. That women are endlessly supportive of each other, and the ones who aren’t are so rare they stand out by a mile.
Always look beyond the myth. Keep focused on your truths. And enjoy that avocado toast.