‘Try hard, but not too hard. Be a good girl, why don’t you?’

This subject is not entirely INTP related, but more related to the history and education of my sex and current generational struggles which I felt like commenting on here:

In recent years, we have gained this expression in my country which roughly translates to ‘A+ grade girls’. It covers the tendency among my generation of particularly young female students who strive towards getting good grades (and a perfected image) all around, which has also fostered a series of performance anxiety, wavering self-esteem and other stress-related illnesses in large numbers across universities, high schools and now all the way down to elementary schools(!).

The expression has become symbolic of a serious symptom. In fact, it has gotten so bad that it has become a matter of somewhat national urgency.

Though, ambition in itself is not a problem and the fact that a large generation of women achieve a higher education in a variety of subjects than ever before and are able to make a name of themselves is positive, it is also historically new and revolutionary. For most of history, women were merely subjects of their fathers and husbands, duty-bound to obey and be ‘good, little daughters and housewives’. No rights, no vote, no voice, no (financial) independence, no educational prospects. Only very few could see themselves so lucky or privileged to get one or two of those things.

The fact, nowadays, that women now strain under the pressure of living up to all these new opportunities and expectations (given by themselves as well) and a perfected image, is, of course, a problem. A societal symptom which we all share a responsibility for. Let me be clear: It is not the women’s faults. The problem is much more complex and goes much deeper.

And that’s exactly it: The expression ‘A+ grade girls’ unfortunately embodies a sexist, derogatory prejudice as well. The way it is said and used, in a slightly blaming manner, tells of a historically old sexism that stills prevails in our society and which could also be roughly translated to: ‘Blame it on the girls.’

I sometimes sense a troubling lack of understanding among some men and even older generations of women in power who carelessly fling out this expression every now and then to underline whatever point they want to make.

Yes, statistically more women have entered and done better in the higher education system than men in recent decades, but simply because women experience historic progress in this particular field doesn’t automatically undermine the men. Is it really good, ol’ butt-hurt and fear of women out-performing men? Because something is off with the passive-aggressive way some seem to say ‘girls are winners, so now boys are losers’ and ‘fuck these girls and their outrageous ambitions! They should either stop whining or stop competing with each other and just give it a rest!’…

I get so angry and frustrated when I sense this is the problem! Especially because I, myself, is somewhat of a ‘A+ grade girl’ (along with my sister). Though, it has as much to do with my natural intelligence and being academically inclined as it has with my being a woman and a Millennial and feeling the obligatory pressure of performing well with all the opportunities given. Unconsciously or not. It is just the way it is for most of my generation, that much is clear now. And why shouldn’t I make use of my intelligence and opportunities? (I almost did the common mistake of my sex there: Unnecessarily apologizing beforehand for ‘tooting in my own horn’).

And so it’s even more frustrating when I’ve – to my surprise – witnessed my own father spew above-mentioned sentiments twice and refuse to listen to whatever I have to say because he has already set his mind to disagree with me. It’s all the more sad and hurtful that he seems to carry a hidden grudge against girls like myself and my sister; that we are clearly the problem, that we either try too hard or complain too much, and that we need to deal with it ourselves.

I may be colored by this, but, in the end, I think most will agree it is an utterly ignorant and unproductive way of explaining and dealing with a national, and possibly global, symptom: A whole generation of young people reporting sick with stress and battling low self-esteem and anxiety because all they want to do is to perform well and now have all the opportunities to do so that previous generations didn’t have! Not just girls, boys too, but because girls are of the majority of the higher education system thus their number simply are greater.

Of course, the tendency to want to perform well in all of life’s aspects may be sociologically and evolutionary gender-specific. Historically, women have been more exposed to changing circumstances, forced to be adaptive in order to survive and obliged to work twice as hard as men to get the same respect and recognition, juggle multiple roles as well as more restrictive, contradicting demands and expectations from society than men. More so than ever when we did make mistakes, became victims of circumstance and oppressors, and failed to live up to said (often inhuman and paradoxical) demands and expectations. It didn’t take much to step out of line. Which were most of the time. Well, we are humans and humans make mistakes. We lived in a noose that tightened every time we wriggled in the slightest, and our positions in society made us easy targets of all sorts of exploitation since we didn’t have the rights or the voices to fight back or demand justice. (I’m not even sure why I’m speaking in past tense; inequality and sexism are still alive and well).

And let me point out: Having gone through hardships is not a contest nor is this my attempt to exploit or wallow in the female suffering; I’m simply stating the female experience (not excluding racial and socio-economical aspects): We had to make do with what we had and could, which wasn’t much.

But the fact that more women today are dealing with these high ambitions – all these new opportunities included – doesn’t equate making women the enemies in all of this. (Apropos the noose analogy; it’s like some evil repetition of the Salem witch trials. Whatever we try, something can be faulted). Sure, we put a pressure on ourselves but, let me repeat, only because we want to do good. Make good use of our opportunities and prove ourselves – to ourselves and to others. And though ambition is far from everything in life (I’d be a hypocrite to say otherwise), understanding female history is crucial in order to understand the female perspective in this and why women may be more prone to strive for perfection and achievements in every aspect of life.

In fact, it should be seen as a demonstration of women’s extraordinary adaptability and multiple capabilities, especially when faced with adversity, as well as a recurring need to please – for better or for worse, but which shouldn’t be sneered at as it so often has been.

Another incredible historic example of this characteristic of my sex is when WWII arrived and all the men went to war, how women went directly from the kitchens and nurseries to the factories and all the previously male-dominated jobs and did them just as well and efficiently. And then, when the men returned, the women were unfortunately obliged to go back to the kitchens and their previous positions as secretaries and assistents and the sexist treatment that came with them. Just like that. No sulking. No hitch in the sudden shift of skills. Like the men, they had to do what was needed to be done and what was expected of them, though there are always two sides of that coin.

I only wish the current general opinion of the so-called ‘A+ grade girls/generation’ could shift in favor of my generation’s standpoint and desperate cries for help (which is what I also see this symptom as). Because if it continues as it has been, I’m not sure where we’ll end up. The average marks for admission are getting so high at some universities, no one can or will be able to get in. What’s the point of education if it’s all just this ‘good-better-best!’-attitude everyone seems enslaved to..?

I wish all parts of society could see the shared connection and responsibility of this problem, stop pointlessly vilifying either sexes and make a change for the better in the entire mindset of not just the educational system but what values we install in the coming generations.

I’m that idealistic.

Rant over and out.

*revised 15/06/18*

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What you’ll probably find me saying/thinking every so often

  • “That’s debatable”
  • “That seems symptomatic to …”
  • “I blame evolution for being subject to such basic impulses”
  • “Why should that be expected as being normal?!”
  • “Have you tried thinking about it this way …?”
  • “Sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about”
  • “What’s with the constant judging, people?”
  • “I had no idea this was the day that people did this thing… Why?”
  • “I do nothing. Or, no, I do something. I think.”
  • “Okay. So everybody just presumes one should know about this. When they tell you nothing, how is one supposed to know..?!”
  • “How on earth did this thing get so many supporters/members/fans? I want to know”
  • “How on earth did anyone come to think this was a good idea? I want to know”
  • “Have you noticed that …?”
  • “Why does my body keep doing that? It’s so strange. But then again, so is my brain.”
  • “These [insert number] things are so similar. I wonder if they have any connection? I bet they do. I must find out or make the connections myself”
  • “I don’t get how you can live without having/understanding irony… HOW??”
  • “Why am I the only one laughing at this?”
  • “I bet it is more complex than that”
  • “Yeah, but what if …”
  • “How can your mind be so small?”
  • “Oh, I wish …”
  • “That’s relative”
  • “I don’t understand why I cannot use this word/proverb like that. Language isn’t a static thing. It never has been. Besides, how can you claim to have monopoly of the use of a word/proverb when you hardly know its original meaning, how it came about in the first place or why we still use it in totally different contexts? Jeez.”
  • “Yeah, like that one/every time in history when …”
  • “Learning curves, peeps!”
  • “I feel like figuratively strangling that person/those people who do this thing. No, literally.”
  • “Now, I don’t want you to take this personally, but you do realize that …”
  • And the list goes on:

*revised 15/5/17*

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On alcohol

I never really liked alcohol and partying which seemed all the other young kids ever did when they first hit puberty. So, of course, I kept this statement to myself most of the time. It wasn’t looked kindly upon from any side.

To say I was confused about this unanimous ritual among my peers is an understatement.

I’ve never felt the need for alcohol or getting wasted. My brain is my most treasured quality; I’d never want to sedate it like that! Don’t get me wrong: I treasure having fun. But I treasure memory just as much.

Besides, I’m too physically sensitive towards alcohol; I get too tired too quickly or just get tipsy and silly in a way I don’t like.

Yes, for a moment I just don’t give a damn which can be freeing, but I’ll never allow myself to get entirely wasted, thus I do remember what I said and did while intoxicated and I just don’t recognize myself. I feel ashamed.

I’m not totally opposed to alcohol and can enjoy regulated amounts when the occasion calls for it, so I have been slightly intoxicated but never drunk as a skunk; reeling and puking and waking up with a hangover and no memory of the night before. I’m utterly repelled by the thought of going through that.

Of course, some would argue that being slightly intoxicated ‘unfortunately’ means one remembers ‘last night’ and how one behaved – and ‘who would want that?’

Well, if ‘getting fucked’ is the only point of drinking I pity you, but I do not blame you nor do I want to moralize about individual choices. I can only speak for myself and where that places individuals who dare oppose such ‘rituals’ and what I see as a larger, societal problem – at least, in my country – but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I like to believe I can have fun (and be funny) without intoxicants. Normally, at parties, I prefer observing and participating with a clear head and I can still have a great time.

However, I never was a party animal; I can only manage for so long. Being an introvert it is quite draining to be social, no matter what. I’ve felt the need to forget about life and its worries, but never with alcohol. I’ve never felt the need to let loose like that. And I do not need alcohol to disappear; I just go into my head, use my imagination. I can get drunk on music, books, films, art, good conversations, etc. and the only kind of true hangovers I have are these ones.

Like Fernando Pessoa once wrote: “Everyone has his alcohol. To exist is alcohol enough for me. Drunk from feeling, I wander as I walk straight ahead. When it’s time I show up at the office like everyone else.”

ravenclaw1

Not to mistake this with a ‘holier-than-thou’-attitude, but I simply cannot understand the incessant need my peers have for the kind of oblivion that involves walking in a constant alcohol-induced fog – without thinking at all!

I get that it is the most common option for having fun, but I can’t help finding it somewhat problematic that so many find it so necessary to let loose like that so often.

Why is that? Are they too worked-up by worries and problems in their daily lives, of always presenting the best version of themselves, always performing to the fullest, too insecure, too many expectations to live up to? Well, I get that, since that is our currently fawlty society in a nutshell, and I don’t see myself without worries and insecurities either, but again, I’ve never felt the need to drown my sorrows. Maybe I just haven’t lived a full life (well, I am only 25), maybe I don’t have the great need for socializing in the first place, maybe I’ve been fortunately spared from most sorrows in life, maybe I’m just so lucky to be content with other ways of ‘intoxicating’ myself without the help of alcohol and drugs. Maybe it’s just that.

But it still baffles me that people say they drink to loosen up, open up, be social, have fun and, well, get laid, when too often afterwards they complain and regret time and time again having done all this while being drunk, because it rarely was the outcome they’d wanted. If they even remember what they did to the persons around them, that is. I’ve witnessed many shrugging off that paricular aspect with frightening frequency. As long as they had fun. Didn’t they …?

Sure, alcohol loosens the tongue, but I’ve seen very different types of drunks, up-close even, and not every person benefits from having their tongue loosened. I’ve seen otherwise lovable, sweet people turn into ugly, sneering, bitter people, too depended on their drink and too oblivious about those around them and the subtle hurt they inflict on them by ‘opening up’ and become careless. Boy, the list of things I’ve witnessed and overheard in my young life-time: Broken arms, cracked skulls, ruined livers, young kids dragging their drunk parents home, others finding themselves abandoned by the road and nearly asphyxiating in their own vomit, and some close-to-irrevocable consequences for generations to come following intense drinking binges and escapades among grown-up school mates and friends. And this isn’t even the worst on the list.

And here I wonder: Is that really the price to pay? Should alcohol give cause to this? To so much damage? Some of those former ‘drinking buddies’ argued that smoking was more dangerous or that getting hit by a car was a more likely cause of death than alcohol. Sure, I thought listening to their unsurprisingly unanimous rant. But weren’t they overlooking the giant elephant in the room?

The gulf between me and everybody else on this subject sometimes seems so great. I’ve only met a few people who felt the same way as I did and even they were reluctant to admit it and stand by it when they were at parties with friends. Because we still want to be there; at the parties – with our friends! (No matter what I say about partying not being my nirvana, I don’t necessarily despise it either). We just don’t like not getting to choose or being judged or shunned by standing by our choices. We too want to enjoy ourselves and party – just without alcohol. It is possible, you know. And we don’t want to ban all alcohol, simply because we say ‘no‘ to alcohol. We just want the right to choose. Just like everyone else.

In my country, alcohol is so integrated in basically every tradition, festivity and celebration across all generations with great historical resonance, equalling coziness and good times, that saying ‘no’ to it is extremely taboo – and I’m not understating this. You cannot have a festivity here without having a drink! Alcohol is simply a part of the community. And if you say ‘no’ to alcohol, in some sense, you say ‘no’ to be a part of the community.

It is a severe problem that young kids (and we’re talking down to 12-year-olds) think the only way of letting loose, having fun and get together is through alcohol and they begin to drink often and heavily all through their teen years and well into their 20s and even 30s. And when those who say a single ‘no’ this one time are more or less regarded as freaks…

How misguided is that?!

I’m not kidding. I’ve experienced first-hand, again and again and again, from schoolmates to family, friends, colleagues, even total strangers etc..

The people of my country are generally very liberal and relaxed about things many countries would go off the deep end about, that’s sorta the way we roll, but there’s a catch to this, of course. If you resist the rituals contained to this relaxed culture, you are already ostracized even if you try to moderately and politely participate. Even those who say it’s entirely okay not wanting to drink (the typical response, besides ‘Whaaat?!’. As if I needed their permission in the first place!), I see it in their eyes and behavior that they’re not used to people actually saying ‘no’ to alcohol. (You should see when you say no to cake or sweets … It’s like you’ve suddenly grown a second head or something). That I’m regarded as somewhat of a prude, that I’m not a risk-taker, that I do not allow myself to have fun or want to join the community. Really? Because I said ‘no’ once or twice? Because I simply don’t fancy alcohol all that much I’m suddenly a anti-social prude who can’t have fun? Only those who don’t know you would say something as careless as that. And you suddenly realize just how important alcohol is to so many people when you meet this reaction again and again. Suddenly, the oh-so-celebrated liberal-mindedness becomes a bit hypocritical.

There’s a lot of (unspoken) peer pressure going on in every generation concerning this. It’s funny to see how other countries make it out as such a big deal when it happens, whereas in my country it’s totally taken for granted and laughed at when studies show just how much we drink. Parents often encourage their kids to drink because it’s already so heavily integrated in family and holiday gatherings in the first place. It’s sickening! And when it becomes a part of the sense of community, a cultural ritual, it is so much harder to let go off. If we had been talking about a religious ritual it would have seemed less significant and scandalous to refuse because our country is already so secularized. But this is a highly socially integrated ritual and not as easy and legitimate to excuse yourself from.

*revised 5/12/17*

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