By Caroline Rothstein
(After originally posting here on Tumblr, this piece was then published on April 30, 2012 in the Huffington Post)
I am 28-year-old white, heterosexual woman from an upper-middle class upbringing. This Glamour list, recently republished in the Huffington Post in an article called “Turning 30: 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know,” was clearly written for my demographic. HuffPo published the article in conjunction with the release of a book based on the 1997 Glamour list.
With a journalism background, I recognize Glamour caters to a business model with a specific audience demographic in mind: me - white, heterosexual middle and upper class women. However, I am deeply concerned with how - especially with this new book - the 1997 list is marketed to speak for all women.
I find the list wildly heterosexist, classist, racist, and offensive.
In lieu of the budding conversations unraveling in the Huff Po article’s comment section and throughout social media, as well as recent articles and conversations about HBO’s new series “Girls,” I want to add more to this crucial conversation about race, class, sexuality, gender, and privilege.
I’ve written an alternative list responding directly to each corresponding number on Glamour’s “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know.” Consider it my response to what I’ve learned, am learning, and hope to continue learning by the time I myself turn 30.
(*I recommend reading the original first. Or maybe even reading these side by side in congruent browsing windows.)
By 30, you should have…
1) An awareness that not all women/womyn date men or only men, or even people who identify with one gender.
1.5) An awareness that some individuals who live their lives as and identify as women actually identify as “womyn” because of the racism that exists in many women-identified spaces and socio-political movements.
2) A piece of furniture previously owned by someone you care about because not everyone can afford new furniture by the time they are 30.
3) Something perfect to wear if someone important wants to see you in an hour - because not everyone has an employer or man of their dreams because not everyone has a traditional job and not everyone who identifies as a woman/womyn dreams about men.
4) No shame. Period.
5) A youth you’ve processed because many people were traumatized before they were 30 and therefore may have to spend more then a few decades moving beyond.
6) SAME as original list: “A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.”
7) The realization that you are going to have an old age with a support system to help enrich it - because not everyone can afford to have financial savings. Some people never have savings. Ever. Really. Especially if they’ve done things by 30 like go to college and graduate school and pay for it by themselves while accumulating massive amounts of debt whereby there isn’t any money available to save.
8) Security - in whatever way that means - because not everyone has access to or can afford Internet, a phone, and a bank account.
10) SAME as original list: “One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.”
11) Some tools like screwdrivers, hammers, and nails and things like that, and if you wear bras, then a bra that you really like wearing and makes you feel good. And if you don’t wear bras, then how about an item of clothing that makes you feel empowered - as I’m assuming that is what a “black lace bra” is supposed to symbolize?
12) A gift you’ve given yourself, whatever it may be, because not all ridiculously valuable gifts are valued via their cost, especially because not all women/womyn can afford anything ridiculously expensive by the time they’re 30. Or ever.
13) The belief that you deserve self-love.
14) An understanding of what you need in order to take care of yourself and feel as good as you deserve.
15) A solid start to a satisfying LIFE, satisfying RELATIONSHIPS with family of kin and/or choice, friends, and romantic partners if so desired (because some people don’t want to be in a partnership), and “all those other facets of life that do get better.”
By 30, you should know …
1) SAME as original list: “How to fall in love without losing yourself.”
2) SAME as original list - with a conscious awareness that some people know because they already have kids, right?: “How you feel about having kids.”
3) How to quit a job when you have the financial means to do so, break up from a relationship in which you do not want to be no matter what their gender or non-gender, and “confront a friend without ruining the friendship.”
4) SAME as original list: “When to try harder and when to walk away.”
5) SAME as original list - with the addition of knowing what to do or who to call when your communication is not honored: “How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.”
6) SAME as original list - “The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers,” and then…how to fix your own damn clothes unless you can afford a tailor.
7) How to BE alone, because not everyone have the ability or choice to live alone because that’s not a viable option for every woman/womyn.
8) SAME as original list: “Where to go — be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat — when your soul needs soothing.”
9) SAME as original list: “That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.”
10) The original list says, “That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.” A lot of people’s childhoods weren’t perfect because they experienced a lot of trauma and telling them to just get over it is highly insensitive and naive. I should hope that by 30, every woman/womyn has begun processing and understanding their childhood - especially if it wasn’t “perfect” - and is in a stable place or working to be in a stable place of understanding how to contextualize their experience, thus allowing themselves to live their lives with as much freedom from those experiences as possible.
11) SAME as original list: “What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.”
12) Um…SAME as original list?: “That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.”
13) SAME as original list: “Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.”
14) SAME as original list: “Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.”
15) That life begins when you’re born, and any moment thereafter you decide to start over…by all means, go for it.