Doing what one wants to do because one wants to do it is hard for a lot of people, but I think it’s particularly hard for women. We are, after all, the gender onto which a giant Here to Serve button has been eternally pinned. We’re expected to nurture and give by the very virtue of our femaleness, to consider other people’s feelings and need before our own. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar 

How can it be that so many people’s ex-girlfriends are crazy? What happens to these women? Do they eventually go on to birth babies and care for their elderly parents and scramble up gigantic pans of eggs on Sunday mornings for oodles of lounge-abouts who later have the nerve to inquire about what’s for dinner, or is there some corporate Rest Home for Crazy Bitches chain in cities across the land that I am unaware of that houses all these women who used to love men who later claim they were actually crazy bitches? –ditto

I don’t want her to see an example of a mother who negates taking care of herself, who has sacrificed that just for her. I think a lot of women have that as the narrative. You get in a tribe of other women, it’s like, “I didn’t bathe today. I only had one hour of sleep, but I took my daughter to school.” I don’t do that. I want to live as long as I can. As much as I can control it. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else. I feel like that’s non-negotiable. –Viola Davis, in an interview in the September 30, 2019 issue of People magazine

I’m really glad I didn’t get married. I’m an oddball. I remember in high school, this guy came up to me and said, “One day you’re going to make a good wife.” And I thought, “I don’t want to be a wife. No.” –Diane Keaton, in an interview in the May 13, 2019 issue of People magazine

Because as Germaine Greer put it, women have no idea how much men hate us. They lie to us about it all the damn time, so that we might believe them and trust them and take care of them and feed them and fuck them and look nice for them. All the while they keep their boots on our necks. And in the nanosecond we just might take some for our own, they’ll turn on us. –Attica, commenting on Madeleine Davies’s “Becoming Ugly,” on

I’ve been called a bitch countless times since then (an occupational hazard when you’re a woman writer, a life hazard when you’re kind of a bitch), and the word—though compact and sharp as a fingernail—has mostly stopped hurting me. I’ve developed calluses from a life spent surrounded by men, both the ones who say they are good and the ones I know are bad, and they’re too thick now for a word so small to cut through. –Madeleine Davies, “Becoming Ugly,” on

Because what can a woman do, if she wants to avoid an entire lifetime of terror and bitterness, besides laugh in the face of what seeks to harm her?
         And it is funny: The memory of Tom writhing on the floor like a giant baby, the way my high school friends and I laughed at the man who masturbated at us from his SUV as we waited for the bus. But that is my good fortune. The scars other women carry are too disfiguring to laugh at, so traumatic that they scar you, too. You can’t smile when a girl gets a bullet in the head for trying to go to school. There is no comedy in a person getting gang-raped on a bus. It’s hard to laugh as women are forced to eulogize their aborted or miscarried fetal tissue, though it is a very special kind of sick joke.
          What we as women are forced to carry—because we’re vulnerable and because we are strong—goes beyond the natural disorder of things. Our suffering is not natural; it’s calculated and insidious—the passing of a bill, the protests of a college football team, the success of an actor, and verdict of a judge.
          Or, more glaringly, a man who’s bragged about sexually assaulting women being elected to the highest office in the U.S.—not in spite of his vicious misogyny, but partly because of it. –ditto

Since the election of Donald Trump, I have felt like a clairvoyant who, instead of seeing ghosts, sees the specter of male destruction everywhere I look ... –ditto

Preferable, I now think, is to stop laughing, to become as repulsive as I can in an insult to these men—so many men—who hate women and the women who adulate them. Vanity keeps me from throwing away my makeup and sanity keeps me from, as I often feel the repugnant urge, breaking the mirror with the surface of my own face and leaving us both cracked open. But I also can’t deny my current impulse to become as ugly and unlikeable as I can, merely to serve as constant reminder of the ugliness inflicted upon us. We’ve been told time and time again that prettiness and likability will protect us from harm, that to be good women, we must play by these rules, but this is a lie. Nothing will protect us except for ourselves—and what’s more fortifying than a defensive exterior? There are days when all I want is to become a human road sign, a blinking hazard to any man misfortunate enough to cross my path: “I WANT TO OFFEND YOUR SIGHT. I WANT TO OFFEND YOUR EVERYTHING.” –ditto

It’s strange that until recently, domestic literature is seen as dull and boring compared to tales of male adventure, especially when a woman’s life, beginning to end, is filled with violence. We’re born, we learn to be afraid, learn to be looked at, learn to be quiet, we bleed, we give birth, we age, we’re forgotten, and then we die. So much of what we encounter—marriage, raising children—is meant to hold us painfully still. Those who don’t offer gratitude for this stillness or choose to take control of their own movement—by living openly trans, by loving other women, by seizing autonomy with birth control pills, IUDs, or abortions—are punished, sometimes quietly and other times deafeningly. They’re murdered. They’re jailed for choosing the opposite of motherhood or for being the wrong kind of mother. They’re marked as Bad, as Nasty, and maybe even Wrong or Unnatural.
          But it’s the bad women who have always, however grotesquely, provided the limited examples of female resistance: Salome, demanding the head of John the Baptist; Medea punishing her husband’s betrayal with infanticide; Flannery O’Connor’s Hulga, who knew her birth name Joy was all wrong because it was light and airy and she wanted to be dense and ugly, like a swamp; Toni Morrison’s Sula, whose destructive joie de vivre led her to trample on the moral codes of others; the heroines of Ferrante, often cruel and spiteful because they’re too smart for the men who anchor them to the miserable world that they created. All of the women terrible in someway or another—but also strikingly bold in their effrontery.
          Women, though not always “good,” have always been nice. And look where it’s gotten us. Stripped of our rights, degraded, and still under the thumb of men. At no point in history has humanity as a whole been nice, so why should I? There’s no longer a place for pleasantness, not publicly anyway. Now is a time for fury and force—a time for guarding the few things we do have (our perseverance, our bodies, each other) because they’re so at risk and so, so precious. –ditto

Send every bloody tampon you create to Mike Pence and he’ll still take away your reproductive rights. Grow out your pubic hair until it hits your knees and Trump will still see your pussy for the taking. Be rough like Rosie O’Donnell, or be polished and “good” like Ivanka Trump—they’ll use you either way, so you might as well be barbed and coarse enough to tear up their hands when they do. Now, all I hope for is to cause my own sort of minor destruction to the men who would otherwise take things away from me. –ditto

If a woman wanted to live in peace and quiet and keep her house neat, without somebody tracking it up, and wanted to make preserves and potpourri of rose leaves, and sit by her window and sew a fine seam, why shouldn’'t she? There were always enough who wanted to get married and carry on the race. ... If a woman liked to play with words and set them in patterns and make pictures with them, and was taking care of herself and bothering nobody, and enjoyed her life without a lot of bawling children around, why shouldn’t she? –Neith Boyce, quoted in Kate Bolick’s Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

… Kang spoke to Ibrahim of the patterns she was beginning to see in the choice of topics: the pain of concubinage, of physical enclosure and restriction (she was too discreet to mention the actual forms this sometimes took, and Ibrahim studiously avoiding looking at her feet, staring her hard in the eye); the grinding repetitive work of the years of rice and salt; the pain and danger and exaltation of childbirth; the huge primal shock of being brought up as the precious pet of her family, only to be forced to marry, and in that very instant become something like a slave to a family of strangers. Kang spoke feelingly of the permanent sense of rupture and dislocation caused by this basic event of women’s lives: “It is like living through a reincarnation with one’s mind intact, a death and rebirth into a lower world, as hungry ghost and beast of burden both, while still holding full memory of the time when you were queen of the world! And for the concubines it’s even worse, descent down through the realms of beast and preta, into hell itself. And there are more concubines than wives.” –Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

I consider myself a feminist in a monumental, carry-the-torch-for-women-who-marched-for-suffrage-or-became-doctors-or-changed-laws-or-fought-for-human-rights way, but I’m a humanist overall, or a creature-ist or a planet-ist or something. –Neko Case, in the October/November 2013 issue of Bust

I remember reading an article on PJ Harvey where all they did was take her to task about whether or not she called herself a feminist, which she didn’t. The whole point of feminism is that she can do whatever she wants. Feminists from long ago didn’t want us to forget [history], but they wanted us to be able to take our humanity for granted, so if [PJ] doesn’t want to call herself that, give her a break. Because not only did she write her own music, sing it, play the instruments, go on tour, become great, and inspire shit-tons of men and women; she’s also living the life that those people fought for. So get off her fucking back. –ditto

We can’t know Taylor Swift personally. She shows up for her job, and she does it, and she’s not pretending to be anything she’s not. When I was a little girl, I didn’t really see women writing songs and playing guitars in rock, that’s for sure, except for Heart. I think it’s really important for little girls and little boys to see Taylor Swift playing guitar and winning awards for her work. Even if it’s not our taste, it’s music. It’s not a B-52 bomber hurting people. It’s pleasure. –ditto

So, to fast forward through more of Stephanie Smith trying to pass off a guy who sounds like a less funny MegaDick version of Daniel Tosh as her Prince Charming, we get to the whole reason Smith wanted an engagement ring in the first place: Because It’s Time. Because if you don’t get married, even if you’re happily partnered with a sandwich-obsessed douchebag, when you turn 40 you collapse in on your own barren womb and form a pulsating spinster star from which not even light can escape. –Erin Gloria Ryan, “Lady Earns Engagement Ring by Making 300 Sad Sandwiches for Her Man” (

I have to say to myself, think about how quickly things have changed for women since I was a little girl—it’s like we went from using a rock to smash some shit to being on the moon. And I want to tell younger women that.
         Tell them that our momentum is huge. Keep it going. Don’t stop here and fight about why you’re calling yourself a feminist or not. Don’t get into these bitchy little fights about who does what, where. Because the women who marched and fought so we could vote, they didn’t do it so we could sit around bickering about what we called ourselves. Move. Forward. Move forward. Decide you’re equal. Don’t take anything less. And don’t stop. –Neko Case, in an August 23, 2013, interview in The Guardian

We’re “bitches,” or we’re “temperamental,” or we have “attitudes,” or we’re “difficult.” If we were men, we’d just be strong men, and people would be like, “Oh, he has his shit together.” Unfortunately, we do have to be stronger and bitchier or whatever you want to call it. We do get a bad rap, but I have to do what I have to do. I have to get it done. –Eve, in the February/March 2008 issue of Bust

I have never known a female who couldn’t handle her own life. The only things that screwed it up were guys. –Tura Satana, in the Spring/Summer 1997 issue of Bust

I think the scrutiny of women is obscene. If you don’t do anything [cosmetically], you look like an old hag; and if you do, you’re a plastic surgery “victim.” Where can we go to age with dignity? People don’t let us, particularly in America. It’s so cruel. I’m not Barbie, I’m flesh and blood and it melts, you know—get used to it. I’m not going to turn myself into the Joker in Batman to get jobs. –Kim Cattrall, quoted in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Bust

Doing what one wants to do because one wants to do it is hard for a lot of people, but I think it’s particularly hard for women. We are, after all, the gender onto which a giant Here To Serve button has been eternally pinned. We’re expected to nurture and give by the very virtue of our femaleness, to consider other people’s feelings and needs before our own. –Dear Sugar, June 24, 2011

How many women wrote beautiful novels and stories and poems and essays and plays and scripts and songs in spite of all the crap they endured. How many of them didn’t collapse in a heap of “I could have been better than this” and instead went right ahead and became better than anyone would have predicted or allowed them to be. The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. –Dear Sugar, August 19, 2010

The sister bonds have been weakened. I tell young women that it’s not smart to put your ace girlfriends to the side because you have a man in your life. Like my mother would say, “Men come and go. But your women friends are always there for you.” Even if you and he are together for 50 years, you still need your sisters. –Maya Angelou, in Essence, reprinted in the August/September 2011 issue of Bust

If you’re 35 and single and it’s a choice, it feels fine. So I didn’t settle with the wrong person yet. Big deal! –Drew Barrymore, in a quote in the August 13, 2010, issue of the Daily Mail

... think of the things that you, all alone, don’t have to do. You don’t have to turn out your light when you want to read, because somebody else wants to sleep. You don’t have to have the light on when you want to sleep, because somebody else wants to read. You don’t have to get up in the night to fix somebody else’s hot-water bottle, or lie awake listening to snores, or be vivacious when you’re tired, or cheerful when you’re blue, or sympathetic when you’re bored. You probably have your bathroom all to yourself, too, which is unquestionably one of Life’s Great Blessings. You don’t have to wait till someone finishes shaving, when you are all set for a cold-cream session. You have no one complaining about your pet bottles, no one to drop wet towels on the floor, no one occupying the bathtub when you have just time to take a shower. From dusk until dawn, you can do exactly as you please, which, after all, is a pretty good allotment in this world where a lot of conforming is expected of everyone. –Marjorie Hillis, Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman

I am writing as an ugly one for the ugly ones. The old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls that don’t get a look in the universal market of the consumable chick. –Virginie Despentes, King Kong Theory

Listen, if your man is telling you you’re hot—or your woman, whatever—just fucking believe it. Why would they lie? If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t be with you! Body size is not something you can hide. It’s not like they haven’t seen you naked. Just trust them. If they’re saying they’re attracted to you, they are. –April Flores, in a June/July 2010 interview in Sexis magzine

Being tame is what we’re taught. ...put the crayons back, stay in line, don’t talk too loud, keep your knees together, nice girls don’t...
         As you know, nice girls DO, and they like to feel wild and alive. Being tame feels safe, being wild, unsafe. Yet safety is an illusion anyway.
         No matter how dry and tame and nice we live, we will die. We will also suffer along the way. –Sark, Succulent Wild Woman

But it took decades to erase the stigma of spinsterhood, and it never completely vanished. Despite the best efforts of some defiant, bohemian women, being single has usually been seen as a pitiable state, and sexually active singles have been cast as harlots. In 1957, 80 percent of Americans told pollsters that people who were single by choice were “sick,” “neurotic,” or “immoral.” But at the end of the 20th century, armed with the pill, an education, and a job, more women chose to wait before becoming a wife. By the 1990s, unprecedented numbers of women in Western countries were delaying marriage and childbirth. In 1998, when [Sex and the City] first aired, there were 21 million American women over the age of 18 who had never married. More than one in four households contained only one person. Yet even though there were more single women than ever, the assumption that “spinsters” were tearful, tragic, and lonely was still widespread, an image boosted by such neurotic heroines as Bridget Jones, whose “diaries” sold millions of copies. –Julia Baird, “Girls Gone Mild”

For all our squinting at the two sexes to blur them into duplicates, few hearts race when passing gaggles of giggling schoolgirls. But any woman who passes a clump of testosterone-drunk punks without picking up the pace, without avoiding the eye contact that might connote challenge or invitation, without sighing inwardly with relief by the following block, is a zoological fool. A boy is a dangerous animal. –Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Women are liberated the moment they stop caring what other women think of them. –Carolyn Heilbrun, Poetic Justice

If you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your menstrual blood—if it makes you sick, you’ve a long way to go, baby. –Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch

Women have very little idea of how much men hate them. –ditto

As my mother once said to me, They’re quite crazy, dear—men are. What you look for is one of them whose insanity is large enough, and calm and generous enough, to include you. –Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

Real feminism is spinsterhood. –Florence King, Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye

Premenstrual Syndrome: Just before their periods women behave the way men do all the time. –Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners

We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. –Ursula Le Guin, in a 1986 Bryn Mawr commencement address

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open. –Muriel Rukeyser, “Käthe Kollwitz”

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men, but over themselves. –Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. –Irina Dunn, quoted in People, July 26, 1976 (she originally wrote it on two toilet doors in Sydney, Australia, in 1970)

If I were asked ... to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people [the Americans] ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women. –Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

I have thought a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call heerself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother. –Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race

If Miss means respectably unmarried, and Mrs. respectably married, then Ms. means nudge, nudge, wink, wink. –Angela Carter, “The Language of Sisterhood”

Morality as regards woman has nothing to do with ethics; it means sexual morality and nothing but sexual morality. To be a wayward girl usually has something to do with pre-marital sex; to be a wicked woman has something to do with adultery. This means it is far easier for a woman to lead a blameless life than it is for a man; all she has to do is avoid sexual intercourse like the plague. –Angela Carter, Wayward Girls and Wicked Women

It was we the people, not we the white male citizens, nor yet we the male citizens, but we the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men. –Susan B. Anthony, statment in court after conviction for attempting to vote, June 1873

It is urged that the use of the masculine pronouns he, his, and him in all the constitutions and laws is proof that only men were meant to be included in their provisions. If you insist on this version of the letter of the law, we shall insist that you be consistent and accept the other horn of the dilemma, which would compel you to exempt women from taxation for the support of the government and from penalties for the violation of laws. There is no she or her or hers in the tax laws, and this is equally true of all the criminal laws. –Susan B. Anthony, quoted in Ida Husted Harper’s The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony

Why would I marry? I’m not made to be any man’s chattel. I have my work, which I love. I have my home—it is not much, I grant, yet sufficient for my shelter. But more than these, I have something very few women can claim: my freedom. I will not lightly surrender it. –Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders

It’s always thought of as a failure in life if a woman doesn’t have a man. But you will never know if you love someone if you are so needy for something that your thinking is clouded. True love comes only when you are able to stand on your own feet. And then somebody comes along and he inspires you, and he actually motivates you to keep growing. He’s secure and self-sufficient, and then you have space to discover who you are, and not live your life through your lover’s eyes. There are so many people who feel like they can only experience life through someone else’s eyes, like they’re nothing without a man. That isn’t right. –Salma Hayak

No slave is a slave to the same lengths, and in so full a sense of the word, as a wife is. –John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women

Marriage is the only actual bondage known to our law. There remain no legal slaves, except the mistress of every house. –ditto

Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences. –Isadora Duncan, My Life

A woman always has her revenge ready. –Molière, Tartuffe

She was used to this, being grabbed by men who walked around in a cloud of cologne-drenched entitlement, with the presumption that, because they were powerful and found her beautiful, they belonged together. –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

“When your uncle first married me, I was worried because I thought those women outside would come and displace me from my home. I now know that nothing he does will make my life change. My life will change only if I want it to change.”
         “What are you saying, Aunty?”
         “He is very careful now, since he realized that I am no longer afraid. I have told him that if he brings disgrace to me in any way, I will cut off that snake between his legs.”
         Aunty Ifeka went back to her stirring, and Olanna’s image of their marriage began to come apart at the seams.
         “You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?”Aunty Ifeka said. “Your life belongs to you and you alone…”

The most bitter thing in the life of a single woman is that every time she enters some kind of family life, after a while she ends up causing trouble: she’s one too many, someone doesn’t like her because someone else does, and in the end they kick her out to preserve the precious peace. –Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

My mother gave me the prayer to Saint Theresa.
I added a used tube ticket, kleenex,
several Polo mints (furry), a tampon, pesetas,
a florin. Not wishing to be presumptuous,
not trusting you either, a pack of 3.
I have a pen. There is space for my guardian
angel, she has to fold her wings. Passport.
A key. Anguish, at what I said/didn’t say
when once you needed/didn’t need me. Anadin.
A credit card. His face the last time,
my impatience, my useless youth.
That empty sack, my heart. A box of matches.
–Maura Dooley, “What Every Woman Should Carry”

But it would take all the skills of a very unusual man to get me to share my body with him. I’m smart enough to realize that hooking up again would lead me back to dishpan hands, back to snoring, farting, and bad breath in bed. … I’d be back to fretting over why he didn’t mow the lawn, back to waiting an eternity for him to do something I could have done in five minutes. Worse, there would be my own resentful, deliberate tardiness in getting things done to his liking, to his satisfaction, to his specifications, and so forth and so on, ad marital nauseam. –Margaret Russo, quoted in Lionel Fisher’s “Sex and the Solitary Person: Alternatives for Those Alone”

Because of the plethora of asshole men, I came to find myself searching for a non-asshole. How sad is that! Alas, I find the phenomenon is quite common: OK, he doesn’t listen to me, but he doesn’t hit me when he gets mad/ No, I’m not attracted to him, but he listens to me/ I sure as hell don’t enjoy his company, but he splits the housework ... Fuck that shit. I want—no, I demand—an artistic, spiritual, playful, intelligent, sensitive, drop-dead gorgeous man. On a motorcycle. So eat me. –Loolwa Khazzoom, “Assets & Liabilities”

Alas, my very assets appear to be what most men view as my liabilities. I believe my experience is typical, and I believe it is a product of social training: According to our spoken and unspoken rules, women must not develop to our maximum potential. –ditto

Men grow accustomed to and, over time, dependent on girls and women living at half-mast. So when men encounter women such as myself who run full steam ahead, I find they have a panic and bolt response, seeking refuge in the arms of some safe young lass who plays by the rules (accompanying manual included). Everything that makes me unappealing to most men, however, is exactly what makes men totally hot to most women. Women, after all, have been encouraged to crave a developed human being … –ditto

What really pisses me off is women downplaying or erasing our assets because men aren’t doing their work. It makes things worse, girls! In a society where men can get sex without transformation, they’ll never fucking change. What’s more, if we have to minimize ourselves to be around men, are we really “getting a man,” or are we getting an insecure limp-ass—a dead weight adding burden to our already burdened lives? –ditto

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I felt apologetic about amazing things about myself. Over and over again, men had treated my assets as liabilities, breaking up with me because of the many qualities distinguishing me from a doormat. Though I did not want or try to change myself, I did grow to feel shame for being powerful, outspoken, and passionate. I also came to feel beholden—indebted and ingratiated on some level—to men who tolerated those qualities in me, to men who did not try to steam-roll over them. –ditto

My assets are my fucking assets, and the only liabilities I see now are the limp, threatened egos of men who can’t hold a flame to my fire. –ditto

When you’re starving or wrapped up in a cycle of bingeing and purging or sexually obsessed with a man, it is very hard to think about anything else, very hard to see the larger picture of options that is your life, very hard to consider what else you might need or want or fear were you not so intently focused on one crushing passion. –Caroline Knapp, “Running on Empty”

Let it all hang out; let it seem bitchy, catty, dykey, frustrated, crazy, Solanesque, nutty, frigid, ridiculous, bitter, embarrassing, man-hating, libelous, pure, unfair, envious, intuitive, low-down, stupid, petty, liberating; we are the women that men have warned us about. –Robin Morgan, Rat

Like a time bomb, every woman’s face is jiggered to destruct, skin first. When the job’s complete, your life is done. You may hang on for another forty years but in life in the world out there, you might as well be dead. You are no longer viable, a.k.a. [a] sexy woman. You are an old person, relegated to the corner of any room. It is terrible but inevitable ... –Kit Reed, Thinner Than Thou

See, an interesting thing happens when you let yourself become dependent. When somebody else is in charge, you let things slide. Let things slide for long enough and he makes terrible decisions in your stead. In what might be construed as your absence from life he does terrible things, and he does them in your name. –ditto

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition. –Timothy Leary

I am the woman who holds up the sky. The rainbow runs through my eyes. The sun makes a path to my womb. My thoughts are in the shape of clouds. But my words are yet to come. –Ute Indian poem

As women of our generation settle on a place in the word world, they begin to discover that “The Job” itself remains much as it had in those formative ’70s—often both a promising necessity and an identity-squashing sacrifice. It can be a struggle to admit the downside when you’re hip to the generations of women that came before. –Lauren Dockett and Kristin Beck, Facing 30: Women Talk about Constructing a Real Life and Other Scary Rites of Passage

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” –Clare Boothe Luce, in a speech to the National Press Club

Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace—they drag us away from our parents’ love and our sisters’ friendship—they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel. And what does the best of them give us in return? –Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

Society wants to keep women “small and cozy,/domestic and weak,” just like little bonsai trees. And women fall for it. They physically prune themselves (diets, waxing, liposuction), sacrificing emotional and intellectual growth in pursuit of some feminine fantasy. –Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez, The Hell with Love: Poems to Mend a Broken Heart

Let your friends call you picky, but know that you’re allowed to be discriminating in your choice of a man or anything else you want in your life. If you settle for less, you’re as intact but empty as the berries hidden under moldy leaves. –ditto

So you’re miserably lonely and bitter, and you can’t even believe this is who you’ve become—you never meant to end up Ms. Utterly Hurting. You always thought maybe you’d wind up more like Ms. Happily Ever After (post-feminist) … But no, here you are, wounded from disappointments you never imagined. All you know is you can’t spend one more Thanksgiving with your fractured family, or one more year in your pressure-cooker cubicle, or one more decade losing people to death, distance, or domestic bliss (theirs, of course). You can’t and you won’t. You simply refuse to set yourself up for more let-downs, more pain. … You put yourself in emotional storage … until it’s safe to come out again, if ever. –Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez, Kiss Off: Poems to Set You Free

One day, it just happens. You completely snap. Your last single friend announces her engagement to the schmo she met two months ago, or your married boss hits on you just when you think you’ve managed to impress him with your work smarts, or you’re forced off the sidewalk by a J.Crew couple and their double-barreled baby stroller. It’s all too much. It might not be dramatic—a sudden freak-out or breakdown. It could simply be the cumulative effect of watching the world surge past and around you—the showers, the weddings, the new houses, the better jobs, the damn baby photos. Everyone else seems to know what she wants—and how to get it—yet you consistently feel overlooked, underloved, and, let’s face it, screwed, in every way except literally.
         You know you shouldn’t feel this way. You don’t want to become some whiney malcontent. But you can’t shake this unresolved restlessness, this nameless dissatisfaction with your life. You’ve tried to put it in perspective—there’s real tragedy in the world, real crisis and pain—you know, you know, you know. … You’ve seen what illness and death and estrangement can do. You carry all sorts of loss within you.
         That’s why the baby stroller people or the smarmy boss or the schmo-marrying friend put you right over the edge—you’re tired of losing people and losing hope. You feel a great longing for companionship and connectedness, for knowing that what you do means something, for gratification and peace of mind, but it keeps eluding you despite your best efforts. And every reminder of this longing cuts into your spirit again and again until you just can’t take it. When will you stop feeling so bereft, mourning what you’ve lost (friends, true loves, your mother’s approval) and what you’ve never had (the little household of your dreams, a soul-fulfilling vocation, your mother’s approval)? –ditto

I feel like there’s something innate in women, the ability to be cruel and competitive with each other in this weird, invisible way. –Tina Fey

A woman watches her body uneasily, as though it were an unreliable ally in the battle for love. –Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. –Roseanne Barr

You don’t have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. –Jane Galvin Lewis

Women never have young minds. They are born three thousand years old. –Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey

Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men. –Joseph Conrad

Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths. –Lois Wyse

No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself. –Rabbi Sofer

Why are women…so much more interesting to men than men are to women? –Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass. –Maya Angelou, Conversations with Maya Angelou

One of the things about equality is not just that you be treated equally to a man, but that you treat yourself equally to the way you treat a man. –Marlo Thomas

Not only is women’s work never done, the definition keeps changing. –Bill Copeland

Never let the hand you hold, hold you down. –(?)

Why is it that men can be bastards and women must wear pearls and smile? –Lynn Hecht Schafren

Easy is an adjective used to describe a woman who has the sexual morals of a man. –Nancy Linn-Desmond

Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness. –Erica Jong

And the crazy part of it was even if you were clever, even if you spent your adolescence reading John Donne and Shaw, even if you studied history or zoology or physics and hoped to spend your life pursuing some difficult and challenging career, you still had a mind full of all the soupy longings that every high-school girl was awash in ... underneath it, all you longed to be was annihilated by love, to be swept off your feet, to be filled up by a giant prick spouting sperm, soapsuds, silk and satins and, of course, money. –Erica Jong

Men are irrelevant. Women are happy or unhappy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, and it has nothing to do with men. –Fay Weldon

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid. –Hedy Lamarr

These are very confusing times. For the first time in history a woman is expected to combine: intelligence with a sharp hairdo, a raised consciousness with high heels, and an open, non-sexist relationship with a tan guy who has a great bod. –Lynda Barry, “Why are Women Crazy?”

Is it too much to ask that women be spared the daily struggle for superhuman beauty in order to offer it to the caresses of a subhumanly ugly mate? –Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman. –Maryon Pearson

Behind almost every woman you ever heard of stands a man who let her down. –Naomi Bliven

During the feminist revolution, the battle lines were again simple. It was easy to tell the enemy, he was the one with the penis. This is no longer strictly true. Some men are okay now. We’re allowed to like them again. We still have to keep them in line, of course, but we no longer have to shoot them on sight. –Cynthia Heimel, Sex Tips for Girls

Marriage, to woman as to men, must be a luxury, not a necessity; an incident of life, not all of it. –Susan B. Anthony

Marriage is for woman the commonest mode of livelihood and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution. –Bertrand Russell, “Marriage and Morals”

And there is one thing women can never take away from men. We die sooner. –PJ O’Rourke, Modern Manners

10,000,000 witches, foothounds, and wives
tear through me
“This is what he did to me
don’t let this be
fight on, though us your free.”
And Eve,
subjugated sister
stands by my side
slips her soul into mine.
At her voice, bestowed with institutional power,
the others, disgusted, flee.
–Lennie St. Luce, “Separated”

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what Feminism is: I only know that people call me a Feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute. –Rebecca West, in The Clarion, November 14, 1913

You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy. –Erica Jong

I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career. –Gloria Steinhem, in Robert Byrne’s The Fourth—and by Far the Most Recent—637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said

Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry. –ditto

A woman’s work is never done by men. –London graffiti

Equality is a myth—women are better. –ditto

Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle. –Edna Ferber, in Robert E. Drennan’s The Algonquin Wits

I think, therefore I’m single. –Lizz Winstead

Men and women, women and men. It will never work. –Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

No matter how love-sick a woman is, she shouldn’t take the first pill that comes along. –Dr. Joyce Brothers

The trouble with some women is they get all excited about nothing—and then they marry him. –Cher

Women are the real architects of society. –Harriet Beecher Stowe

I married beneath me—all women do. –Nancy Astor, quoted in the Dictionary of National Biography 1961-1970

Did you know the male bee is nothing but the slave of the queen? And once the male bee has—how should I say—serviced the queen, the male dies. All in all, not a bad system. –Cloris Leachman, in The Mary Tyler Moore Show

If he wants to see other people, shoot him in the head. –Dave Barry’s opinion of what women should do with their husbands’ mid-life crises

Society, being codified by man, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male’s superiority. –Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Man has done all he could to debase and enslave [woman’s] mind, and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought and says [she]…is inferior. –Sarah Moore Grimké, “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes…”

It’s a crime for the slave to love her bonds. –Ghada Samman

The prolonged slavery of women is the darkest page in human history. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

[that man] says women can’t have as much rights as man, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? …From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with it. –Sojourner Truth, at the Women’s Rights Convention, 1851

But what else could I expect from a bunch of low rent, no-account hoodlums like you—hoodlums! Yes. I mean you and your friends, your whole sex, throw ’em all in the sea for all I care, throw ’em in and wait for the bubbles. Men, with your groping and spitting, all groin, no brain, three billion of ya passin’ around the same worn-out urge. Men. –Sarah Michelle Geller, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ah, God, how rare a thing a man is! They are all dogs that trot and sniff and copulate. –DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

If you had ovaries, you wouldn’t be such an idiot! –Brooke Shields to Judd Nelson, in Suddenly Susan

Men should be like Kleenex—soft, strong, and disposable. –Madeline Kahn, in Clue

Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships. –Sharon Stone

At this point in my life, I would rather be dead than married. –Florence King

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. –Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler

Men have feelings, too, but who really gives a shit? –a sign in Nightsky’s dorm [seen on Isca BBS]

If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck? –Linda Ellerbee

In general, I think it’s true that women fuck to love and men love to fuck. When we do it, we’re hoping he’ll call us and love us. When they do it, they’re just doing it. It’s biological for them and it’s emotional for us. –Carrie Fisher

Wrinkles on men is character; on women it’s “Oh shit!” And men are fertile forever. You can be Hugh Hefner at sixty and have a baby with a 21 year old and it’s not seen as vampiric. But if a woman does it, it’s pathetic. –ditto

Men are lucky. They get women. Women just get men. –Debbie Lancaster, in Crossroads

Come on! I am finally where I have spent the first part of my existence frightened of getting to. All through this time you told yourself: “Woman cannot live without anchoring herself, gaining support, help from someone she could trust, someone stronger and more resistant than she.” You even told yourself more specifically: “Woman is a being who cannot live cut off from the source. And this source is a person. Am I not proof that this definition is true?”
         Yes, for half your life’s path, you proved each day that there was truth in the conception. Not without hardship. … The panics, the anguishes, each time a source dried up; each time a god disclosed to you that, tired of nurturing, he was obliged to reveal to what extent he was mortal.
         What terrors ensued! Quick, a new source! Race to connect your life to a more inextinguishable source! This is what you were tied to, in defiance of reason, in order not to let yourself die, betray your belief, your “essence”; abandon yourself to anyone but yourself.
         Seeing yourself condemned to the intolerable alternative: either running from the site of one exhausted source to another site, where there is no source as yet, and thus from hope to hope, running, running, believing, believing, hoping, invent by ploughing the space of traces of belief, hope, source, that in going back you take yourself for the sign that there is, was, will be one, that the error is yours, and that truth himself is waiting for you with an inextinguishable patience somewhere.
         And on these trembling, endless journeys, you met up with groups of women and children, tribes, families, individuals, whose tense faces, eyes turned towards another space and feverish step indicated that these women too cannot live without the support of nurturing beings.
         Would you have been able to stop yourself? –Hélène Cixous, La

When a chain of (family, professional, love, literary) circumstances makes what she thoughtlessly calls her “life” “advance,” in other words, precipitate her so violently that she stumbles several times under the pressure, having rapidly to master from necessity the art of falling and picking herself up again, and when this external violence confuses its effects with those of her inner space: always feeling inexplicably confined in her small estate, having always been obliged for lack of air, expanse, to seek at all costs, on pain of an agony long as life, to connect her being to a greater being, and for more security to a being with no limits, when the need for an extension is so great that no passivity, inertia, anguish, resists its pressure, it happens that a young woman is borne so suddenly that the borders do not have time to raise themselves, the flood-gates to close up again, to an exceptional height—without even having had the feeling of climbing, on the contrary having had the unhappy sensation of crashing down, losing her way running dreadfully far from the path of salvation…and as soon as she has taken a few steps ahead by herself, she will not fail to discover that she is not dead, that she is not destroyed, that she is not mad, that blood runs through her body, and in her head thoughts which—then, surely—that she is alone up there, yes, then, in such cases, there is always one of these gods, in whom all of us women claim to no longer believe, who comes by a miracle to this desolate place where no one human would ever dare to appear; it is thus definitely a god, and definitely a miracle, precisely at this moment, she was about to get up, she had even outlined a step—she believed, the unfortunate woman, that she had come to the lowest point of her existence, the next step she must have made the dizzy discovery that it is to the highest, most dangerous point that she had been carried, if a god had not at that moment come to her aid, for the characteristic of our gods, those in whom for centuries we can no longer believe, is to prove that they exist precisely in these moments of trouble in which belief, in general, is about to die and in which we will be compelled to choose between madness and belief in oneself. “I am going to encounter myself,” our soul petrified with fear cries out, “Quick, a god!” –ditto

Alone, at this angle of time, and from my solitary point of view, of course, I imagine that at this moment, tens, thousands of female animals of joy are in the process of hoisting themselves up with an ease perhaps greater than mine, of pulling themselves, of escaping, with the sky, the sun, the earth for witnesses, from roofs, from windows, from corners, from terraces, from forests, from tunnels, from castles, from memories of which I know nothing, and by means which are still unknown to me. –ditto