Women need to ditch 'damsel in distress’ stereotypes

Jen A. Miller picture

Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp recently wrote that Ann Romney should be a feminist role model because she tied the knot with a rich guy.

By "marrying wealthy, Ann made a truly empowering decision that allowed her the freedom to do whatever she wanted," Cupp said in the New York Daily News.

What a tone deaf comment to make at a time when 59% of college graduates are women and 40% of women are making more money than their husbands.

No, a woman makes empowering decisions by building her career and choosing a partner who’s willing to support her professional growth as much as she supports his.

Which leads me to this:

I can't believe some women are still waiting for Prince Charming.

We have more access to education and job opportunities than ever before.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 66% of women ages 18 to 34 say that being successful in a high-paying career is extremely important, up 10 percentage points from 1997.

Only 59% of men say that, up only 1 percentage point from 1997.

People like Cupp, and Republican lawmakers who say that "money is more important for men" when they repeal equal pay laws and work to block our access to health care, are trying turn us back into damsels and stuff us back up in the towers.

In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, the main character is a housewife with a domineering husband who asserts his position throughout the play by calling her a "little singing bird," "little skylark" and "pretty little pet."

A Doll's House premiered in 1879.

Calling us "girls" does the same thing today.

We are not girls. "Girls" suggests small. "Girls" suggests immature. "Girls" suggests those who cannot fend for themselves and need someone else to make decisions for them. Girls don't know anything about math. Girls don't know anything about money, right?

Just look at the new HBO show Girls, which some people are saying -- horrifically -- is the voice of a generation.

But I reject the notion that a 25-year-old lamenting how her parents won't pay her rent anymore speaks for us.

It’s particularly galling that the young actresses portraying these slacker “girls” are from famous, well-to-do families. (One parody poster that changes the title of the show to Nepotism says they were born on third and think they hit a triple.)

I and my friends are not girls. We are women.

I'm now in my seventh year as a full-time writer with three books and hundreds of articles to my name.

My best friend from high school has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a job to match her credentials.

My college roommate was named one of her state's "40 under 40," and my neighbor just won a Pulitzer Prize.

I see similar things happening among my female friends who are younger than me: the teacher who just bought her first home, the social worker getting her master's degree in public health, the law school grad who landed her first job at a big law firm.

Girls? I don't think so.

Of course, not all women are like this.

Some are still stalling in adolescence, expecting a prince to charge in on a white horse and sweep her off to … I don't know where. Probably some house he bought where her money woes will magically disappear.

Cupp whines about being surrounded by bills and deadlines, and fantasizes that she'd be done with all that if she'd just married a rich man and become a "conventional" stay-at-home mom.

I think she’d be better served if she took the responsibility to improve her writing business or get a traditional job, fixing her finances and moving to a less-expensive city than New York.

If you’re waiting for Prince Charming, snap out of it. The only person you can count on saving you is yourself.

And don't let anyone call you a girl.