As we approach the start of yet another New Year, it’s hard to believe how many old myths about women are still hanging annoyingly around. If we were legendary beasts, this confusion would be totally understandable. But women are not elusive unicorns. Au contraire, we’re over half of all the humans on the planet(!) and it’s time to leave some of these myths in the past where they belong. Here are just five stubborn misconceptions about our gender that need to be retired immediately:
Women can’t do math.
Remember the end of Mean Girls when Cady realizes “the limit does not exist,” wins the math tournament, and still makes it to the dance in time to make out with Aaron Samuels? A lot of people still think it’s impossible for a girl to do that. A new study from earlier this year found that both genders believe that women are worse at arithmetic. But a 2010 study of the recorded math skills of over 1 million people show that there’s practically no difference between men and women’s relative math abilities. It’s true that men still dominate the field of mathematics but that has more to do with cultural biases than some sort of inborn inability to put two and two together.
Women don’t masturbate that much.
We all know that the only way a woman can unwind is by eating a half pint of ice cream while re-watching The Notebook, right? Men are allowed to be sexual creatures in their spare time but our personal indulgences are all sweets and flowers and rainbows and romance. Wrong! There’s nothing wrong with spending some quality time with Ben and Jerry but it’s just not true that we can’t get down any other way. True, men masturbate a lot more frequently than women but over 90% of women strum the lady harp on a regular basis.
All women love to shop.
The world would be a better place if all shopping trips were like montage sequences. We wouldn’t have to endure all of those stuffy dressing rooms, impossible zippers, bad fits, and demoralizing price tags. Instead, we’d just magically appear in a series of outfits and charge them all to our limitless gold credit cards. If your shopping experience doesn’t feel like a movie, you’re not alone. One survey of 2,000 women found that over a third of us hate to shop. True, there’s nothing quite like the epiphany of finding that perfect pair of jeans on the first try, but shopping is far from a universal pleasure.
Women need to have kids to be happy.
Whenever a woman announces that she doesn’t want to have children, everyone loses it. Women who choose to remain childless are still seen as selfish traitors to the species, not as autonomous human beings making considered choices about their own lives. Thirty-eight percent of Americans still believe that women opting not to have children is “bad for society.” But not wanting kids is a perfectly natural choice. Researchers have found that 41% of women in their mid-to-late 30s are childless by choice and somehow society hasn’t crumbled and the species is still going strong. Imagine that!
Women can’t be leaders.
It was hard to laugh when Jack Donaghy gave Liz Lemon a “Followship Award” on 30 Rock because it hit just a little too painfully close to home – many men in the professional world still think that women can’t lead. According to an October Gallup poll, all Americans still prefer male bosses, with men being even more likely than women to express this preference. These are the sorts of attitudes that have kept women out of the corner offices and in mid-level positions. But frankly, not placing women in leadership roles is the world’s loss. A large study that builds off of research published in the Harvard Business Review found that women might even be more effective leaders than men when given the opportunity. How? As we age, women continue to improve based on feedback but men “assume that they are doing fine” as they get older. Seems like at least one myth about women is true, then: We’re really good listeners.