Editor’s Note: Tanya from Eat Laugh Purr is getting Financially Real with us and sharing how gender expectations influenced her money beliefs.
I consider myself to be a modern woman as do most woman today, whatever their age may be. We’ve been taught to think for ourselves, be independent and value our worth. To be #bossy like Beyonce and conquer all. We are also very much a product of gender expectations, which can be in direct conflict with how a modern woman is supposed to act. Our past experiences can color how we see ourselves and our place in this world.
I am also a child of the 80’s. Well, technically the 70’s, but I was young enough that I really don’t recall disco balls and such. I do remember with great fondness my Barbie dolls. I adored my Barbie and spent hours combing her long hair and changing her clothes. She had no voice but in my imagination she did. Eventually, the powers that be decided to give Barbie a real voice. What pearls of wisdom would Barbie tell her eager disciples?
Math Class is Tough
We collectively held our breath to hear …
Yup. “Math class is tough”. And I couldn’t have agreed more. I’m not a numbers girl, even though I am shockingly good at telling you how much 20% off a regular priced item is. Back then, my girl Barbie and I saw eye to eye that day, although unbeknownst to me at the time, there was a lot of outrage.
As there should have been.
Math class is tough for some and easy for others. Whether you love it or hate it, isn’t dependent on whether you have a X or Y chromosome, but lots of young, impressionable girls took her words at face-value.
She gave me a valid reason as to why math bored me senseless and didn’t come naturally to me since it didn’t to my idol either. On the flip side, there were likely many girls who wondered why they enjoyed math and whether they should.
Miss Independence but Not Financially Real
When I was in high school, I better understood the outrage over her ignorant remarks and even though I still thought math class was tough, it was a Tanya thing, not a universal girl thing. After all, I was a modern teenage girl on the cusp on becoming a young adult, ready and eager to take on the world.
I took great pride in the life I created for myself after college. I was financially independent and technically financially free in the sense that I had no debt. Obviously, I needed to work but had the freedom to choose how I wanted to spend my money. Yet I never felt very capable with my money. Smart enough to not get into debt but not able to do much more on my own.
Even worse, I didn’t recognize that I felt this way or the error of such thinking. I just assumed when I eventually meet someone, he would take charge. I’d still have my career being an independent woman and all, but “money stuff” would fall on his shoulders since that was a guy thing.
In 3 Reasons Why I Used to Fail at Achieving Goals, I shared what hindered my goal success previously, but there is another reason why I failed that my feminist-side hid out of shame: I didn’t think I should create goals for myself. It was a waste of time. Those single goals would be void and null when I get married.
Live Today and Adjust Tomorrow, if Needed
It’s unlikely I’m the only one who has unconsciously felt that way. Marriage is a goal of many, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live or set goals for yourself until you find your special somebody. Looking back, I put my life on hold. It took me a long time to see it and more so to even do something about it.
This isn’t a recommendation that we all adopt a YOLO (you only live once) mindset but to know that we also have the right to create a life for ourselves and should not wait for others to do it for us. Or tell us what it should look like without our consent or input.
I know now part of creating a life is owning your financial life and taking responsibility for your money decisions, both good and bad. I still don’t like math and investment talk puts me in a coma, but I do the work and play an active role because I want to live on my terms, knowing I can adjust in the future if goals and circumstances change.
Break Gender Expectations for Your Children
Verizon created a PSA on gender expectations that I love because it shows how easily we inadvertently teach our daughters that there are things they cannot do because they are a girl. It makes me wonder whether some of my fears are real or manufactured.
This happens in lots of areas, including money. I still believe in happily ever after, but I know it doesn’t mean abdicating my financial responsibilities. Girls can be good at math or finance. Boys don’t need to shoulder that responsibility alone.
I’m still in the process of reclaiming my financial power, and it’s my hope that some day kids won’t feel they should excel at a specific skill simply based on gender. That both girls and boys are taught to harness their financial power independently and in relationships because that’s Financially Real.
What gender expectations around money have you fallen prey to? How are you helping your children, both girls and boys, avoid them?