Just as I sit down to summon the muse and write a story, I remember how much Reservoir Mum and I laughed when I said, ‘Being a woman wouldn’t be that hard’ because it was so ridiculously untrue that it was hilarious to even say it. It’s as funny as saying, Bears aren’t hairy or Carbs don’t make you fat or Lingerie Football isn’t the best thing to happen to me this year….
A Fine Piece Of Investigative Journalism
But as I gaze into my laptop the muse starts filling my head with questions: How do I really know that being a woman is hard? To know that for certain I’d have to be a woman, wouldn’t I? Is being a woman really that much harder than being a man? I mean childbirth seems tough, yeah, but so is… being kicked in the balls. And I wouldn’t wish that on any woman.
After a few glasses of wine and a few more pokes by the muse the title to this article is born, along with a fierce desire – a burst of enthusiasm – to try my hand at investigatory journalism.
With all windows and doors open to the balmy night, with the kids slumbering sweetly in their beds, with the crickets rubbing their legs together in chorus, with Reservoir Mum doing real work in the study down the hall, I run to the toilet, hover over the toilet bowl for a moment and then – even though I don’t need to do a poo – undo my belt, drop my pants and sit down.
My urination sounds louder than usual but apart from that I feel none of the other annoyances I thought women must have to put up with when toileting themselves, like undoing their buttons and zips and pulling their pants all the way down. In fact, I feel quite relaxed and stay longer than I need to just sitting, quietly whistling to myself, wondering about women. What else about the opposite sex is easier than I assumed it to be?
‘What’s the most annoying thing about being a woman?’ I say to RM after wandering down the hall.
‘Periods,’ she says, without even looking up.
‘Ah, yes. I should have known.’
Determined to have one, or to get as close to the experience as possible, I run straight to the ensuite, open one of RM’s sanitary napkins, soak it under the tap and then insert it into my pants.
My reflection in the mirror – open smiling mouth, disbelieving eyes – suggests that I’ve just won a Gold Logie but it isn’t that at all. The soft cold shock of the wet pad is such a refreshing joy on first contact that I am just about ready to dismiss all the complaining that goes on about periods, until it occurs to me that a women wouldn’t experience that initial icy burst at all and then, unfortunately, the pad quickly warms up and feels yucky.
Adhering to the ethics of good investigative journalism – and to partake in the full experience – I decide to punch myself just hard enough in the stomach to get a deep achey winded feeling and a few minutes later, after being forced to change my undies, I have to concede that having your period is an unpleasant experience. But still, it’s not a kick in the balls.
After rushing back to the study and explaining my investigations to RM, I say. ‘So, I’ve discovered that sitting on the toilet to wee is really quite nice, and I’ll probably do that from now when I need to de-stress and think about things. And having a period’s unpleasant, yeah, but it’s really not the worst thing that can happen, and it could even be made more pleasant by… I don’t know… maybe keeping your pads in the freezer on balmy nights like this?’
‘Go away,’ RM says, glaring at me.
‘But sitting down all the time and having your period are only really… annoying things aren’t they? What’s the hardest thing about being a woman?’
‘Labor pains,’ she says, getting out of her seat, edging towards me, baring her teeth like an agitated horse.
Shabang! I high-tail it out of there – before she can strike me with the back of her hand – with the sniff of a lead. I have to compare the most painful experience a woman can go through with the most painful experience a man can go through to answer the titled question. But how?
Following the direction of the muse I take my laptop and a glass of wine to the toilet for another sit down and do some research.
A few Google searches fails to turn up any accounts of a transsexual who has given birth as a woman before going on to be kicked in the balls as a man and, disappointingly, my other lead is quashed when I learn that hermaphrodites are capable of having neither children nor external balls.
I’m at a loss until I stumble across a video of two men attached to electrodes which are causing them to suffer contraction-like pain. This is my Eureka moment.
The expressions on their faces, the way they are writhing about, lifting their knees and holding their bellies reminds me very much of what it’s like to be kicked in the balls. In fact the video would be just as believable with the title, ‘Two men attached to electrodes after being kicked in the balls.’
‘I think,’ I say, after poking my head tentatively into the study. ‘That the pains experienced in childbirth are similar, if not on par, with the pain of being kicked in the balls.’
RM sits very still with only her fingers moving over the keyboards.
‘But I’ve had a good think about things… the deciding factor has to be the pain’s duration and that probably helps to nudge the verdict in favor of women… although there are some women who have babies really, really quick, and some who don’t have babies at all… and I’m sure there are men out there who get struck in the balls much more than average… so maybe it’s best to judge it on a case by case basis…’
The repetitive pulsing of the muscles in RM’s jaw and temple make me pause, mid-investigation, and convince me that I should change tact.
‘Unless there’s something else about being a woman that’s really tough?’ I say. ‘Harder than childbirth?’
‘Oh yeah,’ she says, spinning in her chair, glazed eyes, smiling, looking a little like someone who could boil a cat. ‘I’ve got something.’
‘Yes?’ I say.
What do you think? Is it harder to be a man or a woman? Are there any other aspects of womanhood that I need to investigate?