Last week, a question dominated online discourse. It wasn’t controversial or inflammatory. Nevertheless, it got all of our attention: how often do men in think about the Roman Empire? From the
Swedish internet to Instagram, TikTok to Twitter, women, including Romper staff, posed this question to our various dudes, and while some were confused by the question (“Almost never, why?”) many more than we would have predicted had answers like “twice a week? three times?” or even “every day.” Why are men thinking about Rome so much? And what is the woman version of the Roman Empire question?
Men’s previously unheralded obsession with Ancient Rome kind of makes sense. It was a male-dominated era of hegemony and expansive power. How many guys in your high school class used an earnest quote from
Gladiator as their senior year quote? And while there are certain girlies out there, surely, who find Rome fascinating, as a group this doesn’t seem to be our thing.
So what is? There must be something, we thought, that can compare to this. What are the historical events, big ideas, or philosophies that just sort of live rent-free in our head and emerge, unbidden, on a daily or at least semi-regular basis? We can up with a few that we think might be the woman’s answer to the Roman Empire question.
Princess Diana We learned it from our mamas. Tim Graham/Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
Maybe it’s the glamour of royalty. Maybe it’s the tragic end. Maybe the unforgiving, no-holds-barred scrutiny that continually left her in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position felt like an exaggerated version of how all women feel in a sexist world. Point is, a lot of us often find ourselves thinking about Princess Diana. Even if we’re not Diana fanatics who go out of their way to learn about her, we’ve all gathered a quiet trove of Lady Di Fun Facts, whether we meant to or not. For example, I have
absolutely no idea how I learned that her middle name was Frances or that she was distantly related to both Winston Churchill , but I do. and George Washington
Personally, I think it’s because any time our moms and grandmas and aunties saw her on a tabloid cover or on TV, they’d immediately wax rhapsodic about what a “class act” she was and how her ex-husband never deserved her in the first place, so we absorbed this fixation from the cradle. (Also them thinking that Princess Diana Memorial Beanie Baby was going to put us through college didn’t help matters.)
Titanic I can hear the tin whistle intro now. Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images
In a group of women, you can look to your left, look to your right, and know in your heart that at a sizable subset of that whole had a Titanic phase. Whether or not it was prompted by the 1997 film starring Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio is besides the point (though let’s be honest: it was a catalyst for a lot of us). The story has the perfect blend of history, glamour, and tragedy. It also seems to have a built in moral to the story: no matter how clever or certain human beings are, they’re no match for Mother Nature, so be sure to bring enough lifeboats for everybody.
Also “My Heart Will Go On” was and shall forever remain an absolute banger, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Serial Killers *shudder* Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images
People love to poke fun at the fact that a whole lot of women are
obsessed with true crime (“Ah, time to relax from a stressful day with this podcast about a gristly murder...”) and while it’s worthwhile to really stop and think about why these real-life horrors hold entertainment value for many, I also don’t think it’s too hard to figure out in many cases. It’s the same reason we read Stephen King or watch scary movies: we want to face our deep-seated fears in a safe space.
It is also entirely possible that some of us our macabre and ghoulish little freaks.
The Tudors Wife #2 Anne Boleyn Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Continuing in our theme of glamour + history + tragedy = obsession, I present the Tudors. Not
The Tudors, though, if you’re into the Tudor Dynasty there’s a good chance you watched. I’m talking about the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Though, let’s be honest, Henry VIII and his wives (C/Katherine x 3, Anne x 2, and Jane) and Elizabeth are the real stars of the show.
If you don’t know a woman with a simmering Tudor obsession then you probably are her and have found camaraderie in the numerous books, TV shows, podcasts, documentaries, and local Renaissance Faires that cater to that interest.
Mean Girls The Plastics and Cat. Paramount+
Essentially the entire script of
Mean Girls, penned by the incomparable Tina Fey, has lived rent free in our heads since 2004. From “Boo! You whore!” to “She doesn’t even go here!” to “You can’t sit with us!” to “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom!” it feels like every line of this movie has achieved iconic quote status.
At any given moment, women of a certain age have at least three
Mean Girls quotes in our heads and are just waiting for the opportunity to use it in conversation, which will prompt the other women we’re with to retort with their own quote. The result has been a glorious, almost 20-year feedback loop and we’re not upset about it. Astrology I’m skeptical of this one because #CapricornSun #VirgoRising ilbusca/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images
actually believe in astrology? No. Do I attribute that to the fact that I’m a Capricorn, known for their pragmatic skepticism? Of course I do.
Look, in a world that can be chaotic and frustrating, astrology is a coping mechanism. A way for us to make sense of the senseless, and to try to understand more about ourselves and our loved ones. For example, do I know the psychological reasons why one of my children is a hypersensitive grudge-holder and the other one can go from sunshine to thunderstorms and back again for no apparent reason? Nope. But do I know that one of them is a Virgo with a Sagittarius moon and the other is a double Gemini? You bet.
That House We Saw On Zillow Such good bones. powerofforever/E+/Getty Images
“That house” changes probably all the time. That’s because we’re always on Zillow. Or Realtor.com. Or some Instagram account dedicated to cheap old houses in foreign countries. Even if we do not have the means to buy a home. Even if we
just bought a home and have no intention of moving. The point is not to make a plan; the point is to dream a plan, possibly a plan where you somehow teach yourself Swedish and the stunning house you want costs, like, $12.
I myself spend a little time every day sending my husband pictures of beautiful historic homes accompanied by a text reading “Baaaaaaabe” or “I regret to inform you that we must leave our home.”
Hypothetical Disasters There’s probably a way I can get out of this... fotograzia/Moment/Getty Images
For example. If you’re in a crowd and you think “If all of these people suddenly turned into zombies how would I get my children to safety and what would be the next move?” or “If my leg was trapped under a fallen rock, would I be able to self-amputate?” or even simply “What if there were a really large wave coming right at me?”
Some people call these “intrusive thoughts.” We call these “the female answer to the Roman Empire.”
Do all of us think of all of these? No. Some of us don’t think of any. But a lot of us think of a lot of these. A lot.