As a woman, I’ve learned to expect certain ideas about who I am and who I’m supposed to be. Good or bad, right or wrong, there’s always an underlying expectation of what a woman looks, thinks and acts like. A woman is considered a bitch, a goddess, a sex object, a partner, a mother, a whore, a doormat, a treasure, a joke, a shiny object to look at. I’ve personally experienced a plethora of these preconceived notions being projected upon me, sometimes valid but most often not at all. I started thinking about all of the different assumptions and ideas that I face as a woman and how they help to shape my own perception of who I am. Let’s take a look at some of them:
A woman should be soft spoken and sweet, always caring for others. She should smile and speak kind words, never criticize or nag. She should be thankful and appreciate all that is done for her and feel ashamed to ask for more. She should be self-less in her service to others, especially her husband and children and family and friends and…… She should work tirelessly to ensure the happiness of those around her and always put her wants and needs at the bottom of her never-ending to-do list.
A woman should always look beautiful and perfect. She should be as thin as possible yet full of sexy curves. She should seek the desire of men and women alike at all times. Her skin should be flawless and glowing, her breasts full and perky. Long, flowing hair perfectly styled, nails freshly manicured and makeup enhancing her natural beauty is a must. Pouty, pillowy lips, smoky eye, flushed cheeks, light perfume, lotion-soft, scented skin, feminine clothes and heels. The first impression a woman gives is her appearance and it determines whether she takes care of herself properly and is therefore worthy of further attention.
A woman should be able to multi-task and handle all things at all times. She should take on the roles of wife, mother, daughter and friend and excel at all of them. In addition she should work full time and climb the corporate ladder. She should be a homemaker, chef, mother, chauffeur, event planner, coordinator and mediator while also giving advice, solving crises, building self-esteem and averting disasters. All of this should be done with a smile and zero complaining, she should be grateful for her full life. And she should work full time outside the home also lest she be considered lazy.
A woman should be ready and excited for sex at all times. She should be adventurous and up for anything, but not too much so. She should provide the experience that her husband is looking for regardless of her personal wants and needs. She should never say no if her husband wants sex or she risks the chance of him seeking it elsewhere, which would be her fault of course. She should not ask for sex repeatedly if her husband isn’t interested, she should understand that he is tired and wait for him to initiate. She should remember that it’s her job to keep her husband interested and their sex life exciting. Maybe she should read some Cosmo stories for some new ideas to entice her man.
A woman should submit to her husband. A woman should NEVER submit to a man! A woman’s body is her own and all decisions about it are her choice alone. A woman’s body is a miracle of God and holds the key to the creation of life. A woman is emotional and irrational and not capable of being in charge of the family or the company or the country. A woman is a piece of meat and the way she’s dressed means that she’s begging for it, even though she’s saying no. A woman is weak and suggestible, just keep pressuring her and she’ll give in to avoid being considered rude. A woman is a blessing worthy of praise and respect. A woman’s love holds the family together. A woman can do anything she wants to do. A woman’s place is in the home. A woman’s place is any damn place she wants to be.
Some of these characterizations are contradictory and extreme but I’ve heard variations of all of them. All women have, we’re raised with this huge set of rules placed on us from all sides and trying to wade through all of them to figure out who we really are is exhausting. Some of us fall in line and do exactly what’s expected of us, believing it will bring us happiness. Some of us do the exact opposite, choosing instead to rebel against all of these rules and seek our own happiness in the other extreme. Either way, we’re not truly choosing for ourselves whether we’re submitting or rebelling. I think a lot of what’s wrong with our current culture stems from women assuming that real contentment lies in the antithesis of traditional roles and then realizing that it isn’t there, either.
Instead of trying to define ourselves as women in accordance or in contrast with what is expected of us, let’s address the fact that we’re all different and that is to be celebrated! How boring it would be if we were just a bunch of Stepford Wives all looking and acting alike! Let’s stop idolizing the Sports Illustrated/Victoria’s Secret/celebrity nonsense idea of beauty and instead glamorize all of the unique talents and abilities of ourselves. Stop calling each other “bitch” and “slut” and “whore” and stop allowing men to do it and call it entertainment. Let’s build each other up instead of being gossipy and catty toward each other. Let’s love and respect each other as women, whether we’ve decided to stay home and raise children or travel the world or stay single or conquer the corporate environment. Let’s not choose one or the other as women, the expected role or the all out rebel. Let’s instead choose what actually makes us happy, truly happy. Let’s allow ourselves to choose any path we want and support each other in those choices. All of the expectations that are placed on us as women are only limitations if we believe that they are. What they consider our faults can be the source of our power if we work together and harness all those wonderful qualities that women have. Women are the most spectacular, wonderful creatures exactly the way they are. I am, you are, we all are.
I’m working hard to let all of these expectations and judgments of myself as a woman fall away. I’m learning that I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am, that I’m beautiful and smart and strong and awesome. I’m already the perfect version of myself, I don’t have to do anything to prove myself worthy. I can work to improve myself but it will be for me, not for anyone else. I don’t need to change who I am in order for someone else to accept me or appreciate me or love me. And neither do you.
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. All images taken by me unless otherwise stated.