This is what I’m NOT comfortable with.
Society’s rules and expectations of me, since the day I was born:
Be pretty. I must be thin, have a glowing complexion, straight and vividly white teeth, 20/20 eyesight, and a very good handle on how to properly use every cosmetic device known to womankind. It’s the end of the world if I ever should have a blemish (and not know how to cover it properly). I must have glossy fingernails, and if I’m not well-endowed in the chest region, nobody will look at me. If my nose is too large, it’s not pretty. If I’m not thin enough, men will never look at me. It’s not pretty to have “love handles” and if I ever fall prey to an eating disorder, it’s clearly my problem and obviously I have control over it. I should be ashamed for exhibiting these behaviors that were taught to me by society.
Be sociable with women. I’m a “slut” or a “loose woman” if I’m too sociable with men. I can have many “girl friends” but if most of my friends and acquaintances are male, clearly I must be having sex with them. And that’s just not right, you see. If I’m not sociable at all, or if I have trouble communicating with others the way other people seem to do so effortlessly, I must be mentally ill, and I should see a therapist to “correct” this “problem”.
Dress well. I must not dress provocatively (because if I do, and I get raped, it’ll be all my fault), or in any way that is not “en vogue”. It’s inappropriate to draw attention to myself, and even worse if I choose to dress modestly, but unusually. And if my eyes are bad, I better be wearing contacts, not glasses. Shame on me for thinking I had a right to a personality, and shame on me for being hard of sight. I must have done that to myself, huh?
Date men. If I couldn’t get a date in high school, there must have been something wrong with me. Maybe my hair was too long, or shaggy, or not the right colour. Maybe I wasn’t wearing the right make-up. Maybe I wasn’t sociable enough. Of course, it’s my fault that young boys have more on their mind than young girls. And if I wasn’t attracted to boys, that’s obviously a mental disorder. So I’m in my 20’s and I’m not interested in sex. I’ve also had two failed engagements because there must be something wrong with me. I guess I better see a therapist, or try to be more alluring (without, of course, coming off as a “slut”).
Get married. After all, that’s my central purpose in life. To find a man and marry him. Then I’m supposed to do all the housework, make him sandwiches, bow to his every little whim, and be a housewife. I’m not supposed to “pretend” I’m above a man in any way. If I even merely suggest inequality among the sexes, clearly I must be a bitch. I’m supposed to get married, because if I don’t, there must be something wrong with me. If I don’t marry a man, I’ll never survive on my own. I’m not supposed to go to college. I’m supposed to find a man who can support me because I’m incapable of doing it myself, and if I even try, I must have some kind of mental or sexual disorder. I should probably see a therapist for that “problem”.
Have children. I have sexual organs for one purpose and one purpose only: multiplication. If I skipped marriage and I’m living with a homosexual man who happens to be my best friend, no children will ever come out of that (but people will ask me if I’m sure we’re not fucking) and obviously that’s not the plan of action that’s right for me. If I should someday have an unwanted pregnancy, I should be ashamed for calling it “unwanted” and I should forget about being part of society if I have an abortion, because that’s murder, and women are not murderers. How will my parents ever become grandparents? How will I ever live a meaningful life if I don’t have children? I’d much rather have a cat, which means that there must be something wrong with me.
Other unspoken rules of womanhood:
Talking about the menstrual cycle is vulgar, obscene, and I should feel disgusting and ashamed for these functions that I cannot control.
I will always be questioned for my skills (driving, reading, writing, math, art, music, “dirty work” or manual labour) because I am obviously the weaker and dimmer sex. I have no right to complain if I am not paid as much as my male counterparts at work, even if we were hired at the same time, because obviously I’m not capable of doing as good of a job as they do, because I am a woman.
Everything I say is a product of my emotions, because I obviously lack a logical mind. I am expected to be fascinated with love stories, love songs, “chick flicks”, and muscular men; I am also expected to exhibit stereotypical behaviors such as compulsive shopping, poor driving, losing my patience, and constantly having PMS because obviously that’s all that could ever really upset me since I’m incapable of logical thought. I never have a legitimate reason for crying, either.
I should always try to be more like [insert name of “beautiful woman” here]. Men want the women they see on the magazines. Not some frumpy girl who can’t afford a nose job, doesn’t have the patience for fake eyelashes, and lives in the real world where you can’t photoshop your face before you leave the house.
These things hurt.
I’m a woman, and I love being a woman. I hate that society feels the need to govern our lives. We are taught that it’s okay to be ourselves, but out in the real world, apparently it’s not. THESE THINGS HURT. I encourage women and girls to think for themselves. You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are. If the world doesn’t like it, we have a tendency not to like it either, but it’s okay to like yourself. Loving yourself is an entirely different matter, and something I deeply hope to learn someday myself.
Society can take a walk.