Among the qualities which are almost universally considered feminine, a certain amount of poised restraint and delicate softness is usually up there with “pretty” and “smells good.” Women are these gentle flowers, these perfect little pillows of silk and decorative beading which exist to cushion life, to make it more soft and pleasant and nice to look at. A woman, beyond not just talking back, is expected to be a good sounding board for the humor of others — particularly men. We are there to coyly laugh at a man’s jokes, reminding him that he is funny and smart and desirable, rarely making a comeback of our own.
And we can tend to overlook these stereotypes as anachronistic views of what a man and woman were expected to be back in the days when a real-life Don Draper was spreading his misogynistic seed all over lower Manhattan without a care in the world. We can sometimes believe that this point of view has all but disappeared, replaced by a new, more complex love for a woman who is able to speak her mind — and does so without waiting for permission. But one need only be said loud girl just once, feel the sting of someone telling you that it is “ugly” or “unattractive” or “manly” for a woman to curse, or make jokes, or laugh the loudest, to know that this sentiment still exists deep beneath our skin.
One could make the argument that, with the Zooey Deschanels and Mila Kunises of the world, we have begun to turn our affectionate sights towards a woman who is intellectually nimble, who makes jokes and keeps up with the boys in a way that challenges them. But even a cursory analysis of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope reveals her to be acerbic only in a non-threatening, sweet way. She challenges you, but only the way a pillow fight might injure you. She remains soft, warm, filled with girlish interests and hyper-feminine clothing which serve to balance out her more sardonic humor or biting wit. And, as if it were even a question, she is stunningly beautiful and thin.
But for normal girls, girls who just happen to be loud and like bathroom humor and cursing and don’t see any of this as particularly incongruous with the concept of being a desirable woman, it can often feel as though, in order to find love or acceptance, part of you will have to be muted — or at least strongly dulled. No one, it seems, would accept someone who is constantly running at 100 percent, who curses a blue streak or doesn’t take shit or puts their foot down. Who could possibly accept that sense of humor is something to be shared in a couple, not dominated by one party to which the other one is constantly playing the charmed and placated audience? On more than one occasion, I have been told directly that I am “too loud,” “too much,” “too manly.”
What does that even mean, “manly”? Is a sense of humor or the ability to speak up in a conversation a quality we’re really consecrating entirely to the xy chromosome? Does uttering a curse word suddenly take a tally mark from the “woman” column and mark it with jagged urgency in the “man” one? Is there a fixed amount of bold or talkative you can be before you become ugly — and let’s be honest, is it directly proportional to how physically attractive you are? (I’m sure people are much more likely to tolerate a foul mouth or loud laugh coming from a woman who looks like a supermodel.) What a sad little box to put ourselves in as humans, this idea that we can only share a certain amount of our personalities before we become, by default, undesirable. It seems that everyone misses out in this equation, that even if two people genuinely love the other for who they are, there will always be a sense of paranoia that, on the greater societal level, they are not doing something “right.” They are too loud, too frank, too much of a presence in the relationship.
Of course, with time, I discovered that there are people who enjoy women who speak their mind and make their presence known. They think cursing is funny (and even rather nimble when used properly), they enjoy laughing at jokes as much as telling them, and they are not threatened by a female presence who doesn’t just fade into the background to make for lovely, decorative wallpaper. But it is something one has to remind oneself of every day, something that is far from reinforced by the media and society around us. For every person that loves you when you are at 100 percent, there will be two who tell you you shouldn’t talk so loud or say that word. They will tell you it is “unladylike” and expect that it will turn off some invisible switch in your brain that leads you to be so… you.
I only wish that in the movies that pretend to give us a “different” girl or a “loud” girl, that she could really be just that. I don’t need some dumbed-down facsimile of someone who speaks her mind. I don’t need a woman in a little girl’s dress who occasionally says the word “shit” and giggles coyly about it for ten minutes. I want the full brilliance of a woman’s intelligence, her wit, her loud voice and booming laugh and commanding presence. I want more broads, more women who put themselves out there in every shade they come in, who are not muted or shamed into a quiet complacency by the glare of a disapproving romantic prospect. And I want everyone to be able to say they love these women without fear of judgment, because laughing is laughing, and who cares if that trucker humor came from a beautiful woman’s mouth?