While mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, usually filled with unnecessary updates and uninformed political opinions, I happened upon a Thought Catalog article that caught my attention. Titled “50 Ways To Be A Woman” by author Caitlin Leggett, this list of absurd, narrow-minded “requirements” for women just about fell into my lap as the perfect subject to dig into. Every single detail could be torn apart, but I have chosen to focus on the three most overarching themes of her piece; that a “woman” is both biologically female and heterosexual, that women must change certain appearances to be attractive to men, and that women must act a certain way to fit into the box society has created for them.
This article is supposedly aimed at all women, as stated in the title. But, throughout the piece, the author only addresses women as being feminine and attracted to men. Her language is not inclusive towards those that are not genetically female but identify as female, females of other sexual or romantic orientations, or females who are not extraordinarily feminine.
It is also not binary, so suggesting that there are only “males” and “females” without a scale in between can be extremely damaging to a person’s sense of self. In titling the article “50 Ways To Be A Woman”, it is inherently suggested that anyone not feminine, biologically female and heterosexual is not a woman, which is extremely degrading to those of other paths in life.
This article also perpetuates the negative social norm that women must change in order to please men. There are many demands made, like being able to walk perfectly in heels, keeping hair perfectly dyed and artificial nails always filled, and crossing your legs to appear lady-like. This list of requests can seem extremely daunting for someone trying to be societies “perfect woman”. Then, at number 36, one of the most common complaints about women – “An unhappy woman is very unattractive”. In our society, how others perceive you is more important than your emotional wellbeing. We live our lives under the standard that physical appearance is extremely important, and any woman who does not adhere is simply not “woman” enough.
Women have the right to look however they please and should not have to dress for anyone but themselves.
According to the author, not only are women expected to change their appearance, but their actions as well. Women must create a positive image of themselves, never revealing any “bad” side. Every action must be calculated and controlled to give others the apparent best (often fake) perception of us. We must adhere to gender stereotypes, and keep our mouths shut if we don’t agree with them.
We should give up our independence in some ways and submit to a man, letting him do the grunt work. We should “sit down and be ladies” so that men can be men. The days of sitting back and letting men run our government, our film industry, our corporations- they are slowly coming to an end. More and more woman are fulfilling their passions, grinding day after day, and achieving what was once impossible.
Unfortunately, these requirements she is listing are not new social norms. This kind of degradation of women is learned, and the author must have taken these societal norms to heart. She herself has been influenced by society’s expectations of women, and has taken these beliefs as her own. She is willing to put this filth back into the world, without realizing its dangerous consequences. Stereotypes such as these perpetuate exclusion of the LGBTQ community, negatively affect how men treat women, and impress upon the young and insecure that women must fulfill society’s checklist to be one at all.
We as women are put into a box – we can be pacified and accept these terms and conditions that come with our birth certificate, or we can challenge them. We can wear what makes us comfortable. We can act according to our personalities, not being a puppet for other people. We can do what makes us happy. And we can be inclusive. Because the only checklist we need for women has just one step.
Everything else is up to you.