1. There’s no way to win as a woman. Unless you are a Total Package of the perfect sex object, serene mother, supportive wife, and career woman you are letting someone down. The sick part is, very few women even want to be the Total Package, most of us just want one or two of those things, and to do them really well instead of spreading ourselves thin. But it’s hard not to feel like you are letting someone down with every decision you make. If I have a daughter, I hope I can teach her to listen to herself and do what she really wants, but my mother did this for me, and it’s still an uphill battle.
2. Everyone gets to have an opinion about you, all the time. When you’re a man, you are allowed to be ugly. The only time it is important to be attractive is if you are trying to be a model or you are trying to attract a woman romantically. For women, you have to be sexually attractive to everybody regardless of your career or whether you are romantically interested in them. People will offer their opinion up to you constantly about whether you look good and what you could do to look better and sometimes you just want to say, “you know what? I am not for you. I don’t care what you have to say about my looks. It’s irrelevant.” But that’s rude, I guess.
3. It’s hard for us to accept women who don’t fit neatly into one particular stereotype. If a woman is really into makeup, she must not also be interested in politics. People scoff at news coverage in Cosmopolitan because they think the same women who want mascara recommendations and sex tips couldn’t possibly also want to be informed on current events. We still think of women as these mysterious “others” instead of just another regular person, so we try to fit them into a box, at the expense of censoring the breadth of their interests and personality.
4. People want to tell girls that they have to agree with every other woman or else they aren’t “supporting” each other. The idea that women should support other women is great, in practice it’s infantilizing. We don’t need special treatment, we don’t need to be protected from fair criticism or to withhold it from each other. “Supporting women” needs to be redefined in order to include criticism and retaining the ability to respectfully disagree.
5. We raise boys differently than girls. When a boy can’t concentrate on his teacher because a girl in his class is wearing yoga pants, it’s acceptable to place the blame on someone else. A girl’s faults always belong to her.
6. People are going to tell her that her body doesn’t belong to her. If you asked anyone, “who does a woman’s body belong to?” Of course they would say to the woman. But we don’t act this way. We assume women are for us, that we should be attracted to them or find them aesthetically pleasing at all times. We think that if a woman is dressed up, it is for us to comment on, for us to touch. If we don’t want to be touched, it’s our responsibility to not look touchable.
7. I would worry constantly about her not finding her voice. I read stories like this, and I get so afraid for women who can’t find a voice to say “no” and realize how hard this will be if I ever have a daughter — worrying constantly about whether I have done enough to make sure she knows she has agency, that she can say no, that she can leave, and at the end of the day knowing even if she does many others do not. It’s hard to empower women without shaming women who aren’t already empowered. I don’t know how I will say “you need to find your voice” without also saying “it’s your fault if you haven’t found it already.”