There are many conflicting messages that women hear on a daily basis from both sexes in this American patriarchal society. Here is a compilation of a few that I and close friends have experienced. These examples are primarily from a hetero-normative perspective. Sometimes it can feel pretty impossible to be a woman.
To be listened to or valued you need to be thin and have a certain look. It is our job to be sexy and desirable; however,
Please do not wear yoga pants to school because your comfort is distracting for the young and old man’s eye.
It would be nice for you to wear a dress every now and then that shows some skin or gives me a hint that you want to have sex with me.
If you do have sex and then have sex a few more times then you are a whore, because women cannot have any sort of desire. Although, we do like our women to be a bit dirty and naughty.
I want to marry a virgin so that I know my woman has good values, will make a great mother, and will be devoted to me, but before then I’ll have sex with as many women as I want to help tend to my sexual desires.
If you dress to show some skin, that’s clearly an invitation for me to sample what you are showing, but even in flannel pajamas with no skin showing, there is still an invitation there because, “Baby, don’t you want me to like you?”
If you have my attention then you can go places.
I like my women to be strong and have a say, as long as it doesn’t compete with me or undermine anything I have to say.
SMILE! Always smile, you don’t want people to feel uncomfortable.
You can be smart, but only a little bit smart because if you start voicing your thoughts or opinions, then people will call you a bitch and bossy and you don’t want that.
Also, don’t be smarter than me.
If you aren’t skinny then clearly nothing about you matters that much because what matters is if you are partnered with a man and most men like their women skinny.
You want to get married someday because if you are not married then clearly something is wrong.
If you are not married, then work on your sex appeal, but you know, not too much.
If you do get married and then have kids, act like a “mom.”
Once you are a mom dress modestly and show no signs of sexual desire until your husband comes home from work and wants to have sex.
At that point, don’t pay attention to any of your needs or the needs of your children and get sexy. If you don’t, you’re an uninteresting prude and putting your marriage in jeopardy.
If you are touched in an unwanted manner, it’s not something you should talk about, because it will just create a lot of work for other people and you know what? Most people won’t believe you anyway. Girls are supposed to be quiet and kind. What will people think of you once they discover you aren’t? You don’t want people to look at you differently. What did you do to cause it?
Were you flirting?
Did you have too much to drink?
Did you have that mini skirt on?
If a boy hits you on the playground, then really it just means he likes you. That’s how they show that they care and notice you. If they hit you when you are older, then, they probably just had a bad day. Give it some time. Maybe make their favorite dinner.
Go ahead and have a career. Live your dreams, but make sure you think of your man first and that it aligns with what he wants. Also, if you put your needs before your family’s, then you are selfish.
If you are deciding to have sex, then be responsible. Make sure you have your own protection, but remember if you carry condoms then you are a slut.
It’s important to not get pregnant before you are married, so figure out how to not do that. Birth control will be available, but hard to obtain. You’ll need to figure out what works best for your body, but while taking it, please don’t complain about the side effects.
If you become pregnant, it’s your responsibility to take care of the pregnancy and the child. Most people will tell you that you your life is ruined. Please don’t bring down the baby’s father also.
These are just a few examples of the themes we women navigate on a daily basis. I no longer want to follow these rules. There are many of us now who are throwing the flag and are calling foul. I have been spending most of my adult life recognizing these constructs and am now learning how to break them down, and rebuild my identity without playing into them. My hope is to succeed and help others do the same. All of these conflicting messages are damaging, not just to women but also to men because they automatically set up a disconnect between building true human intimacy and connection. That’s why we are here isn’t it? These games of power and domination are systems of failure where no one wins. We are all left feeling a sense of great loss and despair because we have not allowed one another to fully grow into their true potential. Instead of being limitless we limit, we tie down, and we dismantle the chance to experience true connection and community. It has got to stop.