As women we constantly hear about how there are no more rights for us to fight for. According to several men –and even women–, Feminism is a defunct movement, since we’re no longer deprived of anything when compared to the suffragists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Yet, we continue to see how we’re targeted, from an early age, to believe that several misogynistic ideas are "just part of life."
By the time we’re adults, these ideas become ingrained rhetoric that only brings us shame and limits us from reaching our full potential. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you different pieces of advice given to women through different media outlets, including a talk that was given to young female students at a public high school.
Among the advice from the thirties and forties that can be found online, the most popular is the following:
“Be ready to go when your date arrives; don’t keep him waiting. Greet him with a smile.”
The idea of this advice is that his time is more valuable than mine, to the point that I need to be waiting by the door so he doesn’t waste his time, waiting while I get my purse or whatever, because it's just annoying. As for the smile part, I’ve always disliked the idea that women need to smile and be pleasing at all times. It comes with the connotation that we cannot have complex feelings, since we’re only there to be pretty.
Now let’s compare the former treasure of 1938 with this lovely advice given to a group of young women at Payson High School in Arizona on September, 2016 by Christian author Brad Henning. When talking about the many things women do that are turn-offs for guys, there’s an entire list on his website, 28 things to be exact.
Here are just some of those "turn-offs." Girls who: giggle, never stop talking, constantly wonder how they look, act dumb, cry all the time, never smile (again with the smiling!), are boy-crazy, can’t be spontaneous, won’t play sports, brag about their grades, are only into “chick flicks,” only say yes or give in to everything, can’t take a joke, smoke, wear a lot of makeup, are overly sensitive...
Society tells young women to try their best to be pleasing and attractive, and then tell them not to look desperate because they’re trying hard. I personally have an issue with the “wears too much makeup” comment because I hear it all the time. Men of the world, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but women don’t put on makeup for you. We wear it when we choose to wear it, because we like it. Stop making people feel insecure to tell them later they shouldn’t be.
“Don’t drink too much, as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening. Drinking may make some girls seem clever, but most get silly.”
Thank you, 1938, for doing a classy paraphrasing of “she was asking for it.” Vogue’s 1948 Book of Etiquette also has something to pitch in: “She can certainly hold her liquor is not a compliment.” Let's put this in comparison with Henning’s advice to High Schoolers on being too giggly and smoking.
There’s nothing wrong with being silly or goofy. In fact, if you want someone who can “take a joke,” you’ll probably find someone who is either deathly sarcastic or incredibly giggly. This is who they are. Why do they need to change anything about themselves simply to make someone else feel good about themselves? Women are people not playdough.
“Don’t sit in awkward positions–and never look bored, even if you are.”
Wow, 1938. For someone telling me I shouldn’t get emotional and stuff, you’re making these dudes look like fine china. If you think this is weird, take a look at dating guru Matt Hussey’s 2016 Cosmopolitan article about the flirting mistakes women make: questioning his masculinity through teasing, making him feel like a kid for describing him as cute, outdoing him on everything because no guy likes a woman who’s more accomplished, not encouraging him to compliment her, and failing to flirt back.
Going back to Payson High School, here’s a quote from Brad Henning’s website under advice for girls:
“Because no man wants to marry the wild woman. No, he wants to marry a woman he respects and trusts, not the woman with the sexual reputation. He wants to be proud of the woman he marries. But now it’s too late for her. Because of her reputation, she can’t just change her mind about being wild like the guys and suddenly want to be the woman every man dreams of, because his dream is marrying a virgin who has waited…waited just for him.”
If we’re going to pretend there’s no more need for feminism, we should start by erasing slut shaming. The day when there’s no woman being told she can’t be open about enjoying, wanting, or having sex, at the risk of being a pariah, then maybe I’ll start paying attention to what the anti-feminists have to say.
What have I learned today from all this relationship advice –aside from the fact that if I read one more piece of this mansplaining my eyeballs are going to burst? In the eyes of the world, women can’t do anything right. They’re either too much or too little, too forward or too withdrawn. They’re either bragging about their success or looking for a sugar daddy. Their laugh is annoying or they take themselves too seriously. They’re desperate or not putting themselves out there.
Hopelessly, we want to be treated as complex human beings who cannot have a list of “perfect traits” as a two-dimensional cartoon character. At the end of the day if my actions make someone feel insecure, disgusted, or repelled, that has more to do with them than with me.
My advice: men and women should strive for understanding instead of judging. Perhaps that’s the best way to begin a relationship.