“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful.”
From time immemorial, women’s life choices have been under constant negative scrutiny. There are so many expectations for women, down to the nitty gritty, like how we sit down or even how we talk.
If you pay attention, there is an underlying presumption of how we, as women, are supposed to look, talk, behave, act, think, and respond. Subconsciously, a number of us have had no choice but to adapt to these expectations. Why? If we fail to do so, people make it appear as though there are repercussions, like never being successful in our endeavours.
A friend of mine was once told that she needs to slow down, and that if she worked too hard, she would not find a man to marry her. She seemed to have her life in order, including her finances, academics, career, and the likes. But, it seems there is a concept of having your life too much in order, and society does not take it well. So, being too hardworking is a problem, and the opposite? A problem as well. It’s almost as if we can never win this game of life.
Women are constantly being told what to do and what not to do. You wear waist beads? It’s a sign that you are trying to sexually attract men. You wear a choker? You may as well be a sex worker. You go on a date with a rich guy? You’re a gold digger. There are so many expectations, and it’s hard, if not impossible, to live up to all of them.
Conforming to the standards of a perfect woman should not be treated as an achievement. Because just as there is no perfect human being, there is no perfect woman. We need to be a little more compassionate, and to allow women to express themselves in the way that brings out the best in them.
The problem is that this narrative affects everyone differently, but almost always negatively. For the conformists, they may never live up to their full potential because they are constantly on edge about what others will think about them. For the non-conformists, they end up getting bashed by people. Without their knowledge, society imposes labels on them which still affect them. So, in the long run, whichever side you are on, you still end up being the loser.
The internet has not made it any easier because now more than ever, there is a platform for everyone to be heard, including those with misconstrued notions.
Women are body shamed on the internet almost on a daily basis. People feel as though they should have a say in how a ‘proper’ woman behaves. Their entitlement pushes them to insults and other forms of verbal abuse.
Even with all the progress we have made towards improving the girl child’s standards of living, it appears that there is still one thing holding us hostage. We need to allow women to choose what they want for themselves without being judgmental. Women deserve to be as free as men are in this life.
Stop telling women what they need to do, and especially if you don’t know them. You do not have to consume content that does not appeal to you, and you do not have to respond to things that do not tickle your fancy. You can look at something you don’t like in someone and let it pass. Stop dehumanizing women!