If you haven’t seen it by now, Always’ new campaign #LikeaGirl is a brilliantly moving piece about the power of stereotypes in our society. As someone who works in marketing I’m always a fan of pieces that strike on a really powerful insight, especially one that can spark positive change. And female empowerment/self-esteem issues are definitely right in my wheelhouse of “Things that make me REALLY PASSIONATE.” So, yes, this video made me cry.
What really resonated with me is the connection it made to some of the work I’m doing in my own life. In one of the first meetings I had with Caroline, my ever-brilliant life cheerleader, we did an exercise where we rated ourselves on certain characteristics, one of which was femininity. When we got there, I was awe struck. I’d never much thought about the subject, but when it came down to it, it was clear that I didn’t seem myself as inherently feminine. Why?
Well… a laundry list of reasons. I thought that I didn’t match up to what cultural norms have defined as feminine:
1. I am not dainty, small, or graceful
2. I am head strong, could be aggressive and opinionated, and more of a ‘leader’
3. I am bold in life and love, I don’t play games, I’m not ‘coy,’ I go after what I want
4. I am not immaculately put together
5. I am not particularly “virtuous” (sorry Mom!)
So basically… I still have an idea in my head that the “ideal” woman is a 1950s Stepford wife, or at least a tiny Southern Belle waiting around for prince charming (seriously, the idea of feminity to me is like a real life Thumbalina).
Which is just. insane. It’s 2014. So much has progressed in terms of feminism and women’s rights. So why hasn’t our idea of “being feminine” changed? Why do we consider powerful women to be women exhibiting masculine qualities?
Always’ certainly hit the nail on the head with stereotypes. And I will add two more to the mix: the idea of how women can and cannot behave in the workplace and in love.
These areas are some of the most deeply ingrained in me, and some that I struggle with most deeply, especially the area of love and dating– which is where I’ll choose to focus. Women suffer many, many stereotypes around how they choose to date, how much of their real selves and real agendas they reveal, and how “far” they choose to go with the men in their lives. COUNTLESS books, articles, conversations, TV shows, movies, and more cover this topic. It’s everywhere. And it’s a ridiculous standard that makes women feel guilty, out of control, and unworthy.
As someone who truly values the importance of love and finding a monogamous partner, it scares the shit out of me that I may forever screw up my chances because I am not “following the rules” as society dictates, because I don’t act exactly as women are meant to act in courting situations. I don’t pretend to be uninterested. I don’t actively suppress my sexual needs based on how many men I’m “allowed” to sleep with per year [seriously, I know a lot of women who do]. Instead, I follow my heart, I stay true to myself, I express feelings genuinely.
And because of that, I often feel incredible guilt and anxiety. Even though I know what I’m doing is right for me, I’m afraid it’s wrong by societal standards.
Which is why I am here, writing to you and continuing my practice of love and acceptance. Because it’s time to break free of “who we’re supposed to be” and accept all of who we are.