Do men’s unrealistic expectations of women really exist? If they subsist, do they really matter?
“You’re an easy girl if you say yes when invited over to a guy’s home on your first date, and you’re a killjoy if you reject the invitation.” There’s no way a woman — or any human — could meet society’s expectations. We call them expectations because they are not a plausible reality.
Women should be skinny, but curvy at the same time; smart and intelligent, but submissive at the same time; beautiful, but not concerned with beauty at the same time; well-dressed, but shouldn’t take a long time to get ready — and a virgin, but experienced at the same time. Since when has the number of sexual experiences defined a woman’s identity? There are a whole set of expectations regarding sexuality, but that doesn’t begin to include all the standards women “must” meet. There’s an absurdly long list of expectations for women written by this male-dominated society that are impossible to achieve in reality.
Women are expected to behave a certain way, talk a certain way and express themselves in a certain, “feminine” way. Oh, you can definitely work out in a gym, but you cannot look masculine or be stronger than a man. Oh, you can have a job, but you can’t be an engineer or CEO, that’s a man’s job. Oh, you can be good at things, but you will never be better than a man.
The way we have been raised, the things that we hear and the movies that we watch, have created these expectations. In the film “Mickey Mouse Monopoly,” Dr. Carolyn Newberger said the movie “Beauty and the Beast” suggests girls at young age to “overlook the abuse; overlook the violence. There is a tender prince lurking within and it’s your job to kiss that prince and bring it out, or to kiss that beast and to bring the prince out.” Women are always expected to be kind, accommodating, nurturing and patient.
If you are in a heterosexual relationship, these expectations matter a lot. A woman goes out on a date and she’s expected to let the man pay. Why? Because it’s obvious that men need to feel like they’re providing for their woman. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being a provider, but isn’t it associated with materialism here? What about providing emotional support? As a woman, I ask for emotional support from my man. Ask me about how my day was, and let’s talk about the future together. I can take care of paying on dates.
I accept that society is changing now. There are waves of feminism that have brought women empowerment. Women can work. Women can vote. They are not always expected to be stay-at-home moms anymore (at least in America). In fact, many men ask their wives to work — but what about the kids? Many people believe the mother is the best person to take care of the kids. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ensures 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 13 percent of U.S. workers have access to any form of paid family leave, which includes parental leave and other time off to care for a family member. Those 12 weeks is not long enough to raise a child to be independent, so to continue to stay with their babies, many mothers end up forfeiting their jobs. For those who can’t afford to do that, they often have to give up on the idea of having children. This is a decision countless women are told to make. Even if you are not told directly, there are systems and actions in this society that convey the message. Women are thus are expected to choose between their family and career.
The expectations I talked about are not necessarily true for every woman, but each one is true for countless people. My perspective is based on my research, but also on my own experiences and the experiences of some of my friends. A discussion in my Women and Gender Studies class prompted my thought on this topic. My class pondered if these expectations really come from the men in our lives, or do they come from society? Or are we creating these expectations for ourselves? If they are the expectations of men, it is the right thing to not care about them because we shouldn’t allow others’ unrealistic beliefs dictate our lives? However, what if they are actually our own subconscious expectations?
If you look into mirror every morning and criticize your body and see how imperfect it is, it’s you who is creating these unrealistic expectations and then blaming it on men. Slut shaming, virgin shaming and setting unreasonable standards for our bodies are some things women seem to be talking about a lot. We get indignant at the thought of anyone trying to tell us how to live our lives or how to exist as a person. We are constantly fighting against the pressure to fall back into these cookie-cutter definitions of acceptable womanhood. No matter where the expectations come from, women should know they are powerful enough not to be influenced by them. Every woman has the ability to decide for herself who she wants to be, what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. If a woman wants to be better than a man, so be it. If not, that’s okay too.
Puja Thapa can be contacted