My husband once pointed out a bumper sticker that said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” I know he’s proud of the bad girl in me.
There are a lot of things women are expected to do that they don’t really need to do. Fifteen is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s amazing how many rules there are that women ascribe to – just look at any magazine and you’ll find the list plastered to the front cover. So what happens when women don’t follow those rules? Shame, shame, shame? You become a social pariah? NO! It’s not true. Women who don’t follow the rules have tight friendships, strong communities and a lot of fun being themselves. The women I know who don’t clean their house, match their socks or wax their nether regions are joyful, successful and FULL OF LIFE.
An example of this is my friend, Masha, who absolutely fascinates me. She is a Russian expat and university professor of Political Science who has a partly shaved head; wears mismatched, brightly coloured clothes, tends a garden full of gnomes and disco balls, and uses the walls, ceilings and floors of her home as a gallery of stickers, graffiti, sparkles, painting, and the art of her friends and kids. Her home is frequently a jumble of toys, art and dirty dishes but is also one of the happiest place I go. She is the queen of the neighbourhood and there is no one she doesn’t know by name from beggars to bankers. By being herself, to the full extension of her ability, she has become much loved and respected. On top of that wonderful dividend for living an authentic life – she’s got a handsome, intelligent husband (who would drink her bath water) and two really great kids.
Here is a list (partly inspired by Masha) of things women are expected to do that I think should at least be optional and at most be banished from the guidebook.
1. Be Nice
Women are often expected to “be nice.” One of the worst things women do is be “nice.” Nice is not the same as kind. Kind is good. Nice… there is a legion of things nice girls don’t do (most of which are a lot of fun). Kind women – they can do anything and do it with grace, dignity, humour, courage and still get laid on the way.
2. Keep Up With Fashion Trends
Contrary to the so called women’s magazines, women really do not need to buy the latest this, that or the other and you don’t have to spend your fortune on Jimmy Choo shoes or whatever is most fabulous this year. Finding your own signature style is fun and can bring beauty to your world but you don’t need to waste your precious resources – time and money – on what is hot this year.
3. Sit With Your Legs Together
Women can sit however they like, wherever they like. Have you ever sat on a bench with a man? He will spread his legs like eagle wings. I am absolutely certain this is a way of asserting dominance – like a cat who arches his back. Look how big I am, why I can’t hardly contain my package! Women, however; keep their legs tightly glued together for fear of… what? Why exactly is it unladylike to sit with your legs akimbo? As long as you are neat and clean and well advised why not take up a little more room. Lean in? Spread out!
So many women I know apologize for existing, for entering a room, for speaking. “I’m sorry, is this a good time?” The apology is extraneous. “Is this a good time?” is thoughtful and that is all you need to be. When joining a conversation women will often apologize instead of saying, “excuse me.” Excuse me is polite and that is all you need. Try keeping track of how much you apologize (you won’t be sorry you did). Unless you hurt someone – don’t apologize.
If you want to paint your house pink, smoke pot, learn Spanish or take a year off to travel the world, it’s your own damn choice and you don’t have explain it to anyone. You don’t have to tell the waiter about your root canal – just order water with no ice. You don’t have to justify shaving your head – get thee to a barber. You don’t need an excuse to go back to school at fifty: call up enrolment, enrol in an acting class and don’t tell anyone why you’re doing it. You don’t need approval. They only time you should explain yourself is when you’re late and even then an apology (as above) will do.
6. Clean Your House
Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It’s important to prevent the spread of disease and keep out varmints but other than that disorder can be a charming sign that you have more important things to do – like read books, hike, have sex or drink wine. Laundry is an excuse to be creative with your wardrobe. Toys everywhere are the signature of a happy childhood. Dirty dishes mean you had to get upstairs with that very attractive man (or woman) you share space with. Get up there. The dishes can wait.
7. Have Kids
Not everyone should have kids. It doesn’t mean the childless are loveless or selfish. It means you don’t want to parent. That’s not so bad (I can testify to the sleep you will not lose and the “Dora” you will not have to watch). Do your thing and find fulfillment and love in the way you choose to live your life. I have kids. It’s been a great thing for me. It has made me a better person. It may not be that way for you. We are not all the same. We don’t need to be. It’s not a badge of honour to have a child nor is it a badge of honour to be childless.
8. Work Outside The Home
For a long time I thought work outside the home, ambition and success were very important. I had a revelation when I had my second child and stayed home. Suddenly, for the first time ever, I felt at peace. I lost anxiety. I spent more time outside and I didn’t give a damn about leaving my mark or making a difference. Small things became my joys. It’s not a perfect life but it’s a peaceful one. Working in the service of others is very rewarding for me. Becoming a better cook, playing kitchen hockey with my 3 year old son, talking with my 85 year old mother-in-law and learning the art of domesticity has been a great boon to my emotional life. I feel free. Our family is lucky to afford this. It is also a choice. I can if I want. I want.
9. Work Inside The Home
Women don’t have to feel obligated to stay home with their kids or without them. It is still a topic of conversation and people forget that it’s not a new one. Most women in the world have to work. Since the beginning of time it has taken a village and historically, most children have been raised by extended family, friends of the family, boarding schools or a nanny (often, someone is minding the nanny’s kids). Taking care to provide for your children while taking care of your own needs teaches kids they can do what they want or need to do to find their own happiness. It ain’t easy or balanced. It requires juggling and it requires attention. It’s the choice you and your family make. Don’t let anyone judge you – especially you. File a formal complaint against the police in your head that shame your for your own nature. That’s police brutality and it has got to stop.
10. Wear A Shirt
My lovely stepdaughter shocks a lot of people in the summer time. She will strip off her shirt when playing volleyball or go for a swim in just her bottoms. She’s hot (in temperature, temperament and she is beautiful). She likes to feel the sun on her skin. She’s trained herself not to care about the sideways glances. Good for her. It is hot and they’re just baboo (as our sons call them). What the hell is going to happen if women take off their tops in North America? Bikinis are nearly as revealing and last I heard nipples don’t spread infection or cause world wars. I once joined her once on a barren secluded beach (I’m much more reserved than she is). Let me testify: the sun felt great!
11. Wear A Bra
Isn’t it the best feeling in the world to take your bra off, after a long day and whip it out through your sleeve? Oh my god. Isn’t it nice to walk around your house without the straps digging in your shoulders? If you don’t need it for comfort see what it’s like to go for a few days without your bra. Heaven. So, the neighbours talk. If they’re those kind of neighbours – they’ll talk anyway. Why not give them a little sugar for their coffee?
12. Wax Your Legs (etc.)
The etc. sure does hurt. I am a shaver of legs and to be honest I’ve really struggled with it. It makes me look little girl – hairless. I don’t like the social implications of that. I do, however; think it looks better. I have bought into the aesthetic. I buy into it for me. You do what you like to do – wax or shave. It should be a choice. The thing that really gets me is waxing the nether regions. That really hurts. It hurts a very sensitive place. Even after childbirth I can’t tolerate the pain and don’t think I should. Ouch. Leave it alone.
13. Speak Quietly
Many women believe they must be soft spoken and that the sound of a woman’s voice, when loud, is irritating. Keeping your voice soft means it’s harder to hear you. That can be a good tool if you want people to pay attention but if you can’t be heard you will be ignored and you are not part of the conversation. A high, pitchy voice can be irritating and it also indicates a lack of confidence. It’s easy to fix that. Speak from your diaphram. It will make your voice warm and powerful. Voice lessons help and they do more than strengthen your voice. They are a really great for feeling emotionally connected and strong. I highly recommend taking a voice class.
14. Act Like A Lady
Good manners are important. I thoroughly believe this. I set a nice table, chew with my mouth closed and respect those around me. What I object to is all the things ladies are told they can’t do. Most of them are fun. Most things ladies can’t do actually open doors for women. It seems incredibly outdated to me to be told that there are things a lady does and does not do. Women now go into locker rooms, drive cars and wear pants (all ridiculous things once considered unladylike). In certain parts of the world these things are still off limits. No one should be limited and sisters have got to step up and say it should not happen anywhere. In jolly old England a BBC executive actually banned female presenters on children’s shows from wearing red lipstick because it sends the wrong message. I don’t think my three year old son speaks lipstick so luckily he’s not getting that message.
15. Agree With This Post
You don’t buy into this. You think women should be nice, keep up with fashion, sit with their legs together, apologize, explain, clean their house, have kids, work inside the home, work outside the home, wear swim tops, wax from top to bottom, wear a bra, speak softly, act like a lady and disagree with anything I’ve said. Go forth and be your own self! One thing women do not have to do is follow any kind of direction from any kind of article by any kind of person they don’t know.