It's hard to be a woman sometimes. Don't get me wrong: womanhood is glorious. But it's also heavily policed by society, and closely scrutinized: Wear this. Don't wear that. Have a career. Have a family. Want things. Don't want to much. Be thin. Don't be too thin. Be curvy. But don't be fat. The cacophony of rules being constantly bleated at us is deafening, and trying to keep up with what is and is not acceptable for a woman to do by society's sense of female propriety is exhausting. You'd think we lived in a Jane Austen novel, so heavily are notions of femininity borne down upon us by the patriarchal systems and power structures that be.
As a woman, you're told you can't say certain things. That the gravity of certain spoken taboos is so weighty you create a burden of yourself by their utterance. Which is simply untrue. Women can do and say as they please (insofar as we're being rational and respectful; I'm not saying, for instance, women have the right to run down the street shouting racist slurs just because they're women). In the smallest of every day interactions, women are diminished by what is and is not considered appropriate for them to discuss. It's these minutiae of conversation that might not seem damaging, but that are suffocatingly constricting when we restrict them. Here are eleven things women are constantly told they're not allowed to say (but that we are most certainly allowed to say):
1. "I want to have kids."
A young, educated woman on the brink of a fulfilling, potentially lucrative, lifelong career should never admit she wants to have kids. Because obviously that would completely negate the wanting of anything else for one's self, because a woman who wants children couldn't possibly have a mind for other things too.
2. "I don't want to have kids."
Possibly the post contradictory and confusing set of standards we place on a woman is that wanting children is a hinderance, but also that not wanting children makes you some kind of feminine pariah. Want kids? Anti-feminist life-quitter. Don't want kids? Cold-hearted, selfish, unfeminine monster. Cool, we'll just be over here trying to figure out what you want from us, exactly.
3. "Actually, I find that joke sexist and offensive."
Too often, something is said in a group situation, whether by a man or another woman, that is sexist or offensive. A woman who speaks up is a defensive shrew or a wet blanket, and should definitely just "chill out". People will be endlessly supportive of a woman being opposed to the perpetuation of offensive, reductive, regressive mindsets and stereotypes—in theory. But when it comes to a woman actually telling a friend in a bar that their joke is problematic, then it's all way too real, and suddenly she becomes "uptight" and has "no sense of humor".
The miracle of life is all well and good until a woman starts talking about, you know, the actual process that makes that possible. Then it's all "ew, no, stop, make your body stop doing things that are not pleasing to my sexualized, male gaze-influenced idea of it."
5. "Damn, I look fine!"
We're trying to teach women not to be insecure about their looks, and yet a woman is still not allowed to be openly confident about her looks. When you receive a compliment with "I know", as a woman, it for some flabbergasting reason, makes you look conceited. Thank God for Mindy Kaling/Larihi, because she's working hard to reverse that on The Mindy Project.
6. "I farted/pooped/did any other manner of things that are completely human bodily functions."
WOMEN POOP RAINBOWS AND FART THE SCENT OF LAVENDER FIELDS. God, everyone knows that.
7. "I'm not satisfied."
Heaven forbid a woman should want more for herself! A woman who pronounces her discontent is a disturbance. She's demanding and bossy and a bitch. A man is assertive and ambitious. But a woman is a mean old witch making everyone's life miserable and difficult because she won't just shut up and accept things the way they are.
8. "Leave me alone."
I've seen this happen with my friends: A couple of us will be sitting at a bar talking, and a man will approach and try to insert himself into the conversation. After being politely told you'd like to continue your conversation in private, without his presence, he'll freak out and drop some spiteful, "Whatever, I was just trying to be nice!" That's great, we get that—and so were we. We politely declined your conversation, which is something we're allowed to do, but apparently is completely offensive and wrong. As a result, I've seen friends engage in lengthy conversations they don't want to have because they're afraid of being seen as "rude". Likewise when catcalled in the street, a woman can ignore her aggressor, and then get verbally chewed out as a "bitch" for not engaging.
9. "This is how much money I make/would like to make/am demanding I make."
Sophia Amuroso in her book "#Girlboss" is all for women discussing their finances openly, from wages to investments and everything in between. Men do! And yet even in 2015, it's still taboo for a woman to talk money.
10. [Crying in a professional setting]
A woman who cries at work is seen as weak and incapable of being in the work place. But as we all know, if mogul and all-round incredible role model Kelly Cutrone says we can do it, then we can do it (although Kelly does say to go outside to cry, which is fair; Mid-office breakdowns/unnecessary scene causing are awkward for everyone regardless of gender).
11. "I'm jealous."
Jealousy is seen as one of the ugliest, most shameful emotions, but we all feel it. Every single one of us! But we're not allowed to admit it, because "jealous" equates with "crazy". Beyoncé's song "Jealous" completely ignores that stereotype and realigns the emotion with "human". If we could all just say, "Hey, I'm jealous", talk about it, and move on, we might be able to have healthier communication in all our relationships, rather than trying to hide and squash feelings that should be addressed.