The perfect woman has a symmetrical face, full lips and big eyes. She’s white, or ethnically ambiguous. She’s slim, yet curvy, and her fashion sense is feminine and subtly sexy – appealing without being distracting. Her dresses show the perfect amount of breast, and just about cover her ass, without ever showing too much. She is a respectable tease. She laughs at all mens’ jokes, and smiles when they comment on her appearance. She never says no and she never gets angry. She chooses laughter over aggression. She doesn’t raise her voice. When it comes to politics, she doesn’t really care. Actually, that’s not true, she cares as much as you do, and applauds any vaguely feminist opinions you have. Tragedies upset her a respectable amount. She is thoughts and prayers. She is not protest. Her career? She has a junior position at a well known corporation and has no ambitions. She earns just enough to keep her hair long and tame, her nails done and her skin good enough for minimal makeup. She is, by all means, conventionally attractive and her conventional attraction allows her to glide through life with no perceived friction. She wants you just as much as you want her. And she doesn’t exist.
Because we do, don’t we? Women are typically judged on their appearance, as if it’s the only dimension of us that is important. Just look at the headlines that are written about our gender. We’re either ‘flaunting our enviable figures’, or giving birth, or (shockingly) daring to have an opinion. I can’t be the only person who’s bored of this narrative. I’ve felt the pressure to be two-dimensional so many times in my life – I always felt I had to make a choice between being intelligent and being attractive. Because, it’s impossible to serve a stunning look and have a valid opinion, isn’t it? That couldn’t possibly exist in the world we live in.
I think it’s why attractive women’s messages get watered down and women in sports/politics/activism unjustly face appearance-based critiques. It’s a way of trying to suppress female voices and resist the undeniable advances that are being made when it comes to equality. I’ve touched on this previously when I talked about the influencers who were creating content around Chernobyl. I noticed that the people being attacked for their content were…women. Attractive women. Be honest with yourself, if a man was stood in Chernobyl wearing all black and captioned the photo of himself with information about the tragedy, would you *really* find it as offensive as an attractive woman doing the same? Men are allowed to be attractive and intelligent, as long as their attractiveness is due to their masculinity. If there’s anything effeminate about their looks, they also face the same ridicule. And to be honest I am just so f*cking tired of it.
I’m tired of men’s eyes being glued to my breasts as I walk to work. I’m tired of seeing my fellow female influencers branded ‘shallow’ and ‘vapid’ for creating content that appeals to their fellow women. I’m tired of only 2% of VC funding going to women-owned businesses. And I am PARTICULARLY tired of the men who claim to be our allies, but are always the first to quote tweet digs made at women and effeminate men. In 2019 it shouldn’t be this hard to live a complete life. It shouldn’t be this hard to be seen as a complex, three-dimensional person. We shouldn’t have to constantly ‘prove’ our value. We shouldn’t have to constantly fight the idea that a woman’s value correlates with how compliant they are with the patriarchy, or how willing we are to act like men for a seat at the table.
No woman should have to tone down her feminine qualities to achieve success. A promotion shouldn’t mean feigning an interest in men’s football or cricket, it shouldn’t mean dressing in a more masculine manner and ditching the makeup, or hiding the aspects of ourselves that are deemed feminine.
There is power in feminine traits. They are incredibly valuable, and teams that incorporate a mixture of traditionally masculine and feminine traits (without expecting them to match up with the perceived gender of each person on the team) create much more powerful work.
If you’ve ever met a woman that fits the two-dimensional mould at the beginning of this blog post I want you to know that she doesn’t exist. The persona you’re interacting with is a mask, a disguise. It’s a game a lot of us have to play just so that we can get from A to B in peace. Two-dimensional women don’t exist. They’re a myth.
Photography by @staceywhite_photography