Dear girls, women, fabulous females of all ages:
It has come to my attention that we rather like telling each other what to do. We’re a bossy bunch, we are. So many expectations; so many standards.
It takes a total of, oh, one glance at the magazines that we write for each other to corroborate this conclusion. Frolicking my way through the world wide web just now, I had Cleo tell me to shake things up in the bedroom and avoid “blow-out days” in my diet; Cosmo very helpfully informed me that I “hate to love” a whole bunch of young celeb couples; Women’s Weekly instructed me to “warm my family up” with some “delicious desserts” and Woman’s Day authoritatively stated that rushing through life is something that “almost every woman has in common”.
It’s not exactly a Nobel Prize-winning revelation to say that we’ve created a caricature of what a woman is supposed to be. But here’s the thing, it’s just that: a caricature. Two-dimensional, fake, and a little stupid, really. And what’s especially exciting about being a woman in this grand Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand And Twelve is that the caricature is starting to undergo some pretty weird transformations. It’s, like, growing hair. And it doesn’t always wear makeup. It chooses to get married in a non-white dress. And – heaven forbid – sometimes it chooses to canoodle with another woman. Or, hey, with multiple men at once. Or with – gasp! – a sex toy.
I was equal parts surprised and impressed to find that the leading article in this past weekend’s Sunday Life was about vibrators. The piece is about average (whatever that is) Australian women buying sex toys and, lo and behold, using them. It’s one of those topics that, for the most part, still isn’t in the public discourse – and when it is there, it’s almost for novelty value. This article on vibrators could never have slipped unassumingly into the latter pages of Sunday Life; it had to be the focus, it had to steal the show. Even in the act of drawing it into the light of normality, it has to be presented as abnormal.
Then there was an opinion piece by Chrissie Swan, who had been asked by her editor to “explore” the topic of sex toys as “a little tie-in” to the main article. Chrissie wrote that she found vibrators a little “icky”, that the idea of going out to buy one herself brought her closer to climactic giggles than climactic anything else, and that she’s never owned a vibrator. And you know what the cover line for her piece was? “Chrissie Swan Admits She’s A Prude.”
What a shame. Like the world of the pure white princess and the femme fatale, the world of the perfect housewife and the evil stepmother, it seems we’re still living in a concocted cocoon of polar extremes. You’re a slut or you’re a prude. You’re a daughter or a mother. You’re a wife or you’re a lover.
How about we all just be women? How about we all just be ourselves, and be okay with that?
It seems to me that in the process of helping ourselves, we sometimes shoot ourselves in the foot. How many times have you heard someone despairing the fact that they’ve gained “a few extra kilos”, only to be consoled with the cliché that “real women have curves”? We console our friends for being virgins by saying that at least they’re not sluts. We console our friends for sleeping with another “wrong guy” by saying that at least they’re getting some action. At least they’re not some intergalactic freakazoid retaining their virginity past twenty. (And what is this virginity thing, anyway? You’re not made to feel like you’re handing something away when you drive a car for the first time or vote for the first time or get your first job. You’re not meant to feel like you’re losing something.)
So let’s stop fat-shaming and slut-shaming and shaming in general. We’re perfectly capable human beings. We can each make our own decisions and we can unashamedly claim ownership of those decisions. In return, we can respect other women’s ownership of their decisions – meaning that we won’t imperiously tell them to go on a diet, to wear heels to work, to shave their legs or to get laid. None of those things are what a real woman does. Because, for heaven’s sake, we are all real. Whether we’re fat or skinny, whether we’re pre-pubescent or octogenarian, whether we work or stay at home, whether we have families, whether we’re single or married or somewhere in between. Whether we have a vibrator tucked away in our underwear drawer or whether we’ve never even seen one in our lives.
It’s all allowed. There’s no rule-book for these things, apart from the one that we write ourselves. So, girls, let’s stop being readers and start being authors.
Do you feel you can be yourself? Do you feel pressure to fit into a box?
Alyssa Robinson has written 12 posts.
If you dissected me you'd get a lot of opinions, a lot of inconsequential stresses ("but where did the bobby pin go?"), a lot of half-baked entrepreneurial ideas that get smothered by more pressing needs like blog posts and frivolously humorous tweets, and a lot of Diet Coke (it fills the void). Oh, and I guess you'd get guts.
Follow on twitter: @thatsironical