This week I decided to reach out to my social network for some inspiration. One message in particular stuck out, and so this week I will talk about the unrealistic archetype of the ideal woman.</p>
A friend of mine wrote to me about how difficult it is for a woman to say “no.” She wasn’t talking about saying “no” exclusively in the context of sexual consent. What she meant is that there is pressure to say “yes” to every request that she receives, even when she desperately wants to say “no.” Interestingly, she is a woman in her 50s and a mother of two. You’d think that as you mature and become an adult, you would feel freer to speak your mind, but evidently that isn’t the case.
This made me start thinking more about my own life. It is pathetically true that I feel guilty when I say “no” to things. I find myself making far-fetched excuses when I want to cancel plans, and not speaking up in uncomfortable social situations. If we have trouble saying “no” in casual circumstances, you can be sure that women have trouble when it comes time to say “no” when we don’t want to have sex.
So what is this invisible barrier preventing us from feeling comfortable with telling others how we truly feel? Many women are nervous to be contradictory. After some thought, my opinion is that the invisible female contradiction barrier is reinforced by society’s archetype of the “ideal woman.”
During the summer, I read the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If you’re not already familiar with the story, to prevent spoilers you might want to defer from reading this column until after you’ve read and/or watched it.
In Gone Girl, the antagonist is the beautiful Amazing Amy who has hidden her sociopathic personality from her husband of five years. Until she faked her own kidnapping, she had the reader convinced that she was the ideal woman. In the story, the author describes her fake identity as the “cool girl.”
Amazing Amy turns out to be what I would think is the worst romantic partner imaginable. She is cruel, manipulative, merciless, and selfish. Yet she was able to make her husband Nick fall in love with her because she played the role of the “cool girl” for five years. She says that the “cool girl” is the woman that all men want to be with and all women want to be. Do you recognize it yet?
The “cool girl” is the woman who drinks beer, watches sports, eats hamburgers, maintains a perfect figure, and, most importantly, never disagrees with her husband. The “cool girl” is the quintessential literature parallel of the very real archetype of the ideal woman in our society.
I’m positive that there are women out therewho are considered the “cool girl.” In fact, I’ve met them. But that last component of never disagreeing with your partner is absolutely ridiculous. Thinking that the ideal woman has the trait of being non-contradictory is problematic for both you and her.
In Gone Girl, this phenomenon made the antagonist go so crazy that she devised and executed a plan to destroy her husband’s life. But in more realistic circumstances, it can lead women to do things that they don’t want to do, potentially leading to psychological damage.
I know that after this week I’m going to be a little bit more honest with myself about whether or not my true answer is “no.”