Men will no longer be the determiners of femininity

“Don’t eat so fast.”

“Hold your shoulders back and stop slouching.”

“Stop wearing such big clothes; you have a great figure to show.”

“Don’t swear so much; it isn’t ladylike.”

All of these comments, although objectively harmless, are things that I, my friends, and other women have all heard at some point in our lives.

All signs point to sexism passed down through generations along with older ideologies and opinions handed from mother to daughter through snide comments and over-pickiness. As all this comes through a place of love, concern, and protection, there is also a ‘but’ associated with these kinds of displays that drags a more negative connotation into the spotlight.

“Doing as you are told,” per say, has always been the number one rule in my house. Although my affinity towards control and independence has always started arguments, these conversations are justified in the sense that women of a new generation are laying waste to predispositions.

These conversations are important. Coming from a different time where new-age feminism was considered nonsensical and radical in the public eye, mothers and daughters may commonly have polar opposite views. It falls on our generation to continue to push back, to fight for respect for all kinds of women. In turn, mothers can open their ears to what we have to say and ask questions to educate themselves in the face of an era of further progression.

But this isn’t our only hurdle to jump through; generally, society’s view of what is characteristically feminine is obscured through a very similar lens.

When it comes to male sexual preferences across cultures, many previous studies have shown (according to a study on male and female perception of physical attractiveness through visuals in 2016) that a lower waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) was associated with their idea of what true beauty is.

It feels as though women of all shapes and sizes are continually told that at least one thing about them is flawed, if not more.

This is simply not tangible. Although some women fall into this category biologically, other women struggle to find their self-worth through the preference of inherently skinnier women. This can lead to eating disorders, self-image and self-esteem issues, and the list goes on. Many women are told that their completely normal, healthy bodies are simply not enough.

To put it more blatantly, stated by that very same study, “Physical characteristics (e.g., narrow waist, long legs, and medium-large breasts) play an important role in determining attractiveness and selecting a potential mate, particularly in men’s evaluations of women.”

Again, for some women, these standards are unattainable and possibly undesired. At risk of touching on a taboo point, in my experience, having larger breasts can be a hassle and can obscure my own personal view of how my body appears to look in different kinds of clothes. And, for others with smaller breasts, this standard is out of reach.

Moreover, women with smaller breasts are encouraged to wear things like push-up bras and other clothing items to manipulate their natural figure. This goes for women with larger breasts as well and comes in the form of wearing bras too small and too tight to give the appearance of having smaller breasts.

It feels as though women of all shapes and sizes are continually told that at least one thing about them is flawed, if not more. These standards are created by men who have never spent a day in a woman’s body. Never had a period. Never given birth or even carried a child. So how do these standards still exist even though many women, including feminists, push back against these norms?

The answer lies in both the “requirements” set by a patriarchal society and the realistic outcomes of women supporting women. A community of women can be a lifeline for those looking to form connections with those who have the same, if not at least similar, experiences to them. But many of us are guilty of not holding up the basic foundations of the movement.

Personally, I know I have been in situations where I have made inappropriate, even going as far as to say degrading, comments about other women and their bodies. Although I am working on it, I know I am not the only one who holds a judgmental view towards other women. But why do we do this? Why do we allow the cycle to continue—why do we push things men have said about us onto others?

It is through society’s interpretation of what a woman should be. She should be slim but have more weight in the parts of her body that men desire, carry herself in a polite manner, eat delicate items and never finish what is on her plate, wear “girly” clothes that show skin—but it can’t be too much or too little.

This stems from the normalization, by men, of these kinds of outlooks on women’s bodies. They consider this particular set of traits as beautiful, and even us women, knowing what our own unique set of features are, allows ourselves to fall deeper into this toxic cycle of comparisons through our own insecurities that are shaped by unattainable measurements set by the other gender.

The cycle stops with us discontinuing the outdated ideas we still allow to slip from our mouths from time-to-time. It stops when we break the habit of calling other women “s****” or “w*****” or any other name in the book for that matter. Because when we stop, they stop—men stop. When we as women speak like this to and about each other, we create an environment where men think it is even more okay to continue to dehumanize and demean women down to nothing more than objects.