Spot on observation from user Bananaramagram, on Reddit:
Here’s the thing: it’s not logic. It’s not like we’re given a formula at age 5 that says “Meekness+batting eyelashes=Ideal woman/Romantic success.” It’s a long series of social cues and observations that you pick up on over YEARS.
Every time we saw a girl who was outspoken be insulted as “bossy” in kindergarten (Deborah Tannin has a great article on the use of the word “bossy” as directed towards little girls). Every time we see a woman who is outwardly angry or sad be called “crazy”, “bitchy”, or “PMSing”. Every time I log onto Reddit and see pictures or videos of drunk flirtatious girls (Jersey Shore is a great example) called “sluts”, “skanks” or “whores” for going out and being available sexually. Every time someone inevitably in those same threads says “Why can’t we have REAL women, classy ones like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly?”, two women who (as much as I love them) were renowned for being demure and elegant and yes, SUBTLE. Any time someone says a woman who was flirting openly or wearing a short skirt deserved to be raped. Any time you’re at a party and see a woman hooking up with a man be called, “disgusting” and “desperate”, while the man doesn’t get called anything.
It’s a message we receive OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again, and you’re right that it isn’t logic. It is intense cultural conditioning which gets layered into our brains and drilled in there over decades.
If you flirt too much and make yourself sexually available, you are a desperate slut. If you are loud and outspoken, you are a bossy bitch. If you are overly emotional, you are crazy and irrational. Real women are Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. They had class.
And YES, there is a line between Jersey Shore and Audrey Hepburn. But to most women, that line? That comfort zone? Is going out and flirting with men in what they feel is a safe and subtle manner. Reading a lot into glances and texts and missed phone calls. Most of us don’t even recognize that’s why we’re doing it. We just think it’s a “men/women” thing.
So I agree with you, YES! I would LOVE for it to end! AND YES, obviously, I am speaking for all women when obviously there are some women who have no problem with this at all. I myself am trying very VERY hard to get over these ideas! But it takes time. It takes work. And it takes awareness and action from both genders.
EDIT: This thing blew up (I think because it was on r/bestof?) and I would like to clarify one point I didn’t make very well previously. Both men AND women put these pressures on women. I am not accusing men of attacking women, but rather hoped to provide a perspective on some ways our society encourages women to conform to a standard of demure/subtle behavior. And I don’t understand why some people think that if I say “Women experience X”, I am also saying “Men NEVER experience X.” That’s just baloney! Of course men deal with this kind of thing too. The question was about women specifically, so my answer was about women specifically. Ya dig?