The Inconsistent, Impossible Standards for Women

I know this has been discussed on numerous occasions, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the inconsistent and impossible standards for women (mostly related to appearance, but in other ways as well). Here are the examples I can think of offhand:

If a man has a blank expression on his face because he’s lost in thought, he’s generally considered to be “thoughtful,” “serious,” or the like. If a woman does the same thing, she’s said to have “resting bitch face.” While I can joke about having RBF, it’s rather aggravating that we’re considered to look mean when we aren’t smiling, yet men aren’t held to the same standard.

Similarly, if a man is definite and forceful, that’s generally good leadership. A woman doing the same, however, is just being “bitchy” and people assume she’s menstruating. If she instead chooses to soften the tone, she’s considered overly emotional.

Most visible, of course, are the inconsistent and impossible standards of beauty. In this case, the inconsistency comes from the expectation that women look like pre-pubescent breastfeeding women who’ve never been pregnant. Women are expected to have hairless legs like a child, voluptuous breasts like a mother, and a completely flat tummy, like a woman who hasn’t experienced diastasis recti from pregnancy. Never mind that this isn’t possible naturally. In part because of this, girls and women tend to have unrealistic views of how they should look; for that matter, men also have these unrealistic images of how women should look.

In a similar vein, women are considered to need make-up. What magazines tout as the “natural” look still takes a lot of make-up to attain. Then men and women both continue to have an unrealistic idea of how women appear. For a woman, make-up is considered a necessary part of professional attire. If a woman has laugh lines, or shadows under her eyes, it is commented upon and some would go so far as to say she obviously doesn’t care enough about her appearance. A man is not held to that same standard.

In short, we’ve still a long way to go before women are judged not by our appearance, but by our minds and abilities.