— WRITTEN BY RACHEL DEXTER AND CHEYANNE MUMPHREY
Sit up straight. Cross your legs. You can’t wear that. Don’t swear. That’s not ladylike. Girls can’t do that.
No matter how these phrases are worded, almost every girl has heard them. When those words are spoken, whether it be from a parent, a sibling, a friend, a teacher or anyone else, they have the same effect — they diminish a girl’s self-worth.
Whether we know it or not, those phrases place limits on us. They put pressure on us to act in a certain manner — a manner which has become synonymous with being feminine and ladylike. It is perceived by society that when and only when we cross our legs, wear feminine clothing and act as a juxtaposition to the masculine can we really be considered a girl.
We are forced into a world where, even before the age of adolescence, expectations are placed on us simply because of our gender. Because being a girl means that you are expected to play with Barbies, not trucks. You are to be quiet and reserved, while boys can be loud and rowdy.
The unwritten rules that girls are pressured to follow are absurd. Be seen and not heard. Hold your tongue. If we do something we’re not supposed to, we are told “that’s not ladylike.” If boys do something they’re not supposed to, it’s brushed off as “boys will be boys.” So not only are the expectations different, the repercussions are also drastically different.
The gender norms that women are subjected to are unnecessary and outdated.
There is almost always a negative connotation to the things girls do, and it is appalling. When a girl likes something traditionally girly, she is considered weak and fragile, but if she likes something that is more masculine, she is not girly enough. And if she starts to do girly things, and she is now considered weak and fragile. It’s a vicious cycle that will always hold girls back.
Girls can be dainty. Girls can be strong. Girls can like pink. Girls can like blue.
Girls can do whatever they want when they want. Girls can like whatever they want how they want.
Girls can do all of these things or none of these things. It doesn’t matter. No matter what a girl does or how she acts, she is still a girl — screw gender norms.
The Opinion Editors
About A Pen & A Dress
A Pen & A Dress is a column by Cheyanne Mumphrey (and often features Rachel Dexter). Created in December 2015, A Pen & A Dress started publishing in The Lumberjack. Mumphrey's goal is to strike conversation about issues women face on a day-to-day basis and challenge the social norms for females across the globe.