How Societal Norms Can Be Harmful to Women


(Image via Conference News)

Aubrie Sandoval, Writer

We put unnecessary pressure on women specifically in our culture, like it’s a job and we’re being paid. We put these labels on human beings and dumb them down to being just mothers, just daughters, just nieces and aunts and sisters. And then we take a step further and treat them like the genitals between their legs affect the way they work, live, and communicate. We, as a culture, have normalized sexism, and misogyny, and hate. Today we’ll be focusing on the normalization of sexism and misogyny. 

For those of you that don’t know, sexism is the prejudice and stereotyping of women because of the sex that they choose to identify as, and misogyny is similar but different‒it’s the ingrained prejudice and dislike for women. Which we see plenty of both far too often for someone to not at least have heard both terms. You have also heard the term feminist, which is someone who fights against the sexism and misogyny that plagues the planet. Yes, plagues. 

People have made it a priority to tell girls and women to act like a lady. Which is their way of saying women and girls need to sit pretty and wear clothes that the men surrounding us approve of, and we need to be quieter, we need to be at home and take care of the kids. 

I once got into a discussion about sexism, and the most aggravating part of the discussion is that this person was speaking to me about sexism, but when I mentioned that when people tell me that I belong in the kitchen, I can’t help but want to do something drastic, all they had as a response was, “Well if I told my girlfriend to stay home and watch the kids, she’d be annoyed for a while but she’d do it.” And that was frustrating because it was like he was talking as if we were the same person, his girlfriend and I. But I’d like to point out, I’m far more assertive and angry then the large majority of anyone. And that anger, if I use it properly, might just change the world. 

But I mean, does it not bother any other women that we’re all different but we’re all thrown into the same pot? Like bar the physical differences, and names, we’re all the same person? I think not. I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone to be angry the way I am. However, I don’t think it’ll happen, so here I am aggressively shoving big issues in your face to see if there’s any kind of reaction, shift, change at all.

Before we move on, I’d like to give my advice to any of the people reading this that are angry too. 

Keep. Being. Angry. And that sounds ridiculous but I mean it, keep being angry, keep forcing change for yourself and the people around you. Because it matters, you matter. You’re important, I swear. The big girl voice you use to demand the respect and attention of others is important, bodily autonomy is important. So keep being angry. It might just save someone. 

While we’re on the topic of respect, I’d like to ask you to think about what you believe respect is, and I mean really think, and then think of the people you respect and how you treat them and how you might treat someone you have little or no respect for. I want you to think of the females in your life. Have you ever yelled at them for something that isn’t in their control? Ever “jokingly” told them that periods are gross and that you wanted nothing to do with it? Have you ever told her that she was being dramatic when she was upset? Have you ever stopped and thought about how truly, and unbelievably difficult it is to be a girl? Like on a serious note, have you ever thought about all the things that are working against her? 

Our society holds men higher than they do women. We let white men get away with drugging and raping someone, and then leaving them behind a dumpster like they weren’t a human being. We only pay women 79 cents while we’re paying a man a whole dollar. We make the daily disrespect shown to women normal because we don’t want things to change. No, I’m sorry, men* don’t want anything to change. And no, this isn’t an article just bashing men, because if a man doesn’t disrespect and isn’t sexist and is a feminist that it trying to work against all the things, then they will know this isn’t about them. This is about a collective experience. And no experience isn’t the same, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not talk about the experience. We act like collective experiences have to be the same in order for them to be acknowledged, which I can plainly say is bull honky. 

That was really just my long-winded way of saying that there is a problem and we all need to work to make it better. 

Now, I would like to state all these problems just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about. 

There is a problem with telling women a compliment even if you think it’s nice. If someone doesn’t want a compliment or for you to talk to them, you should respect that. Telling little girls, teenage girls, women, females to smile more isn’t cute. It’s annoying, we’re just trying to get home from a long day and you telling us we’d be cuter or whatever if we smiled more is not amusing, it’s not attractive, it’s not anything that any human being wants to hear when they’re just trying to keep on moving. Telling women to act like a lady isn’t okay. Because what exactly is a lady to you? Someone that sits quietly and lets you walk all over them? Females are not just some pretty little things you can put on your mantle like a trophy. Society has put this sign on our bodies that if you wear really anything that no matter what it is your fault, and that no matter what you do or say, no means yes and you have now just lit yourself on fire. And not only is that infuriating, it’s scary. (Read: Terrifying.) It’s scary to be advised to walk around with your keys in between your knuckles in case someone attacks you. It’s scary to have to feel like if you wear a skirt and are attacked, that the line “well you did wear a skirt” is all the defense someone needs to go free. And it is scary to know that everything we do is being monitored. Because no matter what, there is always going to be someone there, to push us back down. 

And as angry as I am, and as angry as I sound, I am tired of being told that I need to act a certain way, or that I need to dress or have a certain hair color. I’m tired of being tired. And part of making that tired nonexistent is pushing change no matter how uncomfortable it makes people. 

So think about this the next time you do something awful to another living being:

They will remember. For the rest of their lives. And it won’t just change because you want it to. Just because you mean one thing does not mean that everyone will perceive it that way. 

“How can I work to fix that behavior or fight against it?” Oh, I’m glad you asked Tommy. You can work to complement things that they can control. Like her shoes, or the color of her nails, or her earrings. If she has control over it, and it’s not creepy, you should be fine. And acknowledge the fact that there is something to fix, and then start doing the work to like earlier stated, change it. 

“What about us?” I haven’t forgotten about you, Karen. Ladies, you just have to be louder. Compliment each other. Love each other. Don’t call each other slurs or derogatory terms. And wear whatever you want! And have those uncomfortable conversations, because someone is listening, even if it’s not the person that you are conversing with. 

Now that we’ve had the conversation, I will leave you with some more words in the form of a poem that I wrote, it could also be a letter if you squint and turn sideways. Anyways, here are my words from me to girls.


Dear Girls, 

The words that people hurl at you will not leave forever marks. 

Those wounds will heal and you will get back up. 

You will continue to grow and change and adapt. 

And one day, when you don’t really expect it, you’ll sprout wings and teach yourself to fly.