Women Have Been Conditioned to Lower Their Expectations
In an era of supposed gender equality, we’re still not demanding enough from our men.
Growing up as a millennial, I learned all too late that the rights that I have as a woman were very recently gained when considering the issue from a historical perspective. The 1970s ushered in a new wave of progressive legislation in the name of women’s rights — this legislation included the recognition of marital rape and women’s right to get a credit card, just to name a few.
Think of how devastatingly recent that progress was.
What that ultimately means is that the few generations that have been born thereafter are among the first who were able to live their whole lives in a time when women actually had all the rights that men did.
“Our empowerment financially, educationally, and otherwise hasn’t done enough to combat the gendered expectations that are conditioned in us.”
Don’t get me wrong, young women today still recognize that there is a lot of progress to be made. This is why we have the Women’s March every year and sexual abusers have been outed more in the past decade than they ever have in history. We continue to fight for our reproductive rights that are regularly threatened by the outdated Puritan values that still have too much influence on our nation’s values.
But men never seem to tire of telling us that besides a few issues here and there, we need to get on with the program and consider ourselves equal already. To them, the pay gap is a myth that’s mostly enforced by women’s own choices in career paths. To them, the fact that women earn more college degrees than men is irrefutable proof that we can put the issue of gender equality on the back burner.
But despite all the political and legislative progress, I can’t help but feel that we’ve failed to make the same amount of progress socially.
Our empowerment financially, educationally, and otherwise hasn’t done enough to combat the gendered expectations that are conditioned in us. This has created generations of women who are capable of being on their own but who sacrifice their self-esteem, self-worth, and dignity for a chance to be chosen by a man for marriage.
“… but do we ever ask ourselves what was she doing married to that guy in the first place?”
Whether you agree with me or not, heterosexual women are socialized to make ourselves desirable to men — and in our attempts to do this, we’ve begun a race to the bottom. Not only are we capable of working and paying the bills, somehow that ability has come with no change in the expectation that we still put more time in to keep ourselves physically presentable, that we regularly take on a majority of the emotional labor, and that we silently endure the second shift at home.
No matter how many rights and freedoms we’ve won, gendered expectations are a socialization issue, not a legislative one.
Men are not solely at fault here. Women are also at fault for allowing gendered expectations to thrive in the name of finding and sustaining relationships.
At some point we need to draw the line.
Every article written by a woman who complains about her husband failing to take on more labor in the home seems “empowering,” but do we ever ask ourselves what was she doing married to that guy in the first place? How do so many women go through dating, an engagement, and the early stages of marriage failing to see what a glaring problem her low expectations were to begin with?
“But now I realize how imbalanced this was — how his level of nonchalance was directly proportional to my level of wanting to prove to him that I could go along with it without complaint.”
I’m as guilty as anyone of these behaviors. When I first met and started dating my ex-husband, I would take it upon myself to tidy up his room and do the dishes in a house I didn’t even live in. I excused his messiness because, well, I had never met a guy who was very clean to begin with so I normalized and excused this behavior.
I thought that doing these things to him would prove my worth as a good woman and as a good partner. But now I realize how imbalanced this was — how his level of nonchalance was directly proportional to my level of wanting to prove to him that I could go along with it without complaint.
Having been raised by generations who heavily adhered to traditional gender roles, we’ve come to normalize these values whether we’re conscious of it or not. Even a woman in a high power career making a six-figure salary is not immune to such socialization.
So instead of letting this version of equality be a dream meant to be achieved by generations of women after us, we need to start demanding it for ourselves. This may mean being alone more than being partnered. This may mean never getting married or having children because there aren’t enough men who live up to these expectations to go around.
Frankly, we’ve got to raise the bar if we want our daughters and nieces to have better.
And considering men receive praise for doing the bare minimum — not raping someone black-out drunk, waking up to tend to the baby, cooking meals or doing loads of laundry unprompted, staying faithful, etc. it has to be clear that the bar needs to be raised drastically.
And much like grassroots movements, this change starts on an individual level. It starts with each woman who refuses to compromise on a higher standard.
If you’re a woman reading this, it starts with you.