There’s a lot going against women today: body image depictions in the media, heteronormativity, the constant threat of our reproductive freedom being taken away. It’s a challenging time. However, if I’m going to write about one thing that I think is damaging to any university girl’s psyche that needs to disappear in 2019, it is the impossible standard of “chill”. I know! It’s an oxymoron! How can “chill” be impossible to achieve?
A “chill girl” is accurately described in Gone Girl as the girl that can hang with the boys while still being feminine, pound back burgers and still be a size two, laugh at shitty and/or offensive jokes but never be overly crass or unladylike, be as nurturing as a person needs without being overbearing or naggy, and always, ALWAYS, be cool with whatever decision you make. Serious relationship? Great. Casual hooking up? Even better. Ghosting you? Who cares! Emotions are the opposite of chill. On Wiktionary, a chill girl is defined as a girl that is “considered by her boyfriend to be self-sufficient, low-maintenance, and chilled out”.
Emotions are the opposite of chill.
Listen, I’m not saying that every girl wants one thing, and that one thing is a relationship or to be “chill”, that would be insane. People are happy in whatever situations they want, be it a relationship or casual sex or anything and everything in between! But the pressure to not talk, to suppress feelings, to prevent yourself from being honest in order to be “chill”, in order to seem nonchalant is there. It’s in our language surrounding romantic relationships, it’s how women want to be viewed by their male counterparts. This begs the question that I’ve constantly wondered about while watching friends try desperately to be “chill” with whoever they’re hooking up with, to battle to be the less interested in the relationship: where is the gratification?
The internet is dripping in advice to girls and women about how to attract and then “keep” the object of their affection. This advice ranges from the harmless (be yourself! look them in the eyes when you talk! Smile often!) to the damaging (don’t whine when you speak, don’t complain to them, remember to wear make-up, but don’t be a cake face). As a young woman, you’re asked to constantly find the balance between natural and flawless. You’re told cover-up your flaws, but be confident in your own skin. Be human, but not. However, in everyday life, the advice that’s most commonly given is to be “chill” about the person that you’re pursuing. Don’t respond too fast, maybe don’t respond at all (something that Lauchland Lee wrote about in her piece for MUSE last semester). Don’t talk to them in public, don’t this, don’t that. Being “chill” comes with a ton of “don’ts”.
In a piece for Vogue from 2017, author Martine Thompson talks about how her desire to be a chill girl was driven by her aspiration to become a “halfway point between a desensitized robot and a whimsical movie character, a functioning fragment of myself perennially unfazed by everyone and everything”. However, this exhausted her. It didn’t fulfill her, and it didn’t make her happier in any of her relationships. She concludes that on her quest to be chill, she discovered that there is a “cultural need to pathologize women who not only take the reins of their identity but also openly engage the full range of their feelings—you know, as a healthy human being tends to—remains a fraught battle as old as time”.
Being an emotional woman is not something that’s viewed favourably in today’s world.
I feel like for young people today there is a pressure to not be open with your emotions, even when being open with your emotions is probably the best thing you could do. This particularly is a phenomenon amongst young women, but is no means limited to just them. In being chill, you numb the emotions that you have and rightly feel down in order to preserve your reputation, your pride, your ego. Or, more likely, to preserve the reputation, pride or ego or the other person. Being an emotional woman is not something that’s viewed favourably in today’s world. If you’re loud, you’re a bitch. If you cry, you’re hysterical. So we push it down, we shrink ourselves, and make ourselves smaller. We believe that the other person’s emotions are more important than our own. But where is the harm in telling someone they hurt you to their face to have a conversation with them? Where is the harm in being forthright with your feelings and letting them be forthright in theirs? Where is the gratification in not being honest with your partner or crush or fling? Where is the closure in never having a conversation with someone? Where is the joy in not feeling? In sacrificing your own feelings or urges, you’re just sacrificing your own happiness for the comfort of another person. Not experiencing the full range of emotion, as Thompson writes, is an injustice to yourself.
I’m not trying to pass myself of as some kind of relationship expert or guru. I’m not trying to sound high and mighty about “those other girls” trying to seem chill. I’ve been that girl trying to be chill, I’ve desperately wanted to be chill, even though I know I’m the opposite. I think too much, I talk way too fast and way too aggressively, I cry at the drop of a hat. I’m not chill. But why would I want to be?