17 Jul Why I No Longer Want to be a “Cool Girl”
There are a lot of toxic experiences that many women go through but don’t always talk about; whether it’s being catcalled, having to nervously grasp your keys when walking home alone at night, or having your mother deem your outfit “too revealing.” One of these shared female experiences that isn’t talked about enough is the constant need to be complacent and amenable. Female complacency is a bad habit that I only became aware of recently after talking to one of my female friends about it. We both agreed that we often find ourselves blindly agreeing with men or afraid to speak up for what we want out of fear of being called “difficult” or “high maintenance.” The label: “high maintenance” is feared in the dating world, especially by women, as it implies that the woman in question is annoying, not pleasant to be around, and difficult to date. However, many women assume that we are being “high maintenance” just by asking for what we want, and this unwillingness to assert ourselves takes away our agency and confidence. This tendency is extremely toxic, because it has caused women to feel as if they cannot show any dominant or assertive behaviour without being negatively judged by men.
The most noticeable instances of this toxic female complacency are found in our relationships with men, especially romantic relationships. I have noticed in my past relationships that I have attempted to make myself a quieter, easier to manage, and less important person. I felt as if I wasn’t allowed to take up space or ask for what I wanted because if I did, my significant other would no longer want to be with me. I am not an anomaly. Such experiences are commonplace for women. I didn’t realize that these feelings and insecurities were shared with others until I started talking to my female friends about it.
After taking a closer look at this issue, I realized that female complacency stems from systemic sexism. Historically, the role of a woman in a relationship was to be supported by her male counterpart; the man’s position determined the woman’s status within society, and he was responsible for working and managing their finances. In a lot of media and pop culture from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, it is the men who pay for meals, hold the door for women, and make decisions in terms of where to eat or what film to watch, while the women blindly agree and follow their partner. These archaic expectations, which continue to be perpetuated by the media, result in women feeling bound to the role of the complacent doormat. In my past relationships, I tended to put my partner’s needs ahead of my own and did not always ask for what I wanted or speak up when I needed to. After bringing this problem up to my female friends, I have learned that this is something that many women subconsciously do as a result of the gender-based roles and expectations that society has placed on us. While we know that complacency can have toxic effects on our relationships, the media has ingrained this behaviour in us, which subconsciously manifests itself in our interactions with our male friends and partners.
When I was younger, a lot of my male friends made fun of the girls who played with any toy that was inherently feminine, such as barbies or any sort of doll. For some reason, even at such a young age, the opinion of these boys mattered so much to me, even more than the opinion of my female friends, and I started to reject anything that seemed “girly.” I started dressing in a more masculine manner and stopped playing with dolls in favour of video games and sports. I put my male friendships ahead of my female friendships; I wanted to be considered “cool” and not a “girly-girl.” I wish that I could tell my younger self that the opinion of boys and men didn’t matter and that being feminine and having female friends is just as “cool” as having male friends.
It is extremely important for women to be aware of this subconscious female complacency and its toxic effects. We shouldn’t have to make ourselves feel small or lesser than men, and we shouldn’t change ourselves or try to be less feminine in order for men to like us. Women are so strong, and I am so lucky to have so many amazing female role models in my life. I wish I realized how immensely powerful and cool being a girl is when I was younger. Going forward, we, as women, need to normalize putting ourselves first and endeavour to protect and support other women. It is up to us to change society’s narrative about how women should behave in relationships and friendships. We will not be doormats, we will not sacrifice ourselves and other women to gain male praise, and, above all, we will not be complacent.
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