How to be an Ideal Woman Under the Patriarchy
Guest Post by Rebecca M. Farrar
Between our current misogynist President and a GOP who thinks being a woman is a pre-existing condition, I thought it would be helpful to review the common agreements for women to obey to keep peace in society. While these understandings are often covert and not expressed explicitly, I thought it would easier for all of us just to name them to avoid any future misunderstandings (and we all know it isn’t polite for women to disagree).
For those of you who like rules and structures, like patriarchy, this list is for you. Please keep in mind it is for white, cis-gendered, heterosexual women like myself. Women of color, transwomen, or other marginalized groups, you have your own list that, if I were a guy, I might try to tell you about.
At varying times, I followed this list very well and since moving to San Francisco almost eight years ago I seem to have forgotten several. My hope is this list will remind women (but not too much as competition is important for us not to unite) what is truly important. Hilary was a daughter of patriarchy who didn’t follow all of these rules, which is why she wasn’t able to succeed, and why her husband fooled around with an intern. My thinking is that if I follow at least 70% of these then perhaps I too can find a husband and guarantee he won’t cheat on me.
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Please note that because I am a woman and not supposed to be confident, I realize I probably missed many rules and would greatly appreciate your corrections. In particular if the amendments can be made in very condescending way that also insults my intelligence, it would be very much appreciated. This will help ensure that I don’t get too full of myself. I kept the list to 10 to remind us of patriarchy’s important connection to the Bible’s 10 commandments. Here they are in no particular order, because I am not good at logical thinking:
Spend as much time (and money) as you can on the way you look. As a woman, our value lies in the way we look, without that we have nothing. Spend less time reading, and more time primping. When a woman’s worth isn’t determined by her beauty then she is less likely to need external validation and her self-esteem may become too high. Your currency is your ability to be desired and without that has no value in our society and most likely won’t ever find a husband. Though white women earn 74 cents to every dollar, make sure to spend as much money as you can on beauty products and in particular anti-aging cremes, which leads to me to my next item…don’t get older.
Don’t get older or age at all for that matter.We are most cherished when we are joyous, youthful, attractive, and fertile. Our job is to inspire and amuse men and no one wants a woman who has the wisdom of experience or her own opinions. Women get more powerful with age and can easily scare immature men, in particular those in America who prefer a more adolescent existence. French President Emmanuel Macron’s wife (why would I use her name?) is far outside the appropriate age for being older and should therefore be referred to only as the “French-Cougar-whom Donald-Trump -thinks-is-in-such-good-shape.” Which leads perfectly into my next point about female bodies.
Everyone is allowed have an opinion about your body, let them, your body is not your own. Receive graciously cat calls or other compliments on how you look, they are the epitome of flattery. On that note, there is one idea of beauty that is not subjective, it is important for you to change who you are to embody the current ideal as best you can at all times. Pay no attention to beauty in other countries…While the Padung tribe of Myanmar likes droopy breasts, you don’t live there and in America we only like perky ones. This is where getting as much plastic surgery as necessary will help you keep up with the changes of societal ideas of perfection. (Please refer back to #1 as money should be no object in keeping your value intact.)
Don’t have body hair. Body hair is a reminder that you are an animal, it is gross. Men must believe you are a magical creature very unlike them and hair reminds them you are similar. It is difficult to project ideals of a beauty onto someone with natural armpit hair. I will use the opportunity here that hair on your head is the only place for it and to refer to #2 for a reminder to dye gray hairs on your head, especially if they are down below, age is not a turn on.
Be nice and agreeable and don’t get angry. For heaven sakes, please don’t disagree with a man when he is explaining something important to you that you know about. Let him feel powerful and masculine. You don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or seem aggressive. If they think you might be smarter it will be scare them. Don’t argue or have too strong of an opinion, certainly don’t insult men in power. If you get angry then you won’t be considered nice. The best way around this is to just smile all the time so as not to make anyone think you are upset.
Don’t talk about anything uncomfortable, like periods, money, or sex. All of these topics are taboo, unladylike and therefore should be avoided. Money and sex are forms of power and women aren’t allowed to want power. Talking about sex usually means you are sexually self-aware and could be considered a slut. Sluts are not marriage material, #10 goes into this in more detail. Conversations about periods are another way for us to make men uncomfortable, just don’t do it. Our bodies do this natural thing where we bleed and cleanse ourselves and we should feel ashamed of it. This goes without saying not to ever ask a man to pick up tampons or other feminine hygiene products at the store, can you imagine how embarrassing that would be for him?
Have sex whenever he wants to and remember it isn’t over until he cums. This one is very simple, as the act of sex is the only way for a man to feel connected to you and assert power, especially if you don’t want to. If you want to keep him interested, please do yourself a favor and just do it even when you don’t want to. In addition, you should feel honored if a man wants to have sex with you. This does not contribute in any way to rape culture, so please don’t make that logical leap.
Be feminine but don’t have emotions, especially not at work. Emotions remind men of our shared humanity and may bring up their own inability to process their emotions. If they are out of touch with their own feminine nature or emotions this can be very difficult for them, best to avoid emotional conversations all together in relationships and at work. Something I often struggle with myself is the importance of split yourself between your professional life and personal life. Please hide in the bathroom if you have to cry, as your emotions are a burden and work is not an appropriate place for them. (A reminder to apply #4 here as well, bossy women are rather unbecoming.)
Compete with other women. With so few men and resources, women must compete for attention. If your husband or partner thinks other woman are beautiful then this detracts immediately from your attractiveness. Without him desiring you then you have no value (please see #1, the most important). Other women are your enemy and competing is a way for us to stay divided from each other as gathering creates too much power and overwhelms men. Boys clubs are okay, but we are not allowed to have our own because men easily feel left out.
You can be a virgin or a whore, but you can’t be both. Do you want to be the marrying type or the one they want to have sex with? Marriage is the epitome of a woman’s accomplishment so you will probably want to appear more pure than slutty. Sexuality is scary and they will take you less seriously intellectually or as marriage material if you come on too strong. Please do everyone a favor and just be a nice, well-behaved lady. You are not a complex being creature and therefore must select one of the two options to express your sexuality. For heaven sakes don’t wear short shorts and then be surprised when someone calls you a slut. Also sitting with your legs open may automatically preclude you into the latter category, be careful.
If you break any of these, best to apologize profusely and immediately correct yourself so as not to upset anyone (please see #4). I realize this list is not complete, but I believe it captures the most necessary rules for you to fully participate with ease in our current system. Patriarchy comes from a long line of fearful reactions to the power of women and the feminine, and it is important to let them (men and the women who participate with fervor) feel safe and non-threatened by our existence.
I would like to thank all the men and women in my life who have gotten me back on track when I strayed from these important agreements. Special thanks to the man at my first job who told me I didn’t sound very authoritative and suggested I smoke to lower my voice. I also can’t forget to include my favorite high school French teacher who told me I wasn’t a good leader if I kept wearing such short skirts. And of course, to the guy this week who told me to smile on the street after I read about the events in Charlottesville and then followed me for four blocks asking for my number. I don’t know what I would have done without you validating my attractiveness while disowning my emotions. Without you this list wouldn’t have been possible.