Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Modern Superwoman

Something you should know about me is that I am a feminist. Think of that what you may, but I feel no need to explain myself to you. It is a part of my life, and it is part of my identity, sure as my name is Daniella. I took a Women’s Studies course last year in school, but I was unable to continue with it because of the course module I am taking for my Honours Specialization in English. At the moment, I am taking a course in American Women Writers, and a term has come up rather frequently in this course as it did in Women’s Studies. That term is “superwoman.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines superwoman as “an exceptional woman; especially:  a woman who succeeds in having a career and raising a family.” Historically, the term superwoman came about in 2nd Wave Feminism as a term of empowerment, and the definition above captures the essence of the 2nd Wave movement. You can read more about it here, here, or here, but the important thing to keep in mind is that feminism at this time became a social movement. This meant that more focus was paid to the lives women wanted to lead that took place outside of the home. How does the superwoman term come into play here? Well, women were still expected to look after their domestic tasks. Essentially, they had to balance their social lives, chores at home, family, and career all at once. Is anyone getting anxious just thinking about that? Me too. Were these women expected to have multiple arms?

Now that you know what the term superwoman means, how does it make you feel? I align this term with the notion of the “ideal” woman. I have no idea how one is expected to maintain all aspects of their lives by themselves. I can hardly cook, and I depend on Pinterest for outfit inspiration. Men are certainly helping and taking more interest in domestic lives more and more, and I am grateful for this change. However, I believe that the superwoman term has simply changed with the times. The “ideal” woman is still a vision in society’s mind, but it remains unattainable.

Women are expected to have perfect hair and nails and makeup, but when they put too much on, they are no longer a real person, and they are not good looking enough if they don’t want to put the effort in. Women are expected to be sexually appealing, but if they sleep with guys, they are a slut, and if they don’t, they are a prude. Women are expected to be gentle and kind, but they are considered rude and a bitch if they are not, and if they are, they are considered a pushover. As much as I would love to say that we should find a middle ground, I strongly suspect that society will find something wrong with that too.

I grow more and more frustrated as I write this. Why must we place such a strong value on being perfect? Why must there be a right and wrong way to live as a woman? I know that I have given in to these “standards” at some point in my life, and I am saddened by this.  I don’t think any gender should be defined by lines and boxes. Men certainly have roles they must perform too. They are expected to be masculine, and strong, and even dominant by some standards. Just to touch on the topic of transgender issues, the traditional male and female roles of society do not allow for transgender individuals to fit in at all! The similarity when it comes to gender roles is that neither men nor women have a lot to work with and make their own. The world leaves little to the imagination, which does not stimulate our creativity, and allow us to create our own being. For a society who wants us to “find ourselves,” it sure gave us a small sandbox to explore.

Can we please focus on our own beauty and strength and goals? Can we live the lives we want to live? Can we teach our children that it is okay to step outside the boundaries? After all, the world was not changed by people who played by the rules.

-Daniella
Note: My pictures were found on Pinterest with no link to another website.