You would be so pretty if...
December 16, 2015 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Throughout our lives, women hear insidious, often-conflicting messages about what it means to be a woman, about how we should act, talk and look.
Don't be a slut, but definitely don't be too prude. Don't be so emotional, but don't be a cold-hearted bitch. Prioritize your family over your career, but are you sure you want to be a stay-at-home mom?
The video's less than 2 minutes long, and it hits hard. I'd say "TW for sexism," except that these are far too common to be triggery for almost all women--triggers are things you don't expect; these are casual, everyday statements and questions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom (41 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so, so true. Should be required viewing for everyone. Thanks for posting.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:01 AM on December 16, 2015


Isn't that outfit a little young for you?

Related: Top 20 Things NO WOMAN Should Wear After 30

(great post, thanks!)
posted by triggerfinger at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Ohhh my god, that last one actually made me cry. Going in something like order of age really hit it home for me, for some reason.
posted by zinful at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2015 [20 favorites]




It is incredible and shameful how familiar almost every phrase is.
posted by bearwife at 10:31 AM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Shit, that really snuck up on me. (Must be that time of the month.)

As a side note, I hope that this is an appropriate place to complain about the widespread use of "prude" to mean "prudish."
posted by babelfish at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I agree with zinful that that last one just gets you in the gut. And then on rewatch, the first ones are just as soul deflating.

Thanks for sharing.
posted by jillithd at 10:36 AM on December 16, 2015


Yeah I saw this on fb and the last one was a gut punch for me as well.

I think it's because that's the only one I haven't heard said to me or my friends (I don't have kids but many of my friends do so I've heard the mom stuff).

Since I'm so used to steeling myself against those words, I wasn't prepared for the last one.

It's like they never want us to stand up.
posted by sio42 at 10:42 AM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is really amazing, thank you.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2015


That is a great video, though I'm not sure where they got the idea that men never hear "don't be so emotional" and "stop being so dramatic." I'm fairly certain I've heard both of those things, verbatim, directed at me multiple times.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:50 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the "but men never hear this" seemed more click-baity or confrontational or something than what was actually needed. IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT MEN, YA KNOW? I hear these things from both men and women (and sometimes my own mouth/brain).
posted by jillithd at 10:51 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


A recent real life example of this concept in action:

I'm a huge Howard Stern fan. I think he is pretty much without peer as an interviewer. Despite his reputation as a raunchy "shock jock", most of his political views, particularly as they relate to social justice issues, would get the Metafilter seal of approval. Yet just earlier this week, probably without consciously thinking about the double standard he was perpetuating, he reinforced this type of behavior by using a different line of questioning when interviewing two people who are both parents to young daughters, the only difference being the gender of the interviewee.

When interviewing Tina Fey on Monday, a large portion of the interview was dedicated to the "Can a woman have it all?" topic, with a number of questions focusing on the difficulty of balancing being a driven, successful, career woman in show business with being a mother to two young daughters.

The next day, Adam Sandler was the guest. He is also the parent to two young daughters in the same age range as Fey's. No questions about his difficulty balancing being a father with being a movie star and producer. His kids weren't brought up at all until he mentioned them unsolicited. Most of the questions he was asked were about his work.
posted by The Gooch at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2015 [36 favorites]


That is a great video, though I'm not sure where they got the idea that men never hear "don't be so emotional" and "stop being so dramatic."

We get that beaten out of us pretty early.
posted by mhoye at 10:56 AM on December 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


That is a great video, though I'm not sure where they got the idea that men never hear "don't be so emotional" and "stop being so dramatic." I'm fairly certain I've heard both of those things, verbatim, directed at me multiple times.

This is true, but the point is that women are told "Don't be so emotional, but don't be a cold-hearted bitch". That is, women always have a double-bind in which they can never win, while men have only, so to speak, a single bind.

If men perform masculinity correctly, they go mostly uncriticized, but there is no way to perform feminity correctly. For example, men have a canonical way to dress professionally - the suit - while for women there is no full solution to the problem of dressing professionally.

That being said, the constraints of masculinity are sometimes tighter and more harshly enforced. To continue the example, women can wear pants (though they might be nitpicked about them like everything), but men cannot wear a dress without extreme consequences. I'd say the same goes for being too emotional. Of course, that's because both mean the men are "acting like women", i.e. are rooted in the denigration of women.
posted by goodnight to the rock n roll era at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2015 [61 favorites]


I wish the Switchblade Kittens had been there for me in junior high (1983) when I constantly got "You'd be so pretty if...". See this page, song is entitled Pretty.
posted by which_chick at 11:15 AM on December 16, 2015


I'm sorry I derailed this - that wasn't my intention, but that's what appears to be happening. Points all taken.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think I say any of these things, but I had to think about it because many are things I could imagine myself saying when I was younger and dumber. I'm in a position where I can maybe sometimes teach kids not to say these things - or at least teach them the impact these sorts of statements have. I'll try to be more aware of these language choices from now on so I can maybe help fight them to the small extent I can.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2015


Why is the word pretty so underrated?
posted by prefpara at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2015


i.e. are rooted in the denigration of women

Yup yup yup! What's even worse to me is how it's actually the denigration of an imaginary straw woman that's been assigned essential personality qualities. The root of objectification, basically. I mean, same goes for men as well, but not so much as what women are subjected to. Everyone has mostly similar essential qualities yet we go to such lengths to generalize personality traits by sex parts. Ugh. More Ughs.

Hugs to all women who had to grow up hearing this crap.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:21 AM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


This was really well done, and hit home for me on so many levels. It just never ends, does it?

Men responding with "we hear some of this too" is not an appropriate response. Men, and people of other genders, have their own struggles, I know, but this is not about that.
posted by blurker at 11:25 AM on December 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Maybe let's draw a line under the "what is the situation for men" sidebar.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:36 AM on December 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's really bizarre to me how internalized this crap is. My mom always taught me that I could do anything that I wanted, and I think overall she's a pretty feminist-leaning person. But not too long after I got married, we went on a cruise together and there was a place that did teeth whitening on the ship (no idea why). She saw the sign and said to me, "Oh, ashirys, you should get that done! You'd be so much prettier with whiter teeth!" This is after a lifetime of braces and problematic teeth and always feeling like my smile was wrong. I still can't stand to look at pictures of myself because of it. And I started sobbing right in the middle of the damn hallway, people everywhere. I said, "Why do you keep telling me I should do things like this? [husband] likes me the way I am, why can't you?" She was completely shocked that I would react that way. She was just trying to be nice, right?

I'd never realized how often I had heard her suggest that I try things to make me prettier over the years. I don't know what it was about this particular occurrence that set me off, unless it was because the acceptance from my husband helped me realize that I hadn't been getting it before, I don't know. I'm pretty sure she had never even considered that the underlying message from all those suggestions was "you're just not good enough as you are", and she was horrified that she had hurt me so much with it.

The sad part, looking back on it now, is that I was still falling back on the approval of my husband rather than "*I*'m okay with how I look, why aren't you?"
posted by ashirys at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2015 [51 favorites]


It's so insidious that we hurt each other and ourselves with it without even meaning to.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


This just reminds me once again that I need to ask my parents how they decided to raise two children (starting with me, a firstborn daughter) in a home environment where no one commented on women's bodies - and stick with it. Maybe I'll do that over Christmas. I keep meaning to, but one of the unforseen byproducts of my upbringing is that even the meta-discussion of women's bodies makes me feel kind of uncomfortable.

see also all of middle school, oh god
posted by deludingmyself at 12:22 PM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Retort-
"This would be so interesting, if it were."
"These thoughts are truly the soap bubbles of death."
"I consider smiling to be a reflection of something wonderful."
"I paid for my smile, do you understand the concept of sole propriety?"

Dear us, I am so sorry this still goes on.
posted by Oyéah at 12:28 PM on December 16, 2015


oh, ashirys... I relate to a lesser degree, and I'm so sorry. these comments range the gamut but even on just the appearance side... there are so many things that have been said to me in my life that I can't forget and that just pop up randomly from time to time. and it comes from guys often, but it also comes from all sides.

my mom telling me when I was a teenager if I wore makeup I might get the attention of more boys (which was so nonsensical... I had plenty of options, and also, a boyfriend). I could see her almost cringe while she was saying it. she knew it was bad parenting? or knew I'd be angry? I doubt she remembers it but I know she'd feel terrible if I ever brought it up. I always wondered if she was fed the line by my grandma. anyway, I don't blame her

the girl who got indignant and judgey when she learned i shaved my toes, after I got made fun of by other people for not shaving my toes. there are like 5 hairs there and I feel like I got endless shit about them

the guy I considered a friend who made fun of me for my shoes not matching my dress (the shoes were new and I was so proud of them, and bro you got no right to talk you wear fucking cargo shorts and sandals every goddamn day of your life). interestingly enough, he later tried to get into my pants

the other guy I considered a friend who laughed about some nice comment I'd made on myself of, saying how I plucked my eyebrows "thinner than [insert some idiom I can't remember]" in a derogatory way. interestingly enough, I didn't pluck my eyebrows. interestingly enough, he also tried to get into my pants

the guy I hooked up with who told me re: a certain part of my body, "we'll have to work on that" (lol sure thing bro I'm just gonna leave right now immediately, see you again never)

the boyfriend who wanted me to get rid of another 6 strands of body hair and when I asked why he said it was "disgusting"

I haven't changed the way I dress really, I only wear makeup once a moth or so, but it's everywhere, and it builds up, and even if you don't give a shit (like I don't) it sticks with you. every single time I wear that pair of shoes I remember that comment. every time I do pluck my eyebrows that one's hanging there, too.

this is the world we live in. I'm glad it seems to be getting more press. and yeah, arranging these by age was brilliant.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


I'm always taken aback at the perverse genius baked into systems of oppression, where people with privilege unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) support that privilege by relentlessly gaslighting those without.

The thing that amazes me about it is that so many participate in it without seeming to aware of the others participating in it, but they end up acting in concert, like it was carefully plotted in advance. Like on women's Twitter pages, one guy will say "oh, you're not actually abused" while the next tweet down is a guy abusing her, as though they had met up earlier and said, you know what will really make her crazy ...

Zoë Quinn touched on this in a speech she gave recently, where she (paraphrasing) said that everybody harassing her thinks they are working alone, and are their own personal superhero, where, from her perspective, they were each just individual snowflakes in an avalanche.

And, watching how people respond to her, it's not just that there are so many, and they are so cruel. It's that they end up less like an avalanche and more like those swarming squid creature from The Matrix, flowing everywhere, testing everything for weakness that can be exploited. And when a weakness is discovered, it's quickly adopted by so many, while so many others say, no, it's not, this is happening, or it's happening because you want it to, or it's something you should have expected, or it's what you deserve, and then back to it's not actually happening at all, on endless repeat.

This video is superb, because it shows that even for women who are not Quinn, this is what they get, perhaps in slower motion, but nonetheless continually, repetitively, a constant conflicting drone, over the course of their entire life, while denying it is even happening.

It's like a perfect machine to drive women insane, and it's something men, in particular, just do, without having planned it. It's something men should watch, and, if they are participating in this garbage, should stop, immediately.
posted by maxsparber at 1:01 PM on December 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


God this is like playing sexism bingo, ticking off the ones I've heard and waiting for the ones I've yet to hear (yeah, the last one is just...ooof). "You like [sport]?" Tick. "You didn't take his last name?" Tick. "Won't you regret not having kids when you're older?" Tick. "You just be on your period". So many fucking ticks since puberty.

One that's been quite recent for me is about my hair as I stopped dying it last year and have been letting my grey come in. I got lots of negative comments at the beginning, because apparently I'll look older and an aging woman is just teh worst thing, but mostly people have gotten used to it. But last week someone commented on it. She said "Why don't you dye your hair brown again then no one will know you have grey hair." I said "But I love it!" and she said "Really?" and wrinkled her nose. You know who that was? My SIX YEAR OLD NIECE. Like, how the hell did she even get the message already that grey means old and old means Bad (for women)? Where does that even come from? Her Dad has grey coming in, I bet she doesn't give him shit about it.

Anyway, yeah, this is so familiar, and yet it's like there are meetings held some place where they invent new ones we haven't even thought of just so they can spring them on us and we can think "Oh hey I hadn't even considered feeling shit about that one yet, thanks!"
posted by billiebee at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just a warning, for anyone else who goes to youtube in an attempt to find the video maxsparber referenced up there...the results of any search of "Zoë Quinn speech" will return you hundreds of really misogynist "reaction" videos to the speeches she's given... gah.
posted by zinful at 3:55 PM on December 16, 2015


A lot (maybe most) of these, when passed woman to woman, are unthinking reflections and reinforcements of societal messaging. But IME, some of these, sometimes (depending on the relationship), are delivered as advice on how to survive, and are grounded in the limited ways people have found available to them at different times. Or as warnings coming from a place of regret, after a particular kind of confinement, or projected frustrations.

Even so, it's still a hell of a lot of noise (damaging noise) to process, and I'd give anything to get back the (probably, at least) 10 or so years of mental and emotional energy I've spent (so far!) on trying to make sense of it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:56 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


(obviously it's been a lifetime. that is an estimate of the amount of pure conscious effort this shit has stolen from my life. lowballing, no doubt.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2015


It's times like these that I put on my best "What are you doing" face whenever people pose questions or suggestions like this to me. It's fun to see them get unnerved, and then quickly get upset and wonder what they did wrong, then I proceed to talk about the patriarchy.

Really, fuck the patriarchy. It gets in the way of how I live my life, how my friends and family live my life, and it gets in the way of a good conversation, unless we are both collectively venting and destroying it.
posted by yueliang at 4:50 PM on December 16, 2015


My mother and I have a good relationship based on trust and mutual respect. She also, as she openly puts it, is a product of her time. So when she tells me how pretty I look when I wear makeup (up until recently I rarely wore makeup), I can call her on it. And then we both shrug our shoulders and move on. I think we all work with the tools that we have at the time.

I am both entirely comfortable with the way I look and deeply uncomfortable with people complimenting me on my looks.

I think attractiveness is a false economy that can be easily taken away and/or used as punishment. When I was young I saw it mess up a lot of my female friends who internalized the idea that their biggest value as a person was their physical appearance. I didn't blame them for it, that shit seeps in from everywhere. Though now that I think of it, I was usually specifically pissed at their parents for reinforcing the idea.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:13 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was striking how many of those I have heard people say to my partner in my presence. I can't imagine how much else gets said outside of my hearing.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


When a coworker asked me what my new last name would be after I got married, I said, "Uh, [my current last name]." Her eyes got huge, and she said, "You're marrying a guy with the same last name as you?!" Oh, honey, no.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:33 PM on December 16, 2015 [35 favorites]


This started really well for me and then turned very cisheteronormative.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:24 PM on December 16, 2015


When a coworker asked me what my new last name would be after I got married, I said, "Uh, [my current last name]." Her eyes got huge, and she said, "You're marrying a guy with the same last name as you?!" Oh, honey, no.

In my experience another you can't win situation. When I got married I started using my husbands last name some people gave me shit for it and were all 'why? why? I always thought you were such a feminist'. I would tell them why and then at least a few of those thought my reason wasn't good enough or weird. (I simply liked the name and how it worked with my first name and felt like I wanted to change things up)
I'm now back to my old name now that he's gone and at few people had trouble with that as well.

My name. I can do what I want with it yeesh.
posted by Jalliah at 7:51 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]



This is true, but the point is that women are told "Don't be so emotional, but don't be a cold-hearted bitch". That is, women always have a double-bind in which they can never win, while men have only, so to speak, a single bind.


I spent my late childhood/adolescence constantly accused of being an oversensitive drama queen who needed to suck it up and learn to deal, and then I spent my college and young adult years roundly criticized for not being vulnerable enough. It really is a lose-lose situation.
posted by thivaia at 9:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Long ago, a skinny co-worker told me that if I would lose some weight I would surely get a boyfriend. I told her that I didn't think my husband would like that at all. You should have seen her face...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:18 PM on December 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


A lot (maybe most) of these, when passed woman to woman, are unthinking reflections and reinforcements of societal messaging. But IME, some of these, sometimes (depending on the relationship), are delivered as advice on how to survive, and are grounded in the limited ways people have found available to them at different times. Or as warnings coming from a place of regret, after a particular kind of confinement, or projected frustrations.

Quoted for truth. My mum seems to have mostly learned to not do this to me (finally) but she will still occasionally point out that if I wore make-up, or spoke in a girlier voice, or made more of an effort with my appearance, that might be a good idea. I give her a bit of hell for it each time, because I have explained to her many times that I understand that it is well-meaning advice about how to survive in a fucked-up sexist world, but that it is also precisely how that fucked-up sexist world propagates and sustains itself.
posted by Dysk at 1:49 AM on December 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hate this because it happens.
And then I hate it again because I've done at least half of these not realizing what I was doing.
posted by Shutter at 4:49 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


« Older Tent City, America   |   Hijab-Wearing Professor Suspended by Evangelical... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments