In many ways, being a woman now is much easier that it would have been in the 1950s. Women have more rights, more freedom and more responsibility. With this, women also have more pressure. It is accepted now that women can be strong, powerful, heads of business, yet it is still presumed they will be doting wives and mothers alongside this. Being responsible for everything, in itself, is limiting to a woman. If a woman chooses to be a housewife, she is judged and seen by many as lazy, especially single mothers who claim any form of deserved benefit. But if a woman chooses to go back to work, leaving the baby with a paid professional, she is seen as unloving and overly career driven. This impossible expectation, is something that follows a woman from childhood.
When many parents describe the success of their daughters, they may choose to say something like ‘she’s doing so well, she has a job, she has a degree and she has a boyfriend’. Putting each of these things in the same sentence implies they equate to a similar level of importance. As if working hard for three years and getting an education is as difficult as getting a boyfriend. I suppose, this isn’t entirely unjustified; in order to get a boyfriend, a woman must be sexy but not too available, be funny but not goofy (no toilet humour), be smart but not too confident… it’s a minefield. Then, if a woman is successful in getting this relationship, she is seen as the one responsible for ensuring it continues and the one to blame if it doesn’t quite work out.
Of course, there are some women, or so it seems from the outside, who appear to ‘have it all’ – the perfect job, family and partner. Thinking rationally, it’s clear this can’t be true; this ‘ideal’ has led so many women to add pressure onto themselves (as if any more was needed). As long as women continue perpetuating the myth of a perfect life, this pressure will grow and cause many strong women to crack. The only way to break this cycle is, as women, to band together and admit that life is hard. Sure, not everyone will listen – people will use the word feminist as an insult, and continue to slam working mothers and non-working alike but together we have to try. Admitting struggle isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of maturity. Most importantly, admitting defeat shows other women that imperfection is okay. Being a woman is hard, but together it can be made easier.
You can read more of Naomi’s writing on her blog, The ad-diaries.