Societal Expectations of Women

Written by
Torera Akinmoyede
Last Updated
August 25, 2021 13:08

Picture this, it’s 1918, the war has just been won and the men, strong and brave, have returned. What is the first thing they decide to do? Force the women, who have kept the country going and done the work to keep the economy from complete ruin, back into their homes. “Why is that?” I hear you ask. Because the woman’s place is in the  home of course. It seems that from the dawn of time women have been made to endure the will of men, for reasons ranging their ‘biological superiority’ to ‘because the bible said so’. This has resulted in women enduring a multitude of society's expectations.

A woman should be able to cook, and be able to clean, bear and look after children. She shouldn’t be too tall, or too strong. She needs to be submissive. She shouldn’t be too skinny, she shouldn’t be too big. Not too loud, not too quiet. It seems that in the eyes of society, a woman can never be good enough. But none of that matters. A woman’s worth is not based on how well she fits into societal standards, so what is the issue with all of these societal expectations?

The problem is that these expectations get in the way of many women’s ambitions. The expectation that once a woman has a child, she must stay home to bring up the said child is a significant reason behind the gender pay gap. Employers are hesitant to pay women as much as men as they are thought to take more days off to look after children, when in reality this should also be expected of men. This forces women to choose between prioritising a successful career and a family. Anyone who has watched or read The Handmaid's Tale can imagine the nightmarish dystopia we’d share if women were kept for child bearing only.

Dr Rebecca Cole

The idea that women cannot have successful careers while simultaneously raising their children is outdated and there is a plethora of women who have proved that it is more than possible. For instance, Dr Rebecca Cole; she changed the face of medicine. She trained in an all-female medical institution and was the second Black woman to graduate from medical school when she graduated in 186; only 2 years after slavery was abolished in the US. She worked as a doctor for 50 years and did it all while raising 5 children. She opened the Women's directory center which allowed women to receive medical and legal services. She was known as a beacon of hope for Black women in her time as she used her voice and education to help those less fortunate than her and those without access to opportunities. She disproved all of the societal expectations of women, as well as fighting racism and left behind an inspirational legacy for all those who came after her.

In the modern day dealing with the pressure of societal expectations may be difficult but there are ways to minimise the pressure which comes from these expectations.

  • TAKE TIME TO UNDERSTAND YOURSELF: With the growth of social media, it can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself to others. With Instagram, Love Island and TikTok, we see people who set beauty standards which are near impossible to reach. From time to time you need to slow down from social media and spend some time alone. Once you begin to discover yourself and figure out who you are and what you like, you will reduce the urge to compare yourself to those you see on social media as you will understand that you are your own person on your own journey.

  • DON’T ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE ‘TRADITIONAL’ VIEWS: 21st Century or not, many people believe in and ardently support so called ‘traditional values’. It can be especially difficult when they are prevalent in your own family. Similarly, to the point above, you also need to know when to listen to traditional views and when to steer completely clear of them. Do they line up with your own? If they don’t, then there is no reason to listen to them. Don’t get lost listening to other people.

  • DON’T RUSH IT: It may be tempting to speed up the timeline. If you want a family and a job, you may think that you need to get one done before you can do another, or put one off entirely. But that is not the case. It’s more than okay to move slowly, and allow yourself to grow, enjoy your journey. You will still reach your destination. Don’t allow others to push you because of your ‘biological clock’ or missing your ‘prime’ in your career. Your life is what you choose to make of it. 

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Torera Akinmoyede is a writer and Content Creator for Project Ignite Her. You can find her managing the TikTok account and reading some epic books.

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