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.
The idea that women cannot have successful careers while simultaneously raising their children is outdated and there is a plethora of women who have proved that it is more than possible.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.
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