By Erin O’Loughlin
Go play outside. Run with the boys, but don’t play kiss chase. Play mummies and daddies, but not doctors and nurses. Speak up now, don’t be shy. Be nice, be quiet, hush now, don’t you ever stop talking? Wear a pretty dress, give your dolly a bottle, oh isn’t she cute? Don’t worry about your looks, brush your hair, scrub your nails. Stop playing in the dirt.
Girls can be scientists too. You can be whatever you want to be. Don’t you want to know how to cook? Take your purse to the toilet so no one sees your tampon. Don’t talk about cramps in front of your father. Embrace being a woman! Shorts are not ladylike. Sports are not ladylike. Buy a good deodorant. Don’t wear too much make-up. Don’t be such a tomboy.
Eat healthy. Treat yourself, you deserve it! Eat a sandwich, why don’t you? Don’t put that crap in your mouth. Love your body. Show off your curves. Shave it, wax it, starve it. Lose weight. Put on some muscle. Dress how you want. Only wear something that flatters your body shape. Cover up that midriff, it’s too sexy. Cover up that midriff, it’s not sexy enough.
Go on the pill, just in case. Don’t let him touch you. Don’t touch yourself. Make sure you flirt. Don’t lead him on. Give him what he wants or he won’t like you. Don’t desire. Be desirable. Don’t chase after boys. Don’t chase after girls. Always use a condom. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t have an abortion. Don’t have sex until you’re ready. Don’t have sex. Be sexy.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Carry your car keys in your hand. Don’t get drunk. Don’t lose control. Take back the night! Don’t slut shame. Don’t be a slut. Never have sex on the first date. Don’t be so frigid. Play hard to get. Have sex when he wants it. Be his best friend. Don’t friendzone him. Don’t be such a stuck-up bitch. Get a sense of humour, why don’t you? Learn how to take a joke!
Kiss other women to turn guys on. Don’t get turned on by other women. Don’t be a lesbian, or transsexual, or bi-sexual. Embrace your sexuality. Own your identity. Live your femininity!
Don’t shout. Don’t get emotional. Do you have to be so cold all the time? Get in touch with your inner self. Think about his feelings. Would it hurt you to smile? Try harder. Don’t cry. Express yourself!
Take pre-natal vitamins to prepare your body. Don’t smoke, don’t drink. Don’t worry so much! Have an epidural. Have a natural birth. Make a birth plan. Just let us do our job. Use a stretch-mark cream. Be a natural woman. Don’t eat for two. Breastfeed exclusively, bottle feed if you want to, pump if you can, don’t get your tits out in public. Get baby on a routine, don’t let him cry it out, don’t let him nurse to sleep, do whatever feels right, trust your instincts! Start solids at 3 months, at 4 months, at 6 months, at 3 months. Breastfeed for the 1st year, for the first 2 years, get back to work as soon as possible. Send her to daycare, keep him at home as long as you can—just enjoy it while they’re little! Smile, savor it, speak to your doctor if you feel depressed.
Lean in. Be in the boy’s club. Act like a lady, think like a man. Be the boss. Don’t be bossy. Dress tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady. Break the glass ceiling! Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask. Don’t question. Don’t be so aggressive. Don’t raise your voice. Give me your opinion when I ask for it.
Buy anti-wrinkle cream. Perfect the natural look. Set a good example for your daughter. Don’t talk about your sex life. Age gracefully. Try Botox. Look good for your age. Don’t age. Have the confidence to ask for what you want. Live a simple life.
Smile. Smile until your cheeks ache.
Previously published as ‘The Rules for Being a Woman’ in The Wild Word magazine. thewildword.com
For more great Wild Word essays see:
Why I Spent a Lifetime Marching as a Feminist by Marsha Owens
A Beacon at Standing Rock by Sarah Drumm
What the World Needs Now is Men Who Cry by Jami Ingledue
Why as a Christian Leader I am Choosing Resistance by Reverend Rachel Kessler