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A Small Box

An Essay About Society's Unrealistic Expectations for Women. (In the Style of Jamaica Kincaid)

If you grow up in a female body, this is what society will tell you: you are fragile, weak, and inferior. You should wear pink: dresses, bows, ruffles, and sparkles from head to toe, and you should never do anything that could get you dirty. Now, you may be the kind of girl who likes to wear shorts and t-shirts, who skins her knees climbing trees and stains her white dress jumping in mud puddles on rainy spring days. If that is the case you’re not a girl at all, you are a tomboy. Oh, you like sports, and you asked for a toy gun and soccer cleats for Christmas? Well, you’re getting an American Girl doll, a new dress, and a play kitchen equipped with mini cleaning supplies. Everyone knows that trucks and tools, blocks and guns, these things are for boys. If you’re a girl and you like these things, you’re simply abnormal. Oh, and your best friend Charlie, you simply have to have romantic feelings for. I mean you’re only eight...but you chase him on the playground, share animal crackers with him at lunch, plus, you were the only girl at his birthday party, and girls and boys can’t just be friends. There is more going on, even if you don’t know it yet. Also, you suck at science, math, and anything that requires actual thought. You should stick to reading and writing, keeping the house clean, you know, "lady's work." You can’t play football or soccer or any of those man sports because you will get hurt, and you will get muddy. So, try out for cheerleading instead, it is a better fit for you after all. You were put on this Earth to support the men.

If you grow up in a female body, this is what society will tell you: You are supposed to be beautiful, thin, fit but not muscley, curvy but not fat, and you’re supposed to look your best all the time. Your thighs rub together, your stomach folds over your jeans just a little bit, your arms jiggle when you walk, these are all signs that you need to lose weight. Even if this means skipping meals, and doing sit ups on the bathroom floor until your shoulder blades hurt from hitting the tile. Because God forbid you don’t look like the photoshopped beauties on the covers of magazines. On the other hand, if your collar bones show, your hip bones protrude, and your ribs can be seen when you put on a swimsuit, or maybe your chest is flatter than most; these are signs that you need to eat a hamburger, or maybe five, because nobody likes a woman without curves, you look like a 12-year-old boy. If you do workout, and you lose weight in your chest, or your butt, you messed up big time because you probably made yourself look worse. You were supposed to lose the bad fat, like your tummy, arms, thighs, but you were supposed to keep the good fat, the parts the guys like. Also, you need to look good always. Even if this means waking up at six every morning to spend hours on making every curl perfect, and contouring your face until you look like a completely different person. But, it needs to look like you didn’t try at all. No one should know that it took pounds of product to make that one zit on your forehead invisible. You gotta make it look like you woke up looking that perfect, but still you have to look perfect. Otherwise you are lazy and no wonder your single, guys don’t like girls who look like they haven’t ever used moisturizer.

If you grow up in a female body, this is what society will tell you: you are supposed to be pure, a virgin, a saint. If you have sex, you are a slut. But the guy who you had the sex with, he is cool, even if he didn’t ask you if it was okay when he was taking advantage of the obviously drunk you at that party last summer. Everyone knows girls want to have sex with boys, you were asking for it, begging for it even. Okay, so you didn’t say “Oh, Jerry. I want you, please take me right here, right now.” But that Mickey Mouse t-shirt you were wearing was a little tight, and those jeans made your ass look out of this world. If you didn’t want to have sex, why would you dress like that, so provocatively? Nobody likes a used-up girl, you are ruined now. Nobody wants you anymore. But if you date a guy for a long period of time, and don’t have sex with him, you are a tease, and a prude, and you had no right to lead him on like that, a man has needs. Why would you let him waste time with you, when he could’ve been with someone who would meet his needs? You are selfish, and you probably like girls or something. Why else wouldn’t you have sex with your own boyfriend? Also, you need to stop wearing tank tops and dresses to class. Your shoulders are distracting to the boys oh and the way that dress hugs your hips is just too much, no wonder Paul has a D in Spanish. I know what you’re thinking why would we teach young men to stop sexualizing young women when we could just tell you to cover yourselves up? Okay, Paul still grabs your ass when you wear baggy sweatshirts and mom jeans but it’s clearly you that’s the problem.

If you grow up in a female body, this is what society will tell you: if you think you don’t want kids you will change your mind. God put you on this Earth for a reason, you are a woman for a reason, you were made to bear children. So, you need to have kids because even if you do not want kids now, you don’t want to look back in 20 years when your all dried up and realize you regret not popping a few kids out. Plus, you’re a girl, you change your mind all the freaking time. So have kids, but then don’t be surprised when you don’t get considered for the promotion at work. You are a mother, you can’t take on any more responsibility, you wouldn’t make a good manager because your children will cloud your judgement. You’ll get emotional when you have to skip your daughter's ballet recital or your son's soccer game, and make rash decisions that affect the company. But, let’s back up. If you don’t have kids, and you don’t change your mind, you are a selfish woman. If you have children too early, you’re stupid, if you have children too late, you’re also stupid. Oh and if you do get pregnant, you shouldn’t do anything that could heighten the risks for your child. So, drop that Starbucks addiction; even if it is the only thing getting you through that 48 hour shift at the hospital. Maybe you should quit the job too, long hours aren’t good for the baby. Even if you have been in medical school for six years, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t take the stairs, you could fall. Oh, and definitely stop trying to carry the groceries in by yourself, you need help. The bags could be heavy. Oh goodness, how much weight did you gain? I hope it all goes away after you give birth. If not you have to start working out right away, pregnancy is not a good excuse for tummy flab.

If you grow up in a female body, this is what society will tell you: You need to fit these expectations in order to be loved. You need to fit these expectations in order to be successful. You need to fit these expectations, because if you don’t something is wrong with you. You need to fit into this small box provided. You’re the problem here, you’re the one who needs to change.

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