Don’t tell me how to be myself

by Page Forrest
Junior Editor

Don’t tell me not to swear. Don’t tell me to sit with my ankles crossed. Don’t tell me that you don’t like bright lipstick or yoga pants, or that I need to smile more. Don’t tell me that by not doing any of those things, I am any less of a lady.

This whole list trend is getting way too out of hand. Every day, I see lists telling me what I should be doing posted on Facebook – “4 Things Women Are Doing That Make Them Less Ladylike,” “15 Fashion Trends Men Hate.” It’s not even just targeted at women. Men get bombarded with these lists too, giving them all sorts of “helpful” tips on how to attract women, or be more manly. “1. Shave. 2. Don’t wear flip-flops.” It’s ridiculous.

By constantly posting and sharing these lists, people are perpetuating the idea that you have to act a certain way to be considered ladylike or manly. Not only that, but they’re also furthering the idea that there is a blanket, heteronormative stereotype for what each gender finds attractive. A friend on Facebook recently posted a link to a blog post titled “9 Old-School Ways For A Woman To Become More Attractive To Men.” The first line of the article is “Most American girls today have no idea how to be attractive.” According to the article, if your hair is any shorter than shoulder-length, or you don’t “dress cute” when you’re doing the simplest of tasks, like taking out the trash, then you’re not attractive to any men. At all. Ever.

A similar post titled “5 Things Making Women Less Ladylike” claims that a real lady will never swear, or party on the weekend. There is no correct way to be a “real” lady. And not everything a woman does is centered around the idea of becoming more attractive to men. I don’t care if guys supposedly prefer longer hair to short hair – I will cut and style my hair however I like.

There are also several similar posts targeting men, telling them how to be more manly, often claiming that such manliness is essential to winning respect and love from women. There is an entire site named “Return of Kings” that has the subtitle – “For Masculine Men” and is dedicated to imparting to men such wisdom as “The Most Respected Men Know How To Fight” and “How Not To Be A Man.” According to the site, if you don’tfollow a very specific set of behavioral guidelines, you’re definitely not a man.

Never once have I seen an article similar to the above mentioned with a title like “6 Ways for a Woman to Be More Attractive to a Woman,” or “9 Things Men Are Doing That Are Making Them Less Attractive To Other Men.” The lists reinforce an incredibly heteronormative gender binary. There’s definitely no need for spreading this trend to other sexualities, but the way the lists are presented still pose a problematic mindset.

In addition to this, the way the articles are set presume that each member of each gender is attracted to the exact same thing. One article, “18 Incredibly Simple Things Men Can Do To Look Better,” puts a blanket ban on t-shirts and rolled-up sleeves. Not every woman is attracted to the same things – I love rolled up sleeves. The same goes for lists the other way around – posts like “23 Trends Guys Hate” claims that every guy is instantly unattracted to a girl in an oversized sweater or a high-waisted skirt. What? Not only do I know several guys who think the exact opposite, but there’s also the fact that women don’t always dress for men. Believe it or not, sometimes we wear things because they’re comfortable, or we actually like them.

So let’s stop with the lists telling everyone how to dress and act and be attractive. Let’s stop with trying to lay out a specific set of rules for what makes someone ladylike or manly. Girls can swear, guys can hate sports. But girls don’t have to swear, and guys can love sports. There is no right way to be attractive, and no right way to be one gender or another. Wear what you want, do what you like, and if someone’s attracted to you, that’s totally fine if you’re into that sort of thing. If not, whatever. We don’t live to attract other people. We live for ourselves.