If the problem of double standards in society between men and women could be summed up in a song, “Just a Girl” by No Doubt would most definitely be a top contender. At some point in every woman’s life, she has most likely felt just the way the lyrics Gwen Stefani belts out say. Everyone knows music is a great form of expression, and we, as women, can express our frustration with the expectations of society placed upon our shoulders—a heavy weight to bear—through this song.
“Take this pink ribbon off my eyes, I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise. Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand? This world is forcing me to hold your hand. ‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ol’ me, well don’t let me out of your sight. Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite. So don’t let me have any rights.”
This opening verse discusses the societal norms regarding women. We are expected to be small and frail, weak and submissive: subordinate to men. Today, many of us women feel as though we need to dress up pretty as can be, and be model thin in order to be attractive to men. Even once we’re in a relationship, women are expected to be the weaker of the two in the duo. We are expected to obey men and not speak up with our thoughts, opinions, or beliefs. If we go against the grain, society views us as different and it is difficult to fit in.
“I can’t do the little things I hold so dear, ‘cause it’s all the little things that I fear.”
This line is especially compelling to me because it talks about how women can’t do certain things, and we fear doing these things because of what society will think about us. Women can’t obtain certain occupations, play certain sports, or even drive certain cars without being judged, whereas men can go about doing the same things with no consequence. When it comes to appearance, women are expected to be tiny. Every magazine available to a growing teenage girl plasters the face of some skeleton-type model across its pages, claiming what real beauty is, and it is what they must achieve. The message this sends is that only stick-thin fashion models embody feminine physique and attractiveness. This leads to women disrespecting our bodies, resorting to eating carrot sticks and water for lunch, just to live up to society’s standards.
If a woman decides to pursue her career while her husband provides child care for their children, society views this as “wrong” as if this makes the woman any less of a good mother. If roles are reversed and the father pursues his career, nothing is apparently “wrong” in the judgmental eyes of the world. Moreover, in the professional world, there are so many jobs that a female would be refused merely due to her gender. A male would obtain this job in her place due to the absurd fact that he, according to the hiring personnel, would be “more fit” to complete the task at hand. In addition, it is comparatively and relatively rare for a woman to be the superior of a man, as opposed to the reverse, in the business world. If, in fact, a woman is a man’s superior, many would say that this would make the man feel as though he was less of just that—a man.
To me, it is ridiculous to even fathom why it is acceptable and understandable to others that the man feels this way, when women are expected to just live with the same feeling of inferiority every single day. Society has brainwashed us into thinking the man should always be the superior of the woman – not only in the corporate life, but synonymously, in the domestic life at home. The woman is expected to cook, clean and complete the majority of the household chores. Many will argue against this and say society is changing, but many people still have this stereotype in their heads. How often do we hear men say, whether actually derogatory or just as a “joke”, “Go make me a sandwich, girl?” Another point that I must convey is the small, everyday expectations society has of women. Ladies, when you’re in the car with a man, whether he’s your boyfriend or not, doesn’t he often want to be the driver? Why can’t you drive around without being expected to be the submissive passenger in the car controlled by a man? Think about how that applies to life in general… Take control and steer your own life, girl!
“Oh I’m just a girl, what’s my destiny? What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb. Oh I’m just a girl, my apologies. What I’ve become is so burdensome.”
Gwen’s message here should be heard far and wide by all women across the world. Whatever you do, and no matter what, never give into societal norms. Make your voice heard, stick up for what you believe, pursue your dreams, and most importantly—be strong and don’t let anyone get in your way. The only way women can truly make a change to the skewed thoughts that have been engrained into the majority of people’s minds is to keep fighting. We must break through the stereotype, not live up to it. Otherwise, we will live our lives feeling as though we are the underdogs; ashamed and powerless. Is this what we really want for ourselves?
Chelsea is a Philosophy student at the University at Albany. Her specialty in her major is applying a philosophical, and feminist lens to current media and popular songs.