There has been a lot of progress in the world of relationships between men and women, and society has rejected certain tiresome tropes such as the damsel in distress and the manic pixie dream girl. Progress, right? The thing is, for every sexist ideal we’ve dropped, others have risen to take their place. Worse, society has packaged some of these ideals as good things, often ignoring the damage they’re doing to gender equality. Here’s why you should forget some seemingly-positive labels for women, and how they can actually harm the way you view relationships.
The cool girl
This idealized female trope likes hanging with the boys, downing beers and ignoring the burps, farts and more serious transgressions of the male gender—she doesn’t mind, she’s the “cool girl.” As fun as it sounds having a Jennifer Lawrence archetype that lets you do whatever you want, a cool girl more closely resembles the definition of a 50s housewife. She faces social pressure to act a certain way, often at the expense of her own desires. In this case, if she stands up for herself or “loses her cool,” she’ll stand to lose her seemingly positive, even empowering, label. This can lead to a strong imbalance of power in a relationship.
Strong. Assertive. Tough. These are the adjectives popular culture uses to describe a tomboy, who is similar in make to the “cool girl” except that rather than just putting up with men, she’s allowed to play by the same set of rules. This, of course, makes her seem like the infinitely relatable, playful and equal partner guys have always been looking for. The problem here is that these positive (read: masculine) qualities are only given to a woman at the expense of her femininity. This implies that empowerment and womanhood are ostensibly mutually exclusive.
The girl next door
So you and your hot neighbour have started hanging out more often—it’s only a matter of time before you’re dating, right? Wrong. The girl next door trope propagates the incorrect assumption that platonic friendships between men and women can’t exist, and that the ultimate goal of them is always sex. For the more bitter among us, finding out just how wrong this perception is has given birth to the term “friend zoning,” but real men understand that no woman is under any obligation to suddenly grow feelings for a guy simply because he’s nice to her.
The ‘independent’ woman
In a largely male-dominated society, there’s good cause to celebrate women who who don’t need guys in their lives to be successful. Upon closer examination, however, anything that looks positive is just disguising the subtext of “why would a man want her?” These strong, independent types are often painted as successful but career-oriented, uninterested in building a family and cutthroat in their business dealings—all negative when describing a woman, but neutral or positive when describing men instead.
The sexy, mysterious one
This beautiful woman is sensitive, deep and has a different way of looking at the world, plus she’s harbouring a tragic past that makes her seem mysterious and cool—all desirable traits. What’s not to like? When faced with a woman that seems to fall into this category, guys act like they’re the cure to whatever’s gone wrong in her life, and try to fix the lady in question. If you build a relationship around this notion, you may soon start feeling like she owes you something. Hint: she doesn’t.