Ten Women I Have Been Warned Against Becoming:
1. The Girl Who Takes Up Too Much Space, always, her shoulders too wide in stairwells, her hips too big in doorways, her voice too loud in classes. This woman does not understand the art of crumbling, of curling herself tight like the spiral of a fern, soft, delicate, unwilling to reach out the ivy of her fingers to grasp onto what should rightfully be hers. This is a beast, an elephant, a moving mountain and she is capable of flattening you, she is capable of ruining you, she is capable of making you feel as small and insignificant in her life as she is supposed to be. You are this woman’s footnote to history, you are her side note in song lyrics, you are constantly interrupted by her with a witty joke you wish you thought of. I asked what the problem was with being a steamroller instead of a sunflower and I was laughed down.
2. The Beautiful One, the long hair or the slim waist or the pretty eyes or the lips like bowstrings. This woman looks good in everything because she’s confident in whatever you put her in. She’ll cut her hair short on you no matter how you like it, she’ll wear high heels and step on your opinions, she’ll look hot as hell no matter what size she is. See, the reason you can’t trust her is because women like this don’t need your permission, they’ll do as they please and get away with it. They’ll say no to you, over and over. Teach your daughters that beautiful means dangerous, teach them to distrust women who love themselves. Equate beautiful with vapid, equate pretty with stupid, take their power from them. Say they’re vain for their makeup, refuse to see them without it. These women are snakes, they are serpents. I said maybe the problem lies with you being unable to control yourself and was told to get off my pedestal.
3. A Bitch. Women are supposed to be ladies in the street but will tear skin under sheets. I’m told: Never raise your voice. Speak gently. Submit. Hold your opinion against your lips and when you admit to it, make sure it comes out as a butterfly wing suggestion. Don’t disagree. Don’t undermine someone else’s authority, regardless of whether or not they deserve your respect. Someone touches you, just move away from them. Don’t hit. Don’t talk back. Be like the ruins of Rome, only beautiful if you can’t hear your quiet death.
4. The Needy One. I have heard how others spit when they talk about how she gave you everything and you shoved it back down her throat until she choked on it, until she came back crawling and asked you what she did, until her palms and knees were scraped for want of just a little affection - never be this woman, I’m told, because she’s a joke and the joke is that she dared to have more emotion than you did. The truth is, I’m told, the one who cares less in a partnership is the one who wins. I didn’t know this was a competition.
5. The Cock Tease, certified stripper, how dare that girl look like that and not want me to sleep with her. Lust is always personified as a lady in red with a dress slit up her thigh. Lust is sinful because it’s power, it’s not asking for attention - it’s demanding it. I’m told she is the worst kind of woman, that looking good is supposed to be some kind of shame on her kin. I’m told not to leave the house in such a short skirt, not with a shirt so low, not with a lace back, not with high heels, not dressed like that. My lipstick can’t be too red, my hair can’t be too mussed, I can’t just “turn someone on like that and then leave them wanting.” I mentioned that instant gratification actually ruins our psyche and was told that being led on was “exhausting.” I said that there was a difference between purposefully tricking someone into liking you and just being attractive or friendly. I was told there’s also a difference between coffee and tea but both result in caffeine. I said, “I’ve been turned on in class by the girls I talk to but I didn’t expect anything from them,” and they said, “It’s different, you’re not a man,” but couldn’t explain where that difference was.
6. A Slut, obviously ruined by another person’s touch. It doesn’t matter how many people she’s actually been with, it’s all about the rumors she carries with her. Easy. Harlot. You’ll still try to get with her, you’ll still take her into your bed and kiss her and say things you don’t mean - but you’ll defame her name when you talk to your buddies. My father used to say “A slut is fine for the night, but the virgin is who you take home and marry.” Maybe he didn’t know he was teaching his daughter to hate her sexuality. Maybe he didn’t know that every time she’d be kissed, her whole system would shake until she felt ready to combust, shame and self-hatred shivering against her spine. Maybe he didn’t know she’d disconnect emotions and sex because he always told her, “Boys are different, they won’t care about you.” Nobody said to her that it was okay to experiment. See, the funny thing is, I’m a dancer so I know exactly where my center of gravity is. I know how hard I’ll fall in each direction. Yet out of fear of getting hurt, I won’t let a single person inside of my bed.
7. The Soulmate. Never love romance more than you love being cynical. Never show weakness, never like pink, never think maybe you might find someone nice and settle down with them. Someone will find you, I was told, And if you’re lucky, he’ll put up with you when you start getting old. Never be the woman who believes in happily ever after, never be dumb enough to think maybe someone could love you after all of your mistakes. It has nothing to do with whether or not a family is important to you and you’re in a good place where a relationship would make your life better - you’re not a princess. You don’t get married, you settle.
8. The Girl With Strength, who can outrun everyone and who is stronger than her boyfriend. “See the thing about boys,” says my daddy, “Is that you have to let them win.” I sat at home and read stories about Artemis and wanted to become the huntress, too. I wanted to howl at the moon, I wanted to slay the beasts that bested me, I wanted to rule my kingdom with bloody fists. But girls are never athletes, never supposed to be “built,” regardless of the fact civilizations were constructed on our spines and we made homes in war by the steel of our ribs. Never be strong. We are supposed to wilt.
9. The Lady CEO: because if you choose work over family, are you really a girl? How dare you fight your way to the top through every pair of eyes that bore through your blouse, through every meeting where you were hushed by the sound of someone else talking, through every time someone called you “sweetie,” how dare you yearn for something. Is your husband the stay-at-home one? I can’t imagine how that is going. He’s not a real man, after all. I don’t give it long before the divorce. How dare you decide you’re happy being single. Don’t you know you’re supposed to bear children. Where is your honor? Where is your wisdom? Who cares if you are the leader, the best suited for your position, the quickest-thinking, the one who makes the hardest clients come back again. Don’t you see? Across history, women have been terrible at success. They always lose their man in the end. (When I said, “I would rather be a famous author than a mediocre mother,” I was told, “No, don’t worry, you’ll be a fine mommy.”)
10. THE GIRL I AM: FIRECRACKER AND DON’T YOU FUCKING FORGET IT I’LL RIP YOU TO SHREDS AND I WON’T FUCKING REGRET IT I’M NOT YOUR PRETTY GIRL I’M NOT YOUR ANYTHING I’M PERFECT, MOTHERFUCKER, AND I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE UP WHAT I’M DOING. I DON’T WANT TO BE “LADYLIKE” THAT LITERALLY MEANS NOTHING I’M NOT GOING TO STOP STANDING UP AND DEMANDING WHAT’S COMING TO ME. I’M GONNA BE SOMEBODY. I’M GONNA MAKE THEM REMEMBER ME. I REFUSE TO BE OVERSHADOWED IN HISTORY. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CREATE BUT YOU MADE ME A DRAGON YOU PUT ME IN THE FIRE AND WHEN I STOPPED BURNING I LEARNED HOW TO GLOW DON’T THINK YOU CAN STOP ME YOU CAN’T TAME A TORNADO.
When men say that they “love to see the woman underneath the makeup,” they’re not saying they want to see your leg stubble and greasy bangs—they’re saying they want you to be better at hiding your maintenance routine. Because the maintenance spoils the fantasy.
Okay, okay, I’m going to tell you what Hermione sees in Ron.
A trio is a balancing act, right? They’re equalizers of each other. Harry’s like the action, Hermione’s the brains, Ron’s the heart. Hermione has been assassinated in these movies, and I mean that genuinely—by giving her every single positive character trait that Ron has, they have assassinated her character in the movies. She’s been harmed by being made to be less human, because everything good Ron has, she’s been given.
So, for instance: “If you want to kill Harry, you’re going to have to kill me too”—RON, leg is broken, he’s in pain, gets up and stands in front of Harry and says this. Who gets that line in the movie? Hermione.
“Fear of a name increases the fear of the thing itself.” Hermione doesn’t say Voldemort’s name until well into the books—that’s Dumbledore’s line. When does Hermione say it in the movies? Beginning of Movie 2.
When the Devil’s Snare is curling itself around everybody, Hermione panics, and Ron is the one who keeps his head and says “Are you a witch or not?” In the movie, everybody else panics and Hermione keeps her head and does the biggest, brightest flare of sunlight spell there ever was.
So, Hermione—all her flaws were shaved away in the films. And that sounds like you’re making a kick-ass, amazing character, and what you’re doing is dehumanizing her. And it pisses me off. It really does.
In the books, they balance each other out, because where Hermione gets frazzled and maybe her rationality overtakes some of her instinct, Ron has that to back it up; Ron has a kind of emotional grounding that can keep Hermione’s hyper-rationalness in check. Sometimes Hermione’s super-logical nature grates Harry and bothers him, and isn’t the thing he needs even if it’s the right thing, like when she says “You have a saving people thing.” That is the thing that Harry needed to hear, she’s a hundred percent right, but the way she does it is wrong. That’s the classic “she’s super logical, she’s super brilliant, but she doesn’t know how to handle people emotionally,” at least Harry.
So in the books they are this balanced group, and in the movies, in the movies—hell, not even Harry is good enough for Hermione in the movies. No one’s good enough for Hermione in the movies—God isn’t good enough for Hermione in the movies! Hermione is everybody’s everything in the movies.
Harry’s idea to jump on the dragon in the books, who gets it in the movies? Hermione, who hates to fly. Hermione, who overcomes her withering fear of flying to take over Harry’s big idea to get out of the—like, why does Hermione get all these moments?
[John: Because we need to market the movie to girls.]
I think girls like the books, period. And like the Hermione in the books, and like the Hermione in the books just fine before Hollywood made her idealized and perfect. And if they would have trusted that, they would have been just fine.
Would the movies have been bad if she was as awesome as she was in the books, and as human as she was in the books? Would the movies get worse?
She IS a strong girl character. This is the thing that pisses me off. They are equating “strong” with superhuman. To me, the Hermione in the book is twelve times stronger than the completely unreachable ideal of Hermione in the movies. Give me the Hermione in the book who’s human and has flaws any single day of the week.
Here’s a classic example: When Snape in the first book yells at Hermione for being an insufferable know-it-all, do you want to know what Ron says in the book? “Well, you’re asking the questions, and she has to answer. Why ask if you don’t want to be told?” What does he say in the movie? “He’s got a point, you know.” Ron? Would never do that. Would NEVER do that, even before he liked Hermione. Ron would never do that.