"Positive" Female Stereotypes

Ostensibly, these stereotypes are "positive". But I'd like to unpick them a little bit, and take a look at some of the issues I take with them.

Their origins may be genuinely well intended to empower women, or to acknowledge the 'modern woman'. But, as Oliver Burkeman eloquently worded it: the problem with stereotypes isn't only their content. It's the stereotyping. 

"Girl on the go" 
An overwhelming trend I've seen in beauty lately is this notion of "girl on the go" (I've even given into it) inspired by the number of women who do their make up on public transport. These women don't bother me (more power to you if you can do eyeliner on a moving train, I know I can't) but what bothers me is how marketing has picked up on this "girl on the go" stereotype. Every lipstick is sold to us as 'throw in your handbag-able', multi-purpose balms have boomed (Dr Paw Paw, Honest Beauty Magic Beauty Balm*, Love Jamila Camjam* to name just a few in my own bedside drawer), whole brands have been conceived on the concept of quick, versatile, portable make up (think Trinny London.) Likewise, they don't bother me, I enjoy using them. But what is it with the beauty industry pushing this incessant 'girl on the go' 'busy modern woman' malarky on us?

 It reminds me of the notion that women make better parents and are suited to being housewives because our brains are apparently better biologically hardwired to multi task compared to men. (Dubious as to wether that's true or not, a quick google search brings up multiple conflicting studies. Even if it is true, how relevant is it in the 21st Century? We do lots of things we're not necessarily biologically designed to do...) The underlying message of this, at least to my mind, is that women should keep busy; they should be multi-taskers. And I can't help but feel this is echoed in the 'busy modern woman' trend. Thinking about the 'commuter cosmetics' idea, why should women have to look good for work? How often do you see men hastily brushing their hair on public transport? If it's perfectly acceptable for a men to roll out of bed, make sure they're clean, fresh breath, hair brushed - surely women should do the same. A woman who doesn't have a face full of make up, a fresh set of nails or straightened hair shouldn't be considered to have not 'made an effort'. Because, well, why the fuck should they? Why is the idea of a 'presentable' woman so much different than the 'presentable' man? I have literally had a boss tell me they prefer me to wear make up, and complained to me when another female co-worker has come in without make up and "they look like an old hag" (verbatim). Don't get me wrong. I love wearing make up and have always worn it to work, and I probably always will.

I protest about the way 'on the go' beauty products are marketed because it perpetuates the bizarre 'girl on the go' stereotype. Women were doing their make up on public transport long before there were products specifically designed with that in mind (which, admittedly, I can't see any obvious changes from other products which aren't marketed as portable etc,) but the advent of the 'busy modern woman' marketing trope continues the message that, firstly, women should be rushing around, should always be busy etc. Secondly, the stereotype imposes the "extra cognitive and emotional burden" that women should be rushed off their feet to look good. You can go to a meeting without lipstick on. You can do your job without your eyebrows combed into place. Not having used your portable, versatile make up on the tube shouldn't detract from your capabilities, your confidence, or how others perceive you.

"Girl Boss"
The phrase "girl boss" has always made my skin crawl, and I've never really been able to put my finger on why. The phrase was popularised by Sophia Amoruso (the founder of clothing retailer Nasty Gal) and I don't take any issue with it's origins, more so the way it's been hijacked by marketing companies: plastered across t-shirts, notebooks and the like, in order to appeal to the antithesis of the archetypal 'housewife'. You know the girl boss trope: a woman in charge over their own financial affairs, work, love and relationships. A woman who's not afraid of any challenge, and is confident in all aspects, wether it's from work to pulling off thigh high boots. 
Firstly, why the distinction? Why 'girl' boss? The implication being that a 'girl' boss is distinguishable from a 'boss' (either literally work boss or just generally being in charge of other aspects of life, "to boss it"). That, if you have a vagina (or identify as female) you're not really a 'boss', arguably the implication is that a 'girl boss' is lesser than.  To all the women reading this: were you ever called 'bossy' as a little girl? Because I know I was. When you contrast that with the fact that confidence, assertiveness and leadership skills historically being cast as masculine traits, I think 'bossy' encapsulates all these otherwise positive traits into a critique of assertive women. 

In the context of day-to-day colloquial use, I admit that I'm being pedantic.  You can 'girl boss it' all you like, but when you think in terms of it's use in a wider context - online, across notebooks etc - I really don't like the message it's spreading: the distinction between a boss and a 'girl boss'. Because I read it as 'aww, look at her, being the boss. Miss bossy boots!' Construed in this way, it's like a little girl being called 'bossy' all over again, and the negative connotations that it carries. Okay, you're a 'boss', but not a real boss: a 'girl boss'. On the surface of it, it may appear to be equal to 'boss', but the distinction itself makes this, in my opinion, a paradox. If they were truly equal, why would a separate, gendered phrase be necessary? 'Girl Boss' is not an equal phrase, but a parallel to a 'real' "boss". It likens women to bosses (the phrase wannabe springs to mind...) but not actually calls them a boss. 
"Yummy Mummy" 
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a 'yummy mummy' is "an attractive and stylish young mother". But the subtle implication of the phrase is that women are still attractive and stylish in spite of being a mother. Similar to my 'girl boss' disdain: why the distinction? Not just the distinction but, at least in my opinion, the implication is 'lesser than'. A mother that looks 'beautiful' and 'trendy' (still obviously subjective) is not a 'yummy mummy', they're just a motherWhen women give birth, their love of beauty and fashion isn't ejected from their body along with their offspring. Before registering their new child, they're not made to sign a contract promising never to step foot inside of a Topshop again. The 'yummy mummy' trope shines a light on the on the stereotype at the other end of the spectrum. The down trodden, frumpy housewife who spends her day alternating between cooking for her husband and breastfeeding. Moreover, the negative connotations we all know are associated with "yummy mummy" (Cherie Blair criticised 'yummy mummies' as being less independent and just wanting a rich husband) suggest that the former is what they should be doing: how dare they have the audacity to still put make up on and leave the house?! (But, rather paradoxically, there seems to be an unspoken rule that mothers are forbidden from speaking about the reality of motherhood, that only feeds into the mould of a tucked away, meek and mild housewife.) I think stereotyping mothers is especially disquieting. I don't have children myself, but I'd imagine motherhood is difficult enough without having to navigate stereotypes along the way. 

Thank you for reading my massive rant of a blog post! 

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Cherie Blair quote: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/cherie-children-of-yummy-mummies-are-less-independent-7866158.html 
Study on stereotype threats: https://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/ 
Jennifer Chiu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUM7mEXQJNU 
Krystal Clear Make Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLQ4jY38vDY 
Oliver Burkeman: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/oliver-burkemans-blog/2012/dec/12/stereotypes-bad-even-when-good  

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