This summer was the definition of girl power. The FIFA Women's World Cup, the "Barbie" movie release and even TikTok's trend of "girl dinner" were all subjects that made women the season's main characters.
But being a woman in the spotlight means that you are going to be scrutinized more closely and judged more harshly than a man would, which triggers this response in women to try to be "perfect."
The Women's World Cup went on from July 20 to August 20 this year in Australia and New Zealand, and it brought some well-deserved attention to the sport that has always been focused on men. In 2023, the teams got more coverage, more endorsements and as a result, more people tuned into the games, including myself.
It was my first year watching the Women's World Cup, and despite the fact that I have never been into sports, I could not turn my eyes away from the game of Spain against the Netherlands. As far as my understanding of soccer goes, the game was a good one.
Even though I was quickly drawn into the match, there was one thing that caught my attention above everything else: The girls would get up as quickly as they fell to the ground. Men's soccer is known for physical injuries and dramatic accidents (which are usually for the referee to pay attention to and call a foul), and it is something deeply encrusted in the sport’s culture.
Yet, these girls would be up and running even after getting gutted in the middle of a grass field, and it was clear to me why that was: They had no space for mistakes or "drama."
Women's soccer is under a patriarchal magnifying glass. Women are already disregarded and judged for being women. They have to be perfect, which is the reality for most women — especially for women in the spotlight.
The idea of the perfect woman is not new, but it keeps dissipating daily. For instance, the narrative of "The Angel in the House," from an article based on the 1854 poem by Coventry Patmore, shows how a Victorian-era woman should be perfect: a wife and mother who was selflessly devoted to her children and submissive to her husband.
"The Angel in the House" and the idea of the perfect woman, although not as strong as it was more than 100 years ago, is still present in our everyday lives. Mothers are still being criticized for being more than just mothers, wives are being criticized for being more than just wives and women are still being criticized for just existing.
Moreover, the patriarchal magnifying glass brings the idea of perfection to the physical side.
It is a common trend to see famous women looking nothing like they did before they were famous. The pressure under the spotlight is so unconsciously (and consciously) strong that women who are under it start to change their appearance to a more "conventional beauty standard."
A classic example of a "fame makeover" is the case of Marilyn Monroe.
If you search online for the before and after pictures of one of the most recognizable actresses in the world, you can see a drastic change in appearance. Thinking about a famous woman who got plastic surgery is as easy as blinking, yet thinking about a famous man who did it causes one to stop and think about it for a minute, as it's not as common.
Furthermore, this judgment can also affect women in the workplace. Dress codes, the need to be tidy and wear makeup, heels and accessories are required for a woman to be considered professional.
Adding to that, a 2016 study that uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health found a correlation between women being attractive and paid more at work. Being close to the "beauty standard" and putting effort into your everyday appearance is, sadly, what makes you seem more professional.
Directed by Greta Gerwig, the movie "Barbie" addresses some of the issues I discussed so far in an effective way. Margot Robbie stood in front of billions of people in pink heels and basically said that Barbie is not perfect, and neither are you.
It was refreshing seeing Robbie, someone who one would assume has no problems or inconveniences in life, who is known as the perfect woman, could go through things like everyone else.
Most importantly, it is refreshing to see the issue of being constantly judged for being a woman and how tiring it is, being addressed on the big screen and being talked about so highly.
As summer comes to a close, I predict a stronger comeback of "girl power" summer next year, and I hope I managed to say that no matter how hard you try, you are always going to be judged.
Wear whatever you want and be whoever you want. Be confident about it because you are never going to be perfect, and that is a good thing.
Marina Benitez is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in gender and media. Her column, "Hear me out," runs on alternate Mondays.
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