By: Dani Kessel
If you were assigned female at birth or you identify/present as a woman, you are told on a daily basis what you are expected to be. You need to be soft spoken, mild mannered, friendly to everyone. Have the perfect body. Cross your legs. Don’t take up too much space. Smile more. Put others’ needs before your own. Don’t demand too much. Get married and settle down with a nice man. Procreate. Basically be the perfectly well-behaved woman. We’ve heard it all before.
The truth is that I will never be what society wants me to be.
I am too tall. I don’t have flawless skin. I’m too curvy and weigh too much. I like comic books, video games, pop culture. I’m too nerdy for my own good. I don’t want the white picket fence. I’m not straight; I’m bi. I’m certainly gender nonconforming. I hate dresses, frills, the color pink, and most makeup. I’d wear a suit and tie over a skirt any day. I wear men’s clothing. I wear compression bras. I frequently cut my hair short. Or I’ll even occasionally mix and match things considered feminine and masculine. I laugh way too loud. I cuss. I make dirty jokes left and right.
I can’t and won’t be a well-behaved woman.
There is a quote commonly misattributed to Marilyn Monroe or Eleanor Roosevelt which has sparked feminism and rebellion in the hearts of girls, women, and femme nonbinary people all across the world.
Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote in a 1976 article,
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
I’ve embraced this to the core of my being.
In its original context, the quote meant to lament the important, impactful women who have been overlooked and forgotten by the history books. This is a valid complaint. However, just as words change meaning over time, this quote has morphed into a battle-cry against the confines that the patriarchy places on women.
Women can be the epitome of femininity, the most masculine one in the room, both, neither, or somewhere in between. They are valid no matter how they express themselves.
Women feminists (shout out to nonbinary, agender, and men feminists who have our backs) will not be well-behaved women. We can’t. It is not because we want to have our names remembered. We don’t want to be history; we want to make history.
If we don’t speak up, we are complicit in our own dehumanization—thank you Alex Bertulis Fernande for the artwork below reminding us of that.
We may be called bitches and told to sit down, but we are the people who will change the fucking world some day.
I’ve accepted that I won’t ever be a well-behaved woman. I won’t raise my kiddos to be well-behaved women. And, I won’t surround myself with well-behaved women. It’s just not who I am, and that’s okay.
We may not be well-behaved; but, we are real, and we are the future.