Society has always placed a lot of pressure on young women. We are judged for every move that we make, whether it’s social, familial, professional, or educational. In fact, for many, it’s hard to go very long without receiving other’s opinions when they’re not asked for.
Having experienced this on a daily basis, I took to Facebook to ask people my age the things they had been told or asked by others. Fourteen young women (and one man) responded and here are, collectively, the 12 things that you shouldn’t be saying to young women.
For further reading, many of these points have hyperlinked articles where I discuss similar issues. These articles are hyperlinked in bold — just click on the bold font within the body text.
“Are you dating anyone?”
This is a timeless question that seems like an innocent conversation starter, but can be more annoying beneath the surface. For women who choose to stay single through most of their young adulthood, receiving this question and responding with a “no” can lead into more questions about their dating life and why they’re not seeing anyone. It’s a repetitive question with repetitive answers, and most people I know (myself included) hate hearing it asked.
In contrast, you could ask about their social life, like “what do you do for fun?” or “how are your friends?” These are more open-ended questions that will give them the opportunity to tell you more about themselves and, if they want, about their dating life.
“How will you ever find a husband with all those tattoos?”
Though tattoos are becoming more accepted in society, there’s still a lot of stigma placed on them…especially for women. Most of us with tattoos are constantly asked how we’ll find a job or husband, or be a good mother. The fact is, there are plenty of people who like tattoos and we won’t raise our kids to be the bigots that judge people for having them. As for a job, most people consider their future career when getting tattoos, so most of us already have it figured out.
Instead, you could ask them about the inspiration behind their tattoos or what drives their love for body art, just remember to ask respectfully and without a negative undertone.
“You need to smile more!”
As a waitress, I can’t even begin to tell you how many strangers have randomly told me to smile at the most random times (i.e. when I’m clearing a table of dirty dishes). Not only is a rude to tell someone you don’t know that they need to smile or “smile more,” but it’s downright sexist. Would we tell this same thing to men? The chances are low. As women, we aren’t required to smile.
Instead you could compliment our smile by saying something like, “I love seeing you smile; it’s so beautiful!”
“When are you having kids?”
The assumption that all women want or will have kids is another thing that needs to die out with our generation (in my humble opinion). So many young people — especially those in serious relationships or married — receive a lot of pressure to have children. The matter of the fact is, it’s no one’s business when or if someone is going to have kids, so it’s rude to ask in the first place.
In contrast, you could ask them about their job or career goals, house, pets, passions, etc.
With marriage seeming a thing meant for later in life nowadays, when women get married at a younger age (i.e. early twenties or late teens), there seems to be a lot of judgement from people. This is an example of society putting age requirements on young people that set them on a traditional path: graduate high school, attend college (and graduate), settle into a career, get married. For people that step outside of this tradition (especially those who have children before marriage) are labeled as unsuccessful or bad examples.
Instead, you could ask them how their marriage is going (again, without negative connotations) or tell them that if they have any questions about married life, they can reach out to you.
“That is so unladylike!”
I’ll say it for us all: women hate being told what is ladylike and what is not ladylike. With our progressing society, the term “ladylike” has taken on an all-new term that almost carries more negative connotations than positive connotations. If you think someone is being rude, by all means, tell them; but if they’re being rude for a reason specific to their gender (i.e. not crossing their legs, burping, cussing), rethink whether or not it’s rude or “unladylike” (i.e. are men criticized for doing this on a daily basis). People are much more accepting of non-feminine stereotypes for women, and the only way to break through the glass roof is to judge women in the same way men are judged. So the term “ladylike” is irrelevant. But maybe this is just my feminist rant.
If you think someone is actually acting rudely (i.e. chewing with their mouth open, being mean to someone, showing disrespect), politely ask them to stop and explain why. Don’t tell them that what they’re doing is “unladylike” because that’s implying that they’re less of a woman because they’re not acting appropriately for their gender.
“You need to eat more.” (or any negative comment about their body)
Chances are, if someone has an unhealthy body type, they probably already know about it, so making a comment on their health is not for you to make. Surprisingly (but maybe it’s because I’m from the South), I hear more negative comments made towards skinny women than heavier women. I even wrote an entire article on it. Either way, it’s not one’s place to make a comment about someone else’s body unless they’re a spouse/parent who is actually seriously concerned for their health.
In contrast, you could compliment them on a different feature of their body like their eyes, hair, smile, etc. OR you could compliment them on their personality or other non-physical attributes.
“So….you like black guys.”
Sadly, there’s a really negative stereotype for white women that date (and prefer) black men (and vice versa — between both races). And, coming from the South, most parents actually disapprove of their daughters dating black men, for reasons that are obvious (*cough* racism *cough*) but that I won’t get into here (but I do get into it here). Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell people that they should stop being racist because 1) they don’t actually believe they’re being racist and 2) it’s such a deep, underlying belief that it’s hard to force it out from people.
I guess my advice here would be this: if someone you know dates outside of their race, just let it be. You’re not the one dating them. Stay out of their business and don’t bring up the race question or opinion. Just treat it normally, because it is normal.
Any negative comment using “millennial.”
Negative connotations regarding millennials have become so popular they’ve become an internet sensation. It’s kind of obvious, but saying or posting (whether it’s directly or indirectly) negative things about millennials or younger generations can be offensive and disheartening. I think we forget that the people bashing the younger generation were the ones who raised them.
Instead, if you’re truly disappointed in the way the younger generations have turned out, try to make a difference (rather than just saying shit).
“Why don’t you get a real job?”
For those in their early to mid-twenties that aren’t following that pre-designed path, if they’re not working in a steady (traditional) career, they’re more than likely to get judged. For artists, waitresses, stay-at-home moms, and any other “non-traditional” job for this generation, it can be hard to work your day-to-day life without an unnecessary comment from someone about finding a “real” job. Some people choose not to become young professionals or businesspeople, and that’s okay.
In contrast, you can ask them about their current job or future aspirations.
“Why are you pursuing that? You know it’s a dead-end major/career/profession.”
The reason a lot of college students (myself included) hate being asked about their major is because they hate describing their major. Unless we’re pre-med or pre-law (or “pre-” anything) people want to know more about how we’re going to make a living. This is fine (albeit a little annoying), but it can cross the line when they begin judging us for our future endeavors. In particular, for those pursuing education or journalism or something art-related, many feel the need to express their negative opinions on their career choices. And it’s uncalled-for. Most of us know what our future careers hold and are prepared for them — and we don’t need you telling us about it.
Instead, you could ask about our specific aspirations within our field or about the planning that goes toward our career goals.
“This is what is best for you, because you don’t know any better yet.”
Most of us accept that we are young adults and still very naive to the world, but this doesn’t mean that we want to be belittled due to the decisions we make. This also doesn’t mean that others should be making our decisions for us. Part of being a young adult means making mistakes and learning from them, which is what we should be allowed to do.
So instead of telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, actually guide us, allowing us to make the decisions for ourselves, and offer us additional, non-judgmental guidance when we have questions.
These are the 12 things you shouldn’t be saying to young women — or any young adult, really. Though it may seem critical and long, I tried to offer solutions for each phrase. We understand that you have opinions, and you have every right to your opinion (as long as it’s not oppressing anyone), but there’s a line that many unintentionally cross when “offering” their opinion to young women. In order to become a more progressive, accepting society, I firmly believe that these are steps we must make.
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