How Society's Expectations of Females Shape Girls' Lives

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Michelle Plante
10/10/12
How Society’s Expectations of Females Shape Girls’ Lives
Society’s high expectations of females guide their everyday actions and decision making whether consciously or subconsciously. In Stephen Hinshaw’s essay “Impossible Expectations” he discusses what he calls the “Triple Bind” where girls are supposed to be good at both typical girl and guy things as well as conform to a specific set of standards created by society. These contradictory expectations shape girls’ lives and drive their decision making from what type of career they will pursue to how they dress. Hinshaw also explained that girls are supposed to fit a cookie cutter image portrayed by the media yet encouraged to break the mold at the same time, hence the title of his essay. Although the expectations are confusing, girls have a natural aim to please and want to be accepted by society. These learned expectations are passed on from one generation to the next. “Virgins” by Danielle Evans and “The Story of My Body” by Judith Ortiz Cofer provide great examples of female expectations and how they shape girls’ lives. In both of the stories, the main characters are very concerned with their overall physical appearance and male approval. In “Virgins”, the main character plays the traditional female role according to Hinshaw’s descriptions. In “The Story of My Body”, the main character plays both the traditional female and male role expected from today’s society. The details of the stories and how they support Hinshaw’s essay are explained below. Girls have always been expected to play the stereotypical female role to be nice, look pretty, and help others before themselves. So much time and money is spent on beauty products because it is a top priority for girls to look good. In “The Story of My Body”, the entire story is about the narrator’s appearance. It is even broken down into color, size and skin for topics of discussion. The narrator explained that she learned from her mother “…how to move, smile, and talk like an attractive woman” (Cofer 81). At a young age, her mother taught her the importance of being beautiful, wearing nice girly clothes, and having an overall acceptable appearance. This shaped her self-image in her adolescent life and affected her confidence since she already had an idea of what was expected of her according to her mother. Some examples of the “traditional girl stuff” Hinshaw talked about in his essay are displayed in “Virgins” in regards to how girls are supposed to be nice, pretty, and empathetic. Jasmine and Erica were both concerned with their looks and were very aware of how they were perceived physically by men. The girls dressed more provocatively when they were aiming for male attention and went out to an adult club to seek it. They also tended to others desires before their own. Jasmine aimed to please men by giving herself up to them sexually, while Erica aimed to please her best friends by keeping the peace between them: “if they fought I’d have to fix it”, (Evans 704). Erica and Jasmine played classic female roles through their appearances, actions, and emotions. Before they went out to the club in the city, the girls came up with fake stories of who they were going to pretend to be. Erica said she was going to school for teaching and that her boyfriend who was studying to be a doctor had passed away: “He’s in college too, and he’s gonna be a doctor, but he also writes me love poems” (Evans 708). Erica chose a traditional female role for herself and a classic male role for her “man”. Jasmine said she was going to school to study fashion and was dating a ball player who was jealous of her success. The role she chose for herself is also typical of women because women are expected to be good with fashion and personal appearance. The role she chose for her boyfriend as an athlete is also a classic example of a male occupation. Hinshaw explained, “The essence of these girl skills is maintaining...
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