Recently I have watched two documentaries—one about Hillary Clinton entitled Hillary and one about Taylor Swift entitled Miss Americana. Both of them deeply resonated with me. Hillary Clinton is from my generation but Taylor Swift is barely 30.
What do these stories of two very different women have in common? They both deal with the treatment, expectations, and exploitation of females—especially those that are strong, independent and attempt to be in control of their own space on this planet. The singular phrase that echoes through both narratives: “Be a good girl”.
Hillary talks about being raised in a conservative home where hard work and achievements were rewarded. Once she entered law school and, subsequently, the working world she began to experience all the typical male resistance to a female entering what they perceived as their territory. The comments, manipulations, and insults went from the sublime to the ridiculous over the years. As a First Lady, she was censured for her work as head of a Task Force to reform healthcare. She was supposed to keep quiet and take the back seat! At a campaign rally in 2008, a man held up a sign that said, “Iron my shirt”. Yes, in 2008!
Taylor Swift has been a writer, singer, and musician from a very young age. When she entered the limelight in her teenage years she was told that people expected her to be a ‘good girl’—smile, wave and keep quiet. She practiced this for many years while the public constantly felt entitled to criticize her looks, her wardrobe, and her personal life. In recent years she has decided to take back her power, state her views, and refuse to be bullied. The backlash has been horrendous and hateful. Why?
So there we have the paradox—Hilary trying to ignore Donald Trump as he stalked her onstage at a debate and being condemned for it. Taylor Swift coming forward to speak about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights and being condemned for that. Seems like women can’t win either way. Maybe in 2020 the phrase “Be a good girl” has the same meaning as it did in the 1950s—“Stay at home and do the dishes”.
The stories of these two women (and the millions of similar stories of women around the world) resonate with me because growing up, I was always told to “Be a good girl” and keep quiet. I tried for many years to follow that road but my intelligence and sense of righteousness finally got the best of me. I have paid the price for this show of strength over and over again. Nine Years in Bangkok: Lessons Learned tells the tale of my challenges as a woman in a man’s world. I had assumed that things were changing in 2020 but it appears as though we still have a long way to go. Kudos to all the brave women that continue to fight this battle and refuse to “Be a good girl”.