Women have come a long way since our mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s generations. From the Seneca Falls Convention (the first women’s rights convention) in 1848, to attaining the right to vote in 1920 and electing the first female VP in 2020, we’ve been fighting for literally hundreds of years, yet there is still so much to be done if we are to make things even better for our daughters.
Amidst all of that fighting to the top for something as simple as equality, there is still a recurring theme of us being told to sit back down and know our place, which, according to the patriarchal agenda, is in the kitchen making a three-course dinner complete with apple pie for dessert. In the recent split between superstar Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn, there was reportedly some strife when it came to their contrasting career success. Taylor’s mega-superstar status became a massive kettlebell hanging on to their relationship, with a source telling the Daily Mail, “It’s been hard for Joe trying to make it in Hollywood and not quite becoming leading man material while dating one of the most famous women in the world over the last six years.”
The most recent Taylor Swift breakup has shined a light on the idea that men can feel uncomfortable when a woman becomes successful. And yet, countless powerful women have spoken out about not allowing men to hold them back from anything they want to do, whether that’s singing onstage in glittery costumes à la T-Swift or writing the next award-winning book series.
When queen Beyoncé Knowles comes to the stage, people listen. And, while she and her husband Jay-Z are both incredibly successful, the former Destiny’s Child singer has achieved enough on her own that she doesn’t need anyone to tell her othewise. Speaking to Harpers Bazaar in 2011, she said, “It is so liberating to really know what I want, what truly makes me happy, what I will not tolerate. I have learned that it is no one else’s job to take care of me but me.” While Beyoncé has been out there raking in the cash, it’s possible there may be a bit of jealousy coming from her husband. Has anyone checked to see if a green-eyed monster is camped out on his shoulder?
While most celebrity gossip should be taken with a giant grain of salt and perhaps a little garlic powder, it was rumored back in 2016 that Jay-Z was jealous of his wife’s record label Parkwood Entertainment, which would stand to rival his label, Roc Nation. Though neither Jay-Z nor Beyonce commented on the alleged rumors, Beyonce ultimately ended up putting the project on hold to raise their family and before moving ahead with it later.
A study published in the APA Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded that men were more likely to feel subconsciously bad about themselves if their wife was succeeding at something, even if it wasn’t in direct competition with them. What woman isn’t rolling her eyes thinking she didn’t need a study to tell her that?
A Rihanna song like “Umbrella” or “We Found Love” can easily bring back nostalgia from middle school dances or your first kiss, but the singer has turned her musical success into a massive empire. Her lingerie brand Savage x Fenty even has a yearly televised show that has replaced the problematic Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show of the past with women of all sizes and ethnicities. The show is, according to Rihanna, changing the idea of what society sees as “sexy” (via YouTube).
For any man who might be intimidated by her success, she made it a point to declare she’s absolutely not here for it, telling Harpers Bazaar in 2011, “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.”
Back in 2011, long before started dating current beau A$AP Rocky, Rihanna claimed during an interview with the podcast On Air with Ryan Seacrest that she believed men were intimidated by her success.
Gloria Steinem, a celebrated feminist and one of the most prolific writers in existence has so many empowering quotes to her name, it would be impossible to list them all out here. One memorable thing she said, however, fully encapsulates much of her written work and only serves to give the perfect earmark in the current climate of where women are currently standing. In one 1984 commencement speech, she boldly declared, “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”
The question on balancing jobs and home is one women have been forced to ask since they entered the workforce, despite being expected to continue with the majority of household chores and childrearing. These days, especially post-pandemic, many women wonder how they can possibly do so much. Burnout threatens to force them into tough decisions, even if there is a supportive partner at home.
The real question is, can we have it all? In the Season 1 trailer of And Just Like That, Miranda’s friend states, “So, you can’t have it all,” and her entirely relatable response was, “No, you can, it’s just really hard.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian-American author with several published books, short stories, and awards to her name has no time for men who feel insecure about her success. One of her most famous quotes to date is when she frankly declared, “Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.” It’s a sentiment many women would agree with but are there really so many men threatened by successful women or is it somewhat of an urban myth, like Big Foot or Area 51?
In 2017 Cosmopolitan interviewed adult men on whether or not they were intimidated by ambitious women. A man named Jesse B. claimed he had dreams of settling down with a smart, intelligent woman but when he is faced with her, his natural inclination was to walk away. He told the outlet, “It’s intimidating when a woman is beautiful and successful and has her s**t together. I’m too nervous to pursue her. What I want in my head and what I go for are not usually aligned.” And just like that, a collective female sigh was heard round the world.
In 1996, Cher was interviewed by Dateline NBC’s Jane Pauley, and uttered the now-famous words: “My mum said to me, ‘You know, sweetheart one day you should settle down and marry a rich man’. I said, ‘Mum, I am a rich man.'” Just imagine telling Cher she should settle down and let a man do all the work while she stayed home and baked banana bread. Would we have “If I Could Turn Back Time” or “Believe?”
These days, that sentiment is closely related to the new “Tradwife Movement” that has absolutely exploded on social media. The hashtag on TikTok is full of women in what appears to be a 1950s aesthetic who stay home and take care of the house while their husband goes to work, though under the modern spin of social media.
One side of the debate claims it’s a feminist point to say they are staying home out of choice rather than being forced to as women were in the 1950s. While on the other side, there are several videos in which “tradwives” claim they are submissive to their husbands, and it comes across as less powerful and more so giving their power away voluntarily. When it comes to a powerhouse like Cher, however, we don’t think she’ll be settling for the tradwife life anytime soon.
Serena Williams is best known as the greatest athlete in the world, but she is also a mother to daughter, Olympia, and wife to successful businessman Alexis Ohanian, who she married at 36. In an interview with Allure in 2019, the tennis star spoke about her previous challenges of finding someone who wouldn’t hold her back or make her feel like she had to shrink a part of herself.
In the same interview, she recounted an important pieces of advice she received about choosing a partner that came from television host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. “”Oprah said, ‘Never let anyone dim your light.’ That really stuck with me,” she shared to the outlet. Though the quote arguably belongs to the Winfrey, Williams has arguably been living by that quote for years. Following her retirement from tennis, she’s focused on her other business endeavors, such as her clothing line and her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures.
While many have said Miley Cyrus’ song “Flowers” comes off as a big middle finger to her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, listening to it sounds more like a renaissance of some sort. It feels as if she has shed her old relationship, one that very much held her back, and has finally come into her own and embraced who she really is.
During episode #1531 of the Joe Rogan Experience, Miley reflected on her relationships, telling him, “I don’t need a man or a woman that’s going to take care of me. I can take care of me ’cause I’ve got money, I’ve got all the things that I need to take care of myself.” This independence is what allowed Miley to walk away from a relationship that was no longer serving her.
In a viral video from the Avengers: Endgame world premiere Miley and Liam were seen in an incredibly uncomfortable red carpet appearance. Miley pretended to lick her husband in a playful way, to which he allegedly responded, “Can you behave for once?” Basically, he was telling his wife to not be herself, which may have contributed to their 2019 divorce. A source told People, “For them to be happy, she had to change as a person too much. She knows not being with Liam will make her happier in the long run.”
Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to receive an Oscar for Best Director which she won back in 2009 for “The Hurt Locker”. She later directed another military-style movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”, which follows the American search for Osama bin Laden. Let’s not think of her as simply James Cameron’s ex-wife (the director of Titanic and Avatar) but a successful movie maker in her own right.
As for her opinion on working in the male-dominated industry of film-making, Bigelow has been quoted, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”
According to the Celluloid Ceiling report, women represented just 24% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers in the top 250 highest-grossing films in 2022. So, despite Katheryn’s 2009 Oscar win, there is still a huge amount of work to be done if women are to be represented more in the film industry. Jeremy Renner, who starred in “The Hurt Locker,” said it best in an interview, exclaiming, “What does a set of ovaries have to do with directing a film? She sees through her eyes, not her mammaries”.
Taylor Swift is one of the most famous singers of our generation and will likely go down in history with the same iconic status as The Beatles or Madonna. But, even with so much success, she is still subject to misogyny which is rife in the music industry.
In 2015, she was named No. 1 on Maxim’s Hot 100 and used the interview as an opportunity to shed light on feminist issues. As if we didn’t love Taylor enough already? At the end of the interview, she was asked what changed in contrast to her previously tight-lipped response on feminism which she attributed to simply being a kid and not being “threatening.” In the most T-Swift way possible, she stated, “A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining.”
In her acceptance speech for Billboard’s Award for Woman of the Decade in 2020, Swift spoke about her experience being discredited as a songwriter and musician, pointing out how critics frequently attributed her wins to her male producers. “I saw that people love to explain away a woman’s success in the music industry, and I saw something in me change due to this realization.” She of course, continued with one of the most motivational set of words for any woman in a male-dominated field” […] I became a mirror for my detractors. Whatever they decided I couldn’t do is exactly what I did.” With 10 chart-topping albums, a sold out tour, and full-ownership of her back catalogue in progress, it looks like she did just that.
Mia Hamm is an absolute icon in the professional soccer world, having won two Olympic gold medals and two FIFA Women’s World Cup Championships. Yet, she once famously revealed, “My coach said I run like a girl. And I said if he ran a little faster he could too.”
Fortunately, Mia is as much brains as she is athleticism and had no problem coming up with a snappy reply. And with two Olympic gold medals and World Cup wins, she ended up proving she wasn’t going to let any man stand in her way of achieving incredible things. But, the fact that she was told she “runs like a girl” is something many girls have heard in childhood and something men have heard as well, albeit not in celebration of their skills.
In 2014, an Always campaign sought to counter the seemingly rude sentiment by putting out a commercial that asked several people to do different tasks “like a girl” including running, throwing, and fighting. Each person did the tasks in a stereotypical way that showed no athletic prowess. Later, younger girls were brought in and asked the same question, yet they had vastly different responses, all of which showed them trying their hardest at the given tasks. In the end, it was obvious to the older group how much “run like a girl” had been taught to them as if it was an insult.