My client René gave me a terrific book recommendation: Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why by Sady Doyle. It’s a must-read for every human being. Especially women.
In this book, Sady explains why successful, powerful women are simultaneously idolized—and hated. From the Salem witch trials to modern-day online bullying, there’s something about a confident, outspoken woman that sends society into hysterics.
Since reading this book, I’ve been thinking a lot about the painful double standards that women have to deal with. For example, if a successful woman makes one mistake—even a relatively tiny mistake—she’s mocked, shamed, and ripped apart by the media. Whereas if a man makes a mistake, it’s quickly forgotten. “Oh, no big deal…”
Just one example:
When Ariana Grande went into a donut shop and licked a donut that she hadn’t paid for, the Internet went into pandemonium. The media talked about it for weeks on end. People questioned Ariana’s sanity. Ariana had to issue numerous public apologies. She was scheduled to perform at the White House but after #DonutGate they told her not to come. She suffered HUGE consequences because of a comparatively minor infraction. Was it a weird thing to do? Uh, sure. But it was… a donut.
Meanwhile, when Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that he gropes and kisses women without their permission because when you’re a celebrity “you can do anything you want,” what happened? Sure, the media went berserk for a few days, but ultimately, the American public shrugged its shoulders and decided, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Just locker room talk. Boys will be boys.” Donald got elected President, the highest honor in the nation. Now he lives inside the White House. You know. The same place Ariana was banned from.
This is just one example of this double standard. There are millions more.
Throughout history, women have been held to an entirely different set of standards as men. Women are expected to be docile, submissive, and nurturing. Or, if a woman dares to rise above her station—if she dares to launch a business, earn millions, or command public attention—then she must be absolutely angelic, perfect, flawless, completely beyond reproach. If she makes even one mistake, of any size, the angry villagers with pitchforks come storming into the streets. “Witch!” “Slut!” “Liar!” “Crook!” “Lock her up!”
Meanwhile, men are not held to the same set of standards. Not even close. Men can do basically anything they want—cheat on their taxes, refuse to pay their employees, sexually assault women—and get elected President.
This double standard creates a huge amount of anxiety for women—because we feel terrified of making any kind of mistake, even something as small as a typo in a blog post. We’re terrified of the villagers with their pitchforks, because we’ve seen other women being attacked in that way. We don’t want that same fate. So we censor ourselves, we hide, we shrink down our dreams, and we try to make ourselves un-bothersome and invisible. We “play small” because we don’t want to be burned at the stake.
If you’re a woman, and if you run a business, write, or make art, and if you feel terrified to put yourself “out there,” and if you wonder, “Why am I so scared?” well… you’re scared because creative, outspoken, powerful women have been demonized and hunted down for centuries. That’s why.
But that doesn’t mean you have to live in a state of fear. You can stand in defiance. You can decide, “I am strong enough to withstand criticism and mockery. I’m going to pursue my dreams no matter what people think or say.” You can be that strong. You ARE that strong.
To quote Tish Thawer:
We are the granddaughters of the witches they weren’t able to burn.
P.S. If you’re living in that state of fear, especially when it comes to your writing and sharing it with the world, I have a new course that might be exactly what you need. Dig Deep is a writing class designed to help you build more confidence, release perfectionism, and stop nit-picking everything you create. You can read more about it and join us here.