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Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits

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"This movie has done for feminism what The Birth of a Nation did for equal rights."

In our culture, there are certain careers, goals, and traits that are considered "feminine". This naturally bleeds into fiction, where we expect a female character to have at least one of these traits or goals. If she doesn't have any of them, she may be criticized as being too masculine or because No Guy Wants an Amazon. If she has too many, she may come under fire from the Real Women Don't Wear Dresses crowd.

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Note that while this can be gender stereotyping, which is a bad thing, it can also be a way of rounding out a character. Real people, even an Action Girl or a Wrench Wench, can have interests outside kicking ass or fixing machines. A strong female character isn't any less strong if she's also a Supreme Chef.


Tropes:

  • All Girls Like Ponies
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Every woman wants children, even if she has no interest in men.
  • All Women Love Shoes
  • Beauty Is Best: A woman can want to be good at anything, as long as looking good is top of that list.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A woman can be an Action Girl, but only as long as she stays attractive.
  • Behind Every Great Man: A woman should be content to stay in the shadows and support a man's career, even if he is claiming all of her accomplishments as his own.
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  • Career Versus Man: A woman can be forced to choose between getting her man or keeping her career. It never comes up that she could conceivably have both, and she will lose the audience's sympathy if she does not choose the man.
  • Chick Flick: Women love these! The ones who claim otherwise are lying or they have something wrong with them.
  • Defiled Forever: A woman who loses her virginity before marriage, even if it wasn't consensual, is forever "dirty," and unfit for marriage.
  • Family Versus Career: A female character cannot have both a career and a family; she must choose to give one up. It's going to be family that wins if you want her to be a "good" character.
  • Fashion Model: Since it's perceived as a passive job, and the main task is to look pretty.
  • Females Are More Innocent: Men do evil because they enjoy it or because they want something that can only be obtained that way. Women are coerced into doing evil by evil men.
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  • Feminine Women Can Cook: She can't cook? Clearly this is meant to be funny, a chance to get in a Take That! at some group, or a sign of her insufficient femininity.
  • Girl-Show Ghetto: Any media geared towards a primarily-female audience is inevitably vapid, and almost always romance-oriented.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: A girl with a collection of soft, squishy teddy bears looks simultaneously childlike and nurturing.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: There's nothing more important to a woman than her physical appearance.
  • Lady of War: An Action Girl should still be ladylike about it, and use properly "elegant" weapons and fighting styles.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: Women aren't supposed to enjoy sex, initiate it, or seek it out. Sex is something men do to women, not that both partners equally share. If a "good" woman has any sex In-Universe, it's only either a) to please her husband or long-term boyfriend (and thus, at least in theory, keep him from cheating or leaving), or b) to make babies, never for her own pleasure or enjoyment. A woman who enjoys sex, has too much of it, or expresses sexuality or sexual desire will lose audience sympathy.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father/Heir Club for Men: Royal women should not expect to rule in their own right. A queen's job is to produce the sons for the man's Single Line of Descent.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: A female character's value is based entirely on whether or not she's a virgin. If she is, she's pure and virtuous and potential wife material. If she isn't, she's a dirty whore who should be disposed of accordingly.
  • Makeup Is Evil: While looking good is supposed to be high on her priority list, using makeup/plastic surgery/hair dye/colored contacts/figure-enhancing undergarments/fake nails/hair extensions/etc. is cheating; beauty must be natural and effortless.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Even if you don't want children, cosmic forces will ensure that you must conceive a baby.
  • Men Act, Women Are: Men take active roles in the story, and are defined by their achievements and character. Women are passive, and defined by passive things like how they look, or their sexual history, or relationships to men, or status as mothers, not by achievements. (Unless those "achievements" are something related, like being the World's Most Beautiful Woman, being a virgin, or somehow being Not Like Other Girls, or being the mother of The Hero.)
  • Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced: After the characters have aged up, the male characters seem to be still around and active in the story, while women have moved on, settled down, or have simply died/disappeared.
  • MRS Degree: Women only go to college to find husbands.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Every woman wants a baby as she approaches menopause, even if she never did before.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Women's morality is measured entirely and exclusively on their attitude towards sex. Nothing else matters.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Female characters in positions of power got there through their connections to more important men. If Alice is the captain, no one will fail to mention that her father is the general.
  • Not Wanting Kids Is Weird: If she's not interested in becoming a mother, that's a sign of a severe character flaw.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Girls and women use the phone for gossip, and only gossip, and waste time doing that instead of anything "productive" or "valuable." And in the modern age, they are prone to taking selfies even in inappropriate or life-threatening situations.
  • Proper Lady: The "ideal" woman as defined (usually) by a patriarchal society: nurturing, caring, soft-spoken, and effortlessly beautiful.
  • Princess Phase: When little girls dream of political power, it's only so they can wear pretty dresses and get handsome prince husbands.
  • Quitting to Get Married: If she has a job (typically something traditionally feminine such as teaching or nursing, although this isn't required), she must put in her two weeks' notice before her wedding day.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: A female character can be strong and assertive or pretty and feminine, but not both.
    • Power Hair: To that end, women in power must cut their hair short, or else be seen as weak and vapid.
  • Retail Therapy: There are no worries or concerns on a woman's mind that a trip to the mall can't solve.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: A woman's place is in the home, taking care of housework, cooking, and child-rearing, and she is much better suited for that than anything else.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Working with fabrics, weaving, sewing and knitting is an acceptable career path for a woman who wishes to work.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Femininity means being shallow, envious, and obsessed with beauty.
  • Wedding-Enhanced Fertility: If she gets married, she should get pregnant right away; if she doesn't want to, or can't, something is wrong with her.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Maintaining the peace and stability of her relationship and home is a woman's top priority, whether or not the husband agrees.
  • Win Her a Prize: Women want to be impressed by men winning a prize (or trying to) in a carnival or amusement park.
  • Women Are Delicate: Women are as fragile and dainty as a satin ribbon.


Alternative Title(s): Acceptable Feminine Goals

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