Who runs the world? Beyoncé says girls do. In some senses, women indeed have a large stake over the world. The very line, “Who run the world” is indeed the perfect place to start talking about femininity, not just at the University, but also at every corner of the globe.
Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Angela Merkel, Michelle Obama and, of course, Beyoncé Knowles are among the 100 most powerful women on Forbes’ list.
This list includes CEOs, presidents and policy-makers, actresses and more, which is certainly promising. In the grand scheme of things, however, women are still underrepresented around the world, and particularly, in American roles of leadership.
Studies have shown that females have surpassed their male counterparts in college enrollment and once enrolled, females also have higher grade point averages. And many, though not all, of the barriers of entry fortressing women out of the higher stratospheres of leadership have been broken down. This may be true, but as of 2011, the United States ranked 91st in terms of female representatives in government despite the fact that women comprise over 50 percent of the population. Moreover, women make up roughly four percent of the CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies.
Chinasa Nwokocha, a freshman business student, says, “It’s still predominantly men at the top, but that doesn’t scare me.”
Nwokocha’s confidence is promising given the lack of representation women have in many aspects of life, but maybe it should scare her given the numbers.
At the University in particular, the culture of femininity manifests itself as contingent on appearance. Similarly to their male counterparts, one’s appearance and attractiveness serve as big parts of the culture of women, except that the appearance of women is believed to be even more important. The difference between men and women, of course, is the aspect of confidence and self-worth that is normally less prominent for men.
So, think of the typical Villanova girl in your head, whatever that might mean to you in particular. Is she well-dressed, or white, or pretentious, or unsure of herself, or smiling or dynamic? She may be any and all of those things and just like men, we cannot afford to place our respective roles of femininity and masculinity in rigid boxes. But who is she?
Senior Victoria Niche says, “I definitely struggle with self-confidence. But if I were to say that to my friends, they would probably laugh in my face and there is a difference about my perception of myself and my friends’ perception of myself.”
While Niche comes off as a woman who is sure of herself, she too struggles internally, like many of the women around her. But normally, she keeps those insecurities inside.
“I think within girls that there is a sub-culture of who has the greater insecurities,” she says.
Thus, there is a fortified culture among women to self-police themselves and their peers, not just in terms of their dress, or language or decision-making, but their physical appearance. And at the University specifically, that self-policing is predicated on embodying the manifestation of the typical “Villanova girl.”
Sophomore Bridget Sweet acknowledges the pressures of conforming to that girl.
“If you go to a party and you talk to a guy, he expects something from you,” Sweet says. “And the stereotypes about Greek life are perpetuated and that culture becomes the reality because it’s what people think they should do.”
As a female, maybe the idea of Greek life or Sperrys and dressing up for class is foreign. Coming to the University and seeing that wearing sweatpants to class is not the norm for women could certainly lead to a dilemma about what and what not to wear.
“There’s also a pressure to be this perfect Catholic girl,” Sweet says, and being that perfect Catholic girl means conforming with the above dress code, putting a smile on at all times and not being the one to stir the pot or to deviate from the norm. Moreover, that pressure leads to decisions and thoughts men do not have to make regarding clothing. As men, we do not have to worry about whether a bra is showing or if these shorts show too much derriere. Nor do we feel the need to be escorted home due to the fear of being sexually assaulted.
For Nwokocha, a Nigerian-born African-American, being a non-white woman and in her case specifically, a black woman at the University leads to different pressures and expectations. She says, “You’re always judged first as a black girl and sometimes, people feel like they have to use slang with me.”
One can only assume that this rule does not just apply to black females, but non-white females in general.
“I think a lot of females here throw one another under the bus to please a guy and they don’t have any backbone,” she says. This means that many of the women here see much of their lives—intentionally or unintentionally—through the lens of pleasing their male equivalents. It means this lack of backbone further enforces their role as lesser than, not equal to men.
Women at the University have a lot going for them. They are capable, intelligent, empathetic, creative and more. Nevertheless, as men, we fail each and every day in our treatment of the opposite sex. We wonder why women in our lives are so concerned about their appearances when we as men set unrealistic expectations.
Again, if women make up more than half the population of the world and in particular, the United States, why are their social roles and their representation in roles of power so limited in scope?
At some point, we have to look in the mirror to blame ourselves and the continuous, residual consequences of a society predicated upon the pillars of patriarchal power and appeasement. The lack of self-worth, confidence, ambition, fear of judgment and self-policing by women is due to the expectations set forth and enforced by men.
Nwokocha, Niche and Sweet are strong women and I have no doubt that they will always be strong women. However, I am still wary of the world they inhabit because the subliminal attitudes toward women continue to persist and because, in reality, girls do not run the world.