The ‘good girl’ is an archetype that keeps a woman small; in her place.
This happens through stories.
Stories that begin early. As fairytales of helpless females waiting for a man to sweep them off their feet and carry them away to their dream life.
No female autonomy. No question of the woman’s wishes. If a man comes along, surely she’d be thrilled. Consent is assumed. Her job is to wait. And be good. And to smile and be pleasant.
The messages sound like this; Don’t make a fuss. Don’t break the rules. If you want to get your own way, do it with subtlety. Do it with a happy face. Don’t openly ask for what you want. Hint at it. Hope for it. Whatever you do, don’t get angry. Always present a congenial and welcoming demeanour. Comply. Comply. Comply.
At the broadest level, Good Girl stories are universal.
The way the stories show up and play out in the lives of each individual woman though, is dependant on the intersection of so many aspects of her identity; her race, culture, sexuality, physical ability, and economic class all influence the telling and receiving of these messages.
Here’s how my Good Girl story played out as a white, middle class Australian;
I was expected to work hard at school, get into university and graduate with the best marks I could get.
I was encouraged to pursue a traditional career, a large corporation being seen as most desirable (the corporation being the ultimate patriarchal figure in a capitalist system. The government being the ultimate patriarchal figure in a socialist or communist system).
I learned that if I complied with the rules of the corporation/patriarch, I’d be taken care of financially.
I knew my place; in the mix but not at the top of the corporation. (Obviously; that’s for the men. Duh!)
I learned the way I was expected to behave as a ‘good employee’. Confident but not too loud or forceful. Contributing but not dominant.
Always I knew that the corporate environments I worked in weren’t places I could legitimately call ‘my space’.
They were spaces I was being allowed into.
Permission had been granted but permission could be removed at any moment.
The subtle and overt message was clear; You’ll belong while I say you belong. I make the rules here. You comply.
So says the male to the female. So says the white to the coloured. So says the heterosexual to the LGBT person. So says the ably bodied to the person with a disability. So says the cisgendered to the transgendered. So says the economically affluent to the economically disadvantaged.
Every woman has the Good Girl archetype operating within her in some way. (Think of it like a virus that was installed when you were born. We’re all running the virus on some level.)
When we’re young, it looks more traditional – like being a good school student and playing nicely with your friends.
As we step into adulthood, it looks more like being a good employee – doing a good job, working hard, coming up with great ideas that help the company to thrive, being a team player.
As a mother, it looks like meeting the demands of your children – running them to playdates and after school activities, feeding them healthy food, giving them loads of quality time, reading to them before bed.
As we age, it looks like doing your duty – taking care of your ageing parents and being a good grandmother, playing with or caring for your grandchildren so your children can pursue their careers.
She must be seen and the architecture of her form must be removed, piece by piece.
We dive more deeply into the good girl in the Visibility Challenge which is happening again in early April 2019. Register to join us here.