It all started with Steve Harvey’s best-selling non-fiction book released in 2009 entitled “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment.” Three years later, a feature film based on the book, titled Think Like A Man, was released by Sony Pictures. It is unsurprising that any reference to having to ‘act like a lady’ has since been removed. All you need to do now is – think like a man. Stripped to its essence, this new thinking suggests that a woman needs to get into the mind of a man with whom she is romantically associated in order to pre-empt his thoughts and conduct herself in such a way as not to antagonise him too much. This is the only way to keep him, the thinking continues.
What’s wrong with thinking like a lady? Can a lady not think? Why act like a lady if you have to act like a man? Why not act like a man if you’re going to think like one? Why should being a lady constitute an act?
How is it that such a concept is even mildly acceptable in the 21st century? Whatever happened to a woman being allowed to be the person she wants to be, to express herself as she feels appropriate and to be loved for who she truly is? Why must she fit into a mould that’s cast by men in order to gain acceptance?
At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, Sheryl Sandberg, one of the most powerful women in business and the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke of an “ambition gap” in how girls are being raised in contrast to boys. ForbesWoman recently wrote a piece based on Sandberg’s ideas and highlighted the main causes of the ambition gap between men and women as being, inter alia, that boys are taught from an early age to be strong and smart while little girls are taught to be pretty princesses. The dainty little princess grows up and is now confronted with the view that she needs to step outside herself and start thinking like a man. Why? Because if she doesn’t, men won’t be interested in her.
Plus ca change, yes?
This is compounded by shocking statistics on the way society is constantly programmed to conform to the idea have to work their existence around the idea of male superiority:
Only 16% of protagonists in film are female. Only 7% of film directors and 10% of writers are female. Between 1937 and 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated movies. The female characters in G rated movies are just as likely to wear revealing clothing as in R rated movies. Gloria Steinem opines that more than 70% of women on TV are in their 20s and 30s. She observes that a male dominant system values women as child bearers so it limits their value to the time that they are sexually and reproductively active and they become much less valuable after that. Geena Davis observes that all of Hollywood is run on one assumption: that women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women; it is a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one half of our population is just not interested in the other half.