Not That I'm Bitter
6:21 PM EDT, July 11, 2013
A good girl is defined as one who almost always says "no." A good woman is defined as one who almost always says "yes."
Allow me to clarify: The tasks each group are being asked to perform are rarely the same.
To be a good girl one must say "no" when boys with pickup trucks ask to go for rides in the country. A good girl says "no" if asked, whether it's by the brother of her best friend, her math teacher or the circus, to run away. One must also say "no" when a decidedly flirtatious and overly eager adult offers to pay for one's education if one promises to accompany said adult to Italy once the education has been duly completed; besides, that only happens in Edwardian novels.
Try this: imagine a Taylor Swift being " a good girl" and I bet you'll conjure up an image of her shaking her pretty defiant head from side to side. Now imagine Reba McEntire (bless her heart) being "a good woman" and you'll imagine her nodding her head in agreement.
Just as a good girl is encouraged to say "no" automatically, having been instructed that sex is filthy and degrading and must be saved for her true love, a good woman says "yes" to do everything before she knows it because she's been encouraged to believe that only by being agreeable and complacent will she be valued and liked.
We agree to sell raffle tickets before the information hits the actual thinking lobes of our brains. Why else would anyone agree to walk around with a four-pound roll of colored paper hitting people up for small sums of money at an otherwise (possibly) fun event?
I sold raffle tickets once. With God as my witness, I will never do it again. Other mistakes I am bound to repeat, but not this one. Because I was too embarrassed to keep going from table to table like an inspector from the USDA, I spent more than 250 bucks. I still didn't win the cellophane-clad basket filled with what looked like cheese graters, balsamic vinegar, nutcrackers and dice (hey, maybe it was nougat, but to me they looked as if they should be rolled on a green felt table).
Good women will agree to serve dinner for 26 at the holiday — including four gluten-free, three vegan, two lactose-intolerant and a person on a diet who brings microwavable protein curds — simply to get pleading people to stop asking us for favors in that horrible wheedling voice.
There's a voice both women and men will use when asking favors of women that would never be used when asking a favor of a man.
If you were asking, say, Don Draper for a lift to the airport, would you use a wheedling voice? No, you wouldn't. In fact, you'd use your voice to call a cab because you would never ask Don Draper to take you to the airport because you know he's busy. But you'd ask Peggy, wouldn't you, even though she's as smart as Don? And you'd plead your case, telling her — wheedling slightly in a Pete Campbell sort of way even although you'd despise yourself for it — that only she could be trusted to be there on time because she'd know how scared you were of flying?
I've done that. Not to Peggy or even Elizabeth Moss, but to their counterparts in my life. Sure, I've returned the favor, driving them to places that scared them or back from places they hated to leave.
But I'd also pick Don up, you see, even though he'd never be there for me.
And that's what makes good women feel, all too often, like fools. Maybe girls don't need to learn to say "yes" more often — just watch one episode of "Teen Mom" — but many women need to relearn to say "no."
Just as good girls get knocked up because bad girls know better, good women are exploited, taken for granted, overrun by the needs of others and treated as if they matter only when they're putting themselves aside.
Learning to say "yes" only when you mean it is good advice at any age.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website at http://www.ginabarreca.com.
Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant