As women, we face an immense amount of binary thinking pressure. We’re expected to prioritize starting a family over a career once we reach a certain age. To men, we’re either agreeable and ladylike or bossy and ‘too much’.
Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar break this down stunningly in The Madwoman in the Attic. Their version replaces the binary 1 and 0 with an angel and a monster. A sense that women are categorized by men as being either angelic and agreeable or monstrous and unruly, and that all women find themselves struggling to find their happy, authentic medium between the two.
“...the pruning and preening, the mirror madness, and concern with odours and aging, with hair which is invariably too curly or too lank, with bodies too thin or too thick - all this testifies to the efforts women have expended not just trying to be angels but trying not to become female monsters."
What this passage demonstrates is the immense pressure of women to fit into those neat little boxes. We must be one or the other. A wholesome, agreeable angel or an unpredictable, feared monster.
We put ourselves out to be the version of ourselves others want us to be. Throughout history, there’s been a strong resistance, by both our male counterparts and consequently ourselves, to avoid exploring all the shades of grey in between.