Caution: weird post, very zoomed out. If you zoom too far in, you’ll miss the point.

Lately it feels like I’m bearing a lot of the weight of the stories that have been told over the last several decades with the agenda of holding back women.

As I’ve continued in my healing work and am stripping away layers to remember who I was at my purest form, I’ve found myself revisiting some of the music I listened to and some of the movies I watched growing up. And some of it is plain fucking awful, in a purely narrative way. There are so many stories telling women that relationships have to be difficult, that being loved means sublimating your needs, that you can’t have both passion and stability, that making poor decisions for your emotional health is de rigueur, that heartbreak is just normal. Even as I write this I can see how prevalent these themes still are today, in a way that’s shocking when you actually examine it and call it out.

There’s a secret part of me, for example, that gets a little tin foil hat conspiracy theorist about Lana Del Ray. (I secretly get a little conspiracy theorist about much of the entertainment industry, but I rarely voice these musings as it feels impossible in our internet world of binary opinions to voice a line of thinking as merely an interesting perspective to consider, without staunchly aligning one’s loyalty to it.) It’s no secret that Lana started her journey into entertainment as Lizzie Grant, with a face and body that barely resembled the way she looks today, and a voice that’s not always on-key even in her mastered recordings. I often wonder if her albums Paradise and Ultraviolence were purposeful hypersigils created by men in powerful positions in the industry in the name of normalizing sugar-babying and abusive relationships, respectively, to young women everywhere. It’s a little far-fetched, perhaps – but then, is it? When you consider how many manufactured entertainment stars have given women perfect blueprints over the years for being conveniently sexualized? (I’m thinking the Britney and Christina years, specifically, and the pop stars that came out of the Mouseketeers.)

Regardless of whether it is an intentional plot to keep women’s expectations low or whether the art being made was merely a sincere reflection of the antiquated model we’ve been giving women for decades (and centuries), the stories we’ve been telling are really problematic. And their imprints need to go. I’m revisiting this shit and it’s pure insanity. It does not have to be that way; it does not have to look that painful and compromised. I think on a surface level we recognize how much bullshit there is in our formulaic story-generators, but I don’t know if we are aware of how much damage they’ve done to our ideas of what’s real. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our unhappiness, our compromise, our non-fulfillment is normal. It’s not. That’s not us in our purest form at all.

This does men no favors either, by the way. In caging the feminine, men are depriving themselves of her gifts. In keeping her unfulfilled, men are depriving themselves of her pleasures, because she can only love at her fullest potential when she’s being supported. You don’t buy a luxury car and then fail to take it in for routine maintenance or fill its tank; you can’t expect peak performance when it’s running on fumes. WE ALL SHOW UP FOR EACH OTHER BETTER WHEN WE ARE NOURISHED. If you ask me, men are actually doing this to themselves because they are terrified of receiving (at least in any meaningful manner that requires them to show up for themselves). Running the world is not always the blessing it seems to be from this side; it’s also exhausting, frustrating, and lonely. And as my (male) bestie once said to me, “Arden, you carry around a burden all your life and you get used to it. But the second you put it down, it becomes impossible to pick back up again.”

This cultural narrative is so much bigger than me it feels impossible. I feel so small in comparison to the giant imprint it’s left, it feels huge enough just releasing it from my own body let alone from the world. I’m going to start at me and hope it makes a ripple but I would really like your help in examining these stories with me and rejecting them for yourselves if they in any way involve useless pain, suffering, lack of fulfillment, starvation, compromise (the bad kind), settling, misery, or unhappiness. Things don’t have to be that way. I’ve seen them be otherwise, I’ve seem them be incredible and miraculous and fulfilling beyond wildest dreams. I’m just one small girl and the weight of redirecting this feels huge. But I’m going to start by talking about it and rejecting it for myself. I believe we can create better.