icons and illustrated graphics of rules women can break to empower them

30 rules and narratives every woman can break daily to empower herself and others

March 14, 2022

Most of these rules and narratives are subtle and unspoken, things we’ve grown up to accept without even realizing it. Like censoring ourselves so we don’t come off as bitchy, suppressing our emotions so that we don’t make others uncomfortable, or ignoring our own wants and needs because we are worried they makes us selfish. But as you start questioning these sometimes small, everyday things (why do I think that, where does that feeling come from, what do I really want, etc.) you start noticing all of these rules and narratives that influence us, dictating our lives without us ever knowing it. We can only take back out autonomy, empowering ourselves and the other women and girls around us, by identifying and breaking these shitty rules/narratives.

Below is a list of 30 that I was able to think of, but if you have others in mind leave a comment so I can add it in for the other ladies reading this articles too!

1. Don’t be too loud

I don’t know about you, but when someone isn’t listening to me when I’m talking to them it only makes sense to get louder. Honey, laugh, talk, yell, scream, whatever, as loud as you damn well please. Unless you’re on an airplane or bus, that’s just not cool.


2. Apologize, apologize, apologize (even for things you haven’t done wrong)

You don’t need to take responsibility for all the stuff in life that isn’t perfect let alone apologize for it. There’s no reason to be adding that extra weight to yourself. Save the apologies for when you do actually ef things up, it’ll matter more than anyway.


3. Other women are your competition

What are we even competing for?! What’s the point of judging each other, putting other women down we don’t even know, any of it?


4. Women shouldn’t be too opinionated or speak their minds too freely or they’ll come off as bitchy and problematic

[Inset hard eye-role here] Your opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s and if you want to share them than do it. To be honest, I feel like “bitchy” is more of a compliment these days anyway.


5. Women aren’t supposed to be really strong or muscular, it’s so unattractive

I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to open my own jars and carry my own heavy shit. Strength, whether it’s physical or mental, is beautiful.


6. Don’t rock the boat

It’s easy for us to get comfortable in situations and environments we don’t necessarily care for and to just deal with it because we don’t want to be the person who “causes trouble”, especially for others, or deal with the repercussions of speaking/acting out against them. But things only get better if we make them better, and sometimes that means rocking (or straight up flipping) the damn boat. Hell, you can even find a new boat if you want!


7. Women are too “emotional” and “sensitive” to be in leadership positions

No. Just no.


8. Girls and women should only like “girly” and “feminine” things

Just like clothing, interests don’t have a gender and just because someone slaps some pink packaging on it doesn’t make it for girls/women.


9. Men make the money and women keep the home running smoothly

This one seems like it would be outdated right? But what happened when the pandemic hit and kids couldn’t be in school and everyone was home more often? It was mostly women who left their jobs to take care of the home or took on the extra responsibilities around the house: in September of 2020, “865,000 women left the U.S. workforce — four times more than men” according to NPR. All I’m saying is that it is 100% reasonable for you to ask your partner to take on more of the household responsibilities so that you can focus on your own career (and even make more money than them).


10. Women dress in “women’s clothing” and men dress in “men’s clothing”

Clothes are just fabric (and other materials) that we use to cover our bodies and express ourselves, why do they have to have a gender? They don’t wear whatever the hell you want!


11. You won’t be fully happy in life without a partner and kids

This is one of those narratives that, even when we think we’ve unsubscribed to them, they can still creep back up on us because it’s a concept so deeply engrained in our culture. At the end of the day you’ve got to do what makes you happy, and whether or not that involves a partner and kiddos is up to you.


12. Don’t talk about things that make people “uncomfortable” like menstruating, mental health, etc.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of the “taboo” things we’re not supposed to talk about are actually pretty important and when we are able to share the struggles we have with them we are actually more connected than we realized?


13. Dress for your body “type” and size

Wear what makes you feel confident. Period. End of story.


14. Women should remove all body hair that isn’t on the top of their heads:

It’s just hair. Whether or not you choose to remove it should only really effect you.


15. Don’t be too “emotional” or “sensitive”, it makes others uncomfortable

Ohhh this is my biggest pet-peeve of literally all time! There is nothing wrong with being emotional and sensitive, these are not bad words. It means that you’re empathetic, compassionate, expressive, and/or experience a wide array of emotions. You are not responsible for other people’s lack of emotional intelligence or comfort. You do you, girl.

16. You must work yourself into the ground to earn your happiness

We don’t need to let anyone else dictate whether you get to be happy. And why is happiness something we need to “earn” in the first place?


17. Being ambitious or assertive makes you come off as kind of bitchy

Take it as a compliment. it’s badass for women to go after the things they want.


18. Don’t be “too much”

“If I’m too much, go find less”. “Too much” is subjective anyway.


19. Women should dress their age

Again, clothing is just fabric. And age is just a number. Wear what you’re comfortable in and lets you to express yourself, whatever that looks like.


20. Women can’t be 100% independent

With things like the wage gap and other gender-based inequalities this one can seem more reality than not at times, but I am seeing more and more examples of women living fully independent lives without the “help” of a partner. Naturally, like with all things, everyone’s situation is different, but you don’t need to listen to anyone else who tried to tell you what you can and cannot do.


21. Don’t say “no”

No one is going around telling women they can’t say no, but a lot of us, myself included, seem to have a hard time doing it anyway. I think this one falls under the category of putting yourself first.


22. If you quite you’re a failure

Well, some things aren’t worth finishing. Walking away from things that aren’t serving you doesn’t make you a failure, that’s self-care.


23. Women should be submissive

Ha! No.


24. “Good” women are grateful for what they have

I think that gratitude and looking for the positive are important, but sometimes shit just sucks and it’s okay if gratitude isn’t at the top of your list—and that doesn’t make you good or bad—it makes you human. Every feeling you have is valid, not just the positive one’s like gratitude.


25. Women who don’t put their partners/children/others first are selfish

You can’t help or care for others if you don’t take care of yourself first. That’s not being selfish, that’s taking care of your mental and physical health.


26. Women are responsible for the reactions people have to them (example: “Her skirt was too short, she was asking for it”)

The only person you are responsible for is yourself. How others react to the way you look, sound, think, and feel is on them, not you. It’s not your fault.


27. Don’t eat “bad” foods or you’ll get fat

One of my favorite dietitians on social media, @thenutritiontea, recently made a great point about this. She says that there are no “bad” foods. There are foods that are more nutrition dense, there are foods that are a great source of energy and fuel for our bodies, there are foods that make us happy, and there are foods that have a cultural/familial/emotional significance. None of it is bad and none of it is going to “make use fat”.


28. You need to have your shit together by a specific age

Let’s be real, no one has their shit together all the time and there is no age limit to figuring your life out. Things change, people grow, shit happens. Even if you have it all together at one point in your life, that could change a split second. You don’t need to put that added pressure on yourself to reach unattainable expectations.


29. Asking for what you want makes you greedy

First of all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do and be more. Second, you’re not going to get what you want unless you ask for it. You want your partner to take more responsibility around the house, ya gotta ask for it. You want to be promoted to a higher position at work, ya gotta let your boss know. No one can read your mind, so you’ve got to speak it.


30. Be polite, even when someone is making you uncomfortable

You are not responsible for other’s comfort, ESPEICALLY when they’re obviously not concerned about yours. I’ll be honest, this is one I struggle with because it is so ingrained in me (and a lot of women) that other’s happiness comes first. But we don’t need to put up with this nonsense! We can tell those people that they’re making us uncomfortable, straight up turn around and walk away, or even tell them to “fuck off”.

You don’t need to let these nonsense rules and narratives limit and distract you from what you want and are capable of. When it comes down to it, everything listed above can be broken by one simple act: do what you want and what is right for you.

What are some of the rules and narratives you’re breaking?