What Exactly Does It Mean To Be A “Good Girl”?

December 17, 2015  |  

As 2015 nears an end, “Hotline Bling,” one of the year’s most popular songs, continues to fill airwaves, and remnants of Ayesha Curry’s remarks regarding her preferred choice of clothing, as well as The Game’s statements on finding a “Queen” with a real career (not Instagram modeling), are still fresh in my mind.  So is the following question that they unknowingly posed: What does it mean to be a “good girl”?

It’s certainly not a new question or concept, for that matter, this whole “good girl” thing.  And it goes far beyond the beliefs of anxious children who want to convince Santa and their parents alike that they’re deserving of the Christmas gifts their little hearts desire.  Being a “good girl,” as we’ve come to understand over the years, means staying in your narrow, preconceived, separate but not equal lane.  Better yet, it means stuffing yourself into a one-size-fits-all box designed especially for your strict adherence to societal norms regarding femininity and womanhood.

If you ask Drake or The Game, being a “good girl” means staying at home and waiting on your man’s good lovin’ while he’s out doing whatever manly things newly buff, bearded, dancing-challenged men do.  It means not hanging with girls he’s never seen before, not traveling to foreign lands, not taking duck-lip selfies, or worse yet, not drinking champagne while on the damn dance floor.  Basically, it means being a Quaker-hermit-robot hybrid and refraining from any and all forms of fun because clearly, fun was never you.  What happened to your boring ass?

If you ask Ayesha Curry, or better yet, the people who twisted her statements to “keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters,” being a good girl means dressing a certain way that doesn’t show off or call attention to your curvy, thin or fat, male-gazed body.  Because if you do, you know, then you’re a ho.  If you’re a woman, and you’re less clothed than other women, you willingly open the floodgates of judgment.  Cue the “asked for it” mentality.  If a man catcalls you, harasses you, sexually assaults you, then maybe your clothing or lack thereof had something to do with it.  I have no qualms with what Curry said, and I don’t think she was putting women down who dress in ways she’d rather not. But the attacks aimed at women (by men and women alike) who dress in manners deemed inappropriate, unladylike, etc., show just how far the “good girl” rabbit hole goes.

Now, if we’re talking about Serena Williams, being a “good girl” means not displaying “unsportsmanlike” glee after defeating – excuse me, slaying – an opponent.  It means being less muscular and toned.  It means striking a less “provocative” pose on the cover of Sports Illustrated when the magazine names you Sportsperson of the Year.

If we’re talking Amber Rose, being a “good girl” means not penning a book called How To Be A Bad Bitch and then having the gall to demand respect or host a SlutWalk.  If you’re Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Sam’s Club, it means not calling out the overwhelming whiteness of executive-level management.  Victims of serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw know all too well what this damaging “good girl” rhetoric means.  It’s part of the mask Holtzclaw hid behind, along with his shiny badge and privilege. A mask that enabled him to see the Black women he targeted as less than, tossed aside, unworthy, inhuman.  That “good girl” image that some felt they lacked, along with a host of other systemic issues, is the basis upon which Hotlzclaw’s lawyers attempted to disparage the character of his victims.  But thankfully, he was convicted and found guilty of 18 out of the 36 charges he faced, and will rot in prison as he deserves to.

All of this “good girl” nonsense boils down to this: Trying to make good girls out of grown women is limiting, demeaning and sexist.  As women, we define ourselves for no one other than ourselves.  We don’t need anyone’s permission to look, dress, feel or act a certain way.  As women, we can and should break any chains that try to bind us or attempt to degrade us for being ourselves or challenging the status quo.  Just like there is no one way to be Black, there is no one way to be a woman.  Good girl be damned.

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