Recently I read an article in a magazine applauding the “awkward girl” for her recent success. Citing women like Lena Dunham and Tina Fey, it discussed how awkward girls are rising to the top despite being “awkward”, which apparently is now being considered a disability. Here’s my thing, working by this standard I am awkward. I blush whenever my name is called unexpectedly in class and only with the assistance of some liquid courage do I know how to speak to members of the male species. However, if you were ever to ask me to choose adjectives to describe myself, awkward would be very far down that list and I certainly wouldn’t consider it a flaw or a characteristic I need to champion.
Before they are awkward, women such as these two, are intelligent, beautiful, hilarious and talented; they are multi-dimensional women with diverse interests who, like every person on this planet, are real human beings. The situations Lena Dunham’s character in Girls finds herself in are uncomfortable and awkward, no doubt, but not a single one is something you wouldn’t find in any one of my friend’s diaries. The failure to know exactly what to say or do in uncomfortable situations, aka awkwardness, is not a disease it’s a result of being alive, so why is it that this quality is all we acknowledge about such extraordinary women?
Awkward may be trending right now but it hasn’t lost its negative connotation and I can’t think of a single teenage girl who grows up wanting to be minimized to such a label. Life isn’t a romantic comedy in which every female character is neatly sorted into a category. The shy girl who wears glasses and doesn’t speak but somehow gets the guy in the end is written to represent the awkward girl and that is not who these women are standing up for. What they’re displaying are the women who, in just an hour, experience an array of thoughts and emotions. Women who have a different favorite song on any given day and may get the guy, but when they do he’s almost definitely no prince charming. This girl is all around me, and if she is awkward, then so is every single woman that I know.
I see articles like this about these inspiring women owning their “awkwardness” and part of me is pleased that they are being admired, but a much, much larger part of me feels as though this culture, so focused on a particular type of beauty and how to appeal to men, has no other way to categorize women who want and have it all. When my younger sister buys a teen magazine I don’t want her to see articles like the one I saw, and think she needs to take pride in being awkward, because if she possesses these traits, that is all that she is. I never want her to feel like by having an interest in make-up or Gossip Girl or sex, she is less of an intelligent and independent woman because those she looks up to are depicted as one or the other. Rather, I want her to have role models that show her that she can give a shit about everything and anything she wants to. I want her to have role models who are being admired by her peers for being brilliant and beautiful, for not being a size 0 and not always knowing what to say and rather than being successful despite that, being fabulous because of it.
So to the woman who wrote the article that started all of this: I understand you were trying to stand up and defend the women who aren’t gracing the covers but I say use your voice to fight to put them on there. Let’s stop calling them awkward and just acknowledge that they aren’t perfect but are in fact, just like all of us. Let’s stop the pressure placed on this new generation of young women to decide which side of the fence they’re on, awkward or Victoria’s Secret model and give them permission to be it all. And please, please let’s encourage every adolescent girl to refer to RookieMag when seeking assurance of normalcy rather than People’s ‘stars are just like us’ section.