Cynthia Nixon voices powerful viral video about impossible standards for women

Narrating a piece from the writer Camille Rainville, Nixon calls out the impossible standards women are told to aspire to.

Cynthia Nixon voices powerful viral video about impossible standards for women
Paul McLean/Vimeo

A powerful and thought-provoking viral video is calling out the ridiculous expectations women everywhere deal with when it comes to beauty, their bodies and behavior.

It's called "Be a Lady They Said," and it's honestly pretty hard to watch without getting angry. The video—featuring actress and activist Cynthia Nixon narrating a piece from the writer Camille Rainville—calls out the impossible standards women are told to aspire to, and how often those standards contradict each other.

"Don't be too fat. Don't be too thin. Eat up. Slim down." Those words might feel chillingly familiar to any woman who's ever had to deal with unwanted comments about her figure (which is basically every woman, right?)

The lines in the video prove that women are hit by competing messages constantly when it comes to personal appearance, sexuality, work and nearly every facet of life.

It is so similar to what mothers hear every day. We're often told to parent like we don't work, but show up at the office as if we aren't parents. We're told to exclusively breastfeed, but then denied the time and places in which to do it. We're told we should want to stay home with our kids full-time, but also criticized for not working. We're told to practice self-care, but also expected to do what amounts to a second shift after we get home from work.

The impossibility of womanhood is so clear in Nixon's viral video.

"Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don't you just eat? You look emaciated," Nixon says.

She continues: "Dress modestly. Don't be a temptress. Men can't control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don't be so provocative. You're asking for it...

Don't talk too loud. Don't talk too much. Don't take up space. Don't sit like that. Don't stand like that. Don't be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don't be a bitch. Don't be so bossy. Don't be assertive. Don't overact. Don't be so emotional. Don't cry. Don't yell. Don't swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don't complain. Let him down easy."

"Lift your face, lift your tummy, perk up your boobs. Look natural. You're trying too hard." Are you angry yet? Visceral images (some of the NSFW) flash by on the screen as each bit of "advice" is relayed—women bearing their bodies, undergoing cosmetic procedures, looking seductive, looking sweet. There are also flashes of men—like President Trump and Harvey Weinstein—who've become flashpoints in the #MeToo movement. While it may be women who are subjected to ever-shifting rules about how they should present themselves, the video reminds us that it's powerful men who have largely shaped those rules.

The video has wracked up more than four and a half million views since it hit Vimeo just a few days ago. While it's certainly a difficult watch, it's an important one, well worth the roughly three minute time investment. "Just be a lady they said," it ends—after showing us the utter impossibility of following that direction.

In This Article