Anyone else binge their way through the new Netflix series ‘Bridgerton’? The best way I can describe it is ‘Gossip Girl’ meets ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and what ‘Love Island’ might have looked like 200 years ago! The bright fun costumes and cinematography, added with the scandalous and raunchy storyline make for a really fun watch and I’d highly recommend!
But it wasn’t just what went on in the bedroom that grabbed my attention! Despite being set 200 years ago, I couldn’t help notice twinges of relatability to numerous characters’ stories and question…how many of their problems have really changed in modern day society. Does this help explain why a particular path is 'right' and why some of us still struggle to feel worthy or successful? I've highlighted 3 main hurdles that jumped out at me and ways that we can leap over them;
1) A woman’s worth is determined by a man and a marriage proposal
The whole show follows debutantes during their first ‘season’, chasing after that illustrious marriage proposal! In Georgian England, marriage was the sole purpose for a woman, the only reason why a daughter was born, it was the pinnacle moment of her lifetime. If she remained unselected she’d be a spinster, considered worthless and an embarrassment to the family. Luckily we don’t live in such a narrow minded society today…right?
If you’re a single girl or even in a very content relationship, when you see a flash of an engagement ring in your insta feed, how does it make you feel? I’m a very content singleton but I can’t help but feel a twinge of anxiety, knowing that this diamond symbol of ‘success’ is still so far away from me. This feeling’s short lived but it’s that automatic gut reaction that comes from…somewhere! Why do our family and friends ask “have you met anyone yet”, “time is running out” or even being asked “what’s wrong with you?!” Why is an engagement still so romanticised and highly celebrated by women today? @Lainey.Molnar (follow her immediately if you don't already!) nailed this attitude in her latest post (image right). "Those who don’t get engaged, married, or give birth rarely experience the over-the-top parties, personalized gift piles, sashes, balloons, raising of the glasses, thoughtful surprises, everyone showing up, and the tearful speeches for their milestones."
‘Marina Thompson’ is described like a prize bull by a potential suitor during the series. Her form, features and flaws are listed outright in front of her. His final assessment and whether he made the proposal would determine her worth. Again, aren’t we lucky that women aren't judged by such chauvinistic characters anymore? I’m from Somerset originally, where men referring to girls as livestock (in jest!) was a thing. Comments like “look at the legs on that one” or whether a man is an “arse” or “tits” guy…is comparable to asking if he prefers “rib eye” or “fillet”! Admittedly, locker room chat like this is less tolerated now but I’m only 34 and my memories are pretty fresh! This validation by men is only separated by a winners rosette!
Yes, women can propose today, we don’t wait to be ‘chosen’ and thanks to the Spice Girls and Beyonce, single life is not as foreboding! #girlpower #putyourhandsup. But even if she has all the qualifications, becomes CEO, owns 5 houses…is a woman still seen as successful if she’s single? Is that a 100% yes, a hesitant yes or a yes…but?
2) Following societal expectations and duty comes above all else
For Eloise and her brothers Anthony and Benedict, they all have their duty lined out in front of them, none of which makes them happy. Anthony is in love with a woman he can’t be with due to status, Benedict wishes to pursue ‘art’ but has to ‘play’ in secret and Eloise strives for independence outside of marriage and babies. Stepping outside their box would mean huge sacrifice, dishonour and would destroy the reputation of their family, not just their own.
Obviously we’re much more free in today’s world, following your own dreams and the consequences of breaking convention is less perilous . However, society still holds a certain path in higher regard than others. Go to school, work hard, get into university, get a good job, get promoted, receive bigger pay cheques, buy a house, get married, have kids, enjoy your 4 weeks holiday a year etc etc. Venturing off this path is hard and…pretty damn scary! For me, leaving a successful and well paid Mon-Fri corporate job for my own life coaching business is not a decision I make lightly. What will people think of me? Is coaching even considered a ‘real’ job? I also don’t own a house, have a husband or children so I’m really going against the grain here. Am I doing it wrong? Is something wrong with me for maybe not wanting children?
Thankfully, breaking free of expectations is not as ‘scandalous’ as in Georgian England. But this deep rooted, subconscious belief of how we should and shouldn’t be living still impacts us. Some of us believe we shouldn’t even like our job, or strive to tick ‘adulting’ boxes like mortgages and marriage because…that’s what expected of us. To ‘grow up’ and ‘join the real world’…even if none of it makes us happy?
3) Women suffered the consequences of any scandal
When Daphne Bridgerton wanders into the garden with a man unaccompanied she becomes fraught. No matter that she’s being assaulted by said man, it would be her reputation that’s destroyed. In the words of Lady Whistledown; “A wayward touch, a kiss…would banish any young lady from society in a trail of ruin”. Even though these actions required both a man and woman, the punishment was always received by the woman. Except of course if the ladies honour was so badly tarnished he’s asked to partake in an illegal duel! Therefore a brother would risk DEATH because the dishonour against her…kissing outside of a proposal…was so enormous!
Luckily, kissing someone outside of a relationship today doesn’t carry the same punishment. But, in my experience at least, women have still come off worse in modern day 'scandal'. If a man has an affair with another woman, she's often labelled things like ‘homewrecker’ and receives just as much hate as the cheating husband. If a wife cheats on her husband, is the same level of abuse given to the man she has the affair with, especially if she has children too? If a woman is sexually attacked, why is her clothing choice often seen as a reason to blame her for what happened? #patriarchy
Okay, so we're still living in a patriarchal society...this isn't new for most of us! There might also be similarities between behaviour today and 200 years ago…so what? I think the most important thing to highlight is how engrained something must be if expectations and attitudes are still evident after so long. This helps us understand why something might feel so hard to go against, even though we don’t know why something is ‘normal’ in the first place! It’s totally natural if you find it difficult to follow your own path or recognise a subconscious bias.
So how do we start breaking free from such deep rooted beliefs and overcoming the problems that the Bridgerton family faced?
1) Repeat after me: My worth isn’t measured by others! Not a man, not a woman, not a diamond ring or any children you may have! Self love is an inside job and you only need to be validated by yourself. If you struggle with self worth then try sticking affirmations like 'I love myself' and 'I am enough' to your wall, your mirror, your phone, wherever!Repeat them 3 times before you go to bed at night! We can also make more effort to celebrate fellow female milestones and not just with hen parties and baby showers! These biscuits are from a puppy shower I got to celebrate last year!
2) As women today we are so fortunate. The world is our oyster, our purpose isn’t just marriage and babies anymore and success is whatever it means to you. Be brave, follow your heart, listen to your gut and follow whatever makes you happy, something that a girl like Eloise could never do!Societal expectations of what we 'should' be doing is still strong but by more of us stepping outside of them, the easier it will be for others to follow. Small baby steps outside your comfort zone every day makes it less scary and before you know it, you'll be outside the box you were so scared to jump out of!
3) We still live in a patriarchal society but thankfully, the scales are ever shifting in female equality’s favour. However, you can still be more mindful before gossiping about what another girl is wearing or what they choose to do for a living. Keep leaning in within the work place, putting yourself forwards for promotion and supporting female businesses where you can.
By believing in your own worth and not relying on external validation, by courageously following what makes you happy and empowering yourself and the woman around you...will hopefully mean that in another 200 years, these fears and expectations will be even less powerful!
Do you agree/disagree that Georgian societal expectations and behaviours are still prevalent today? I’d love to know your thoughts, get in touch on instagram @owningitoverseas
Or if you’re looking for help in breaking free from expectations and your own limiting beliefs then hit 'contact ' and I'll be able to tell you more about one to one support!