In the new documentary about the artist Louise Bourgeois, the artist states in the beginning of the film that the problem with being a woman is that one has to always worry about making oneself likeable, and this constant struggle is such a "pain in the neck."
Wanting to be liked can be a struggle for both men and women, but living to please seems to take on a heightened proportions of intensity for girls and women, and it is always an issue for artists, especially female artists. I remember the poet Lucille Clifton saying that sometimes when she writes a poem she wants to sound "pretty" because she thinks "men are reading this," but then she has to remind herself that the poem must lead the way; she must "follow the poem."
This whole discussion reminds me of the thesis of Wendy Shalit's new book, which points out that at one time women and girls pleased others by being good, but these days they feel pressured to please by behaving immodestly. How do we escape from these binary oppositions? How can we function as women, girls, artists, or men, boys, and non-artists, and live without striving to please everyone? How do we let ourselves just "follow the poem"?
Here is a poem by Lucille Clifton: