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Pop Culture

8 comics that perfectly capture society's ridiculous expectations for women

"We are just humans, multifaceted and fascinating, divided by judgement, discrimination, and double standards."

@lainey.molnar/Instagram

"We are just humans, multifaceted and fascinating."

It’s one thing to talk about the unfair and unrealistic societal expectations that are still put on women. But it’s another thing to see exactly what those double standards look like in real life.

And, that, in essence, is often what artist Lainey Molnar’s work is all about.

On her popular Instagram account, Molnar has tackled all kinds of topics around womanhood and feminism—everything from the unsettling differences between men and women’s safety items that appear on a Google search to generational toxic relationships with food—using strikingly candid comic illustrations, many of which have depict cartoon versions of herself.

While Molnar told Upworthy that her work generally aims to make “complex topics simple and thought provoking,” she often wishes to delve more into nuance, like the intersection of class, race and religion in women’s issues. And that is what inspired some of her latest images.

“I wanted to create a series with all female characters about predominantly female experiences that show the double standards stemming from these issues. Because we can’t empower women without supporting social justice all the way, everything connects,” she shared.

One image shows a white woman, affluently dressed, being praised as a “single mother of three.” While a Black woman is noted for having “three baby daddies.” Another of a similar theme shows a young white girl getting commended for learning another language, while an Indian girl of the same age is chastised for “not speaking English properly.”

There’s also a white woman who is told it’s “cool” that she’s embracing her natural curls, while a Black woman sporting an afro is called “unkempt and unprofessional.”

Touching on wealth status, Molnar depicted one girl being complimented for her “vintage” outfit while another is patronized for getting hand-me-downs.

Lastly, a woman wearing a hijab is told that she’s “oppressed” and “can’t think for herself” while another woman is called “classy” for her modesty.

Take a look at all eight in the carousel below:

In her post’s caption, Molnar wrote “We are just humans, multifaceted and fascinating, divided by judgment, discrimination, and double standards. The world needs to do better.” Many of her comics tend to have a thoughtful musing attached to them.

When it comes to having meaningful conversations about important issues, it can be hard to strike a balance between oversimplification and getting buried in nuance. But art can be a valuable tool in not only helping people understand a message on an emotional and visceral level, but also be able to carry an image with them. One that helps them have better conversations moving forward.

To check out more of her work, check out Molnar’s Instagram here.

When you're a venture capitalist considering investing in a company that makes women-oriented products, you better be comfortable with all aspects of womanhood. That includes seeing the head of the company pregnant—with twins—while she makes her pitch.

CEO Joanna Griffiths made that perfectly clear while raising capitol last year for Knix Wear, the undergarment company she founded in 2013. After online sales during the pandemic pushed the company's revenue in excess of $100 million, Griffiths decided it was time to expand. When approaching venture capitalists about investing, she had a rule—any investor who spoke negatively or disparagingly about her pregnancy, raising it as a concern about her company's future, was automatically disqualified from investing.

No matter how much cash they could bring to the table, she didn't want their money if they thought her pregnancy was going to devalue her company.



"Knix, at its core, is so rooted in women's empowerment," Griffiths said. "My viewpoint was if that was the way that they felt about me, then they were never going to understand what Knix was about and what we were trying to accomplish and they sure as hell weren't going to be the right partners for me."

The philosophy didn't end up hurting Knix's prospects. The company raised a whopping $53 million in capitol, taking in its final investments for the fundraising round just days before Griffith gave birth to her twin daughters.

"Last fall I had a new dream," Griffiths wrote in a post on Instagram. "I wanted to raise a round of financing for Knix before giving birth to my twin girls. I wanted to prove that pregnancy or motherhood doesn't have to be viewed as some kind of setback. I knew it would be hard. I knew that some people would underestimate or overlook me because of it. But I also knew I could do it....I closed the round on March 5th at 4:30 pm on my last day of work—three days before the girls were born."

Griffiths told CTV News that the money will be used to increase the company's product lineup, open more physical stores, and expand the brand's storytelling.

"I'm really excited to lean into this momentum of growth and to continue to build the company," said Griffiths.

Women have had to climb a steep hill to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs and heads of companies. Even with the strides that have been made, pregnancy can still be a sticking point for some people. Griffith's insistence on standing up for herself and her position in the company was a way for her to challenge people's assumptions and prejudices about moms in high-level careers. There's no doubt that having kids changes your life, but that's true for both moms and dads, and becoming a parent doesn't automatically mean you won't be able to do your job as well.

The support Griffiths has received for refusing funding from people who don't get that has been overwhelming.

"I can't keep up at this point with so many people reaching out and just saying how important it was for them to see this story," Griffiths told CTV News. "Those unspoken rules... that you can't fundraise pregnant, you can't switch jobs while pregnant, you can't get a promotion while pregnant, don't have to apply, and they shouldn't apply."

When the "Me Too" movement exploded a few years ago, the ubiquitousness of women's sexual harassment and assault experiences became painfully clear. What hasn't always been as clear is role that less overt, more subtle creepiness plays in making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe as they move through the world, often starting from a young age.

Thankfully—and unfortunately—a viral video from a teen TikToker illustrates exactly what that looks like in real-time when a man came and sat down with her while she was doing a live video. He asked if the chair at her table was taken, and she said no, thinking he wanted to take it to another table. Instead, he sat down and started talking to her. You can see in her face and in her responses that she's weirded out, though she's trying not to appear rude or paranoid.

The teen said in a separate TikTok video that the man appeared to be in his 30s. Definitely too old to be pulling up a chair with someone so young who is sitting by herself, and definitely old enough to recognize that she was uncomfortable with the situation.


The 18-year-old, who goes by @maasassin_ on TikTok, shared the video in two parts on TikTok. The initial video has received more than 11 million views, and though she has comments turned off on her TikTok channel, the commentary on Twitter shows why it resonated with so many women.

Women shared that the "creepy guy" thing happens to many of us starting in childhood and that we have to learn how to navigate such situations from a ridiculously young age.

"I don't know a single woman who didn't see themselves in this video," wrote one woman, "and it's heartbreaking."

In fact, the response to the video was visceral for many of us. We've been in that exact situation, not sure if we're overreacting, feeling like something's off or weird but unsure of how to respond to it on the spot, having to balance our own safety with our desire to give people the benefit of the doubt, etc.

Some guys have responded that the man was just being friendly and making small talk and that everyone is overreacting, but no. A man over 30 years old approaching a girl who is clearly in her teens and sticking around when she's obviously uncomfortable is not being friendly. He's being creepy, full stop.

Some have said that she needed to be more forceful about not wanting him there, setting a clear boundary. But when you're young and have never had someone act this way with you, it's an awkward position to be in. And as the guys who said he was just being friendly condescendingly point out, it's not like he was saying anything directly problematic. His words weren't inappropriate—his imposed, insistent presence was. And that's a hard thing to convey to a man who is older and presumably bigger than you are, in a public place in broad daylight where you know he's not likely to do something to you then and there, but you still feel creeped out and uncomfortable.

He's the one who should know better. He's the one who should be given a lecture about setting boundaries.

The teen said in another video that she spoke to the person at the front desk of the hotel who said they know who he is and that they would have a talk with him, so hopefully, he'll rethink.

In the meantime, a lesson we can all take from this is to be on the lookout for one another. The young woman's friend who called down from the balcony was so helpful—you could see the relief flood her body as soon as she heard and saw him. We can all keep our eyes open for someone being approached by a stranger when they're alone and pay attention to their facial expressions and body language. We can intervene in some way if they appear uncomfortable, from slipping them a note to ask if they're okay to acting like we know them to scare off a creeper who's clearly bothering them.

No one of any gender should have to feel afraid to just sit someplace by themselves. While we can't rid the world of all the creepos, we can pay attention to what's happening around us, watch out for one another, and do what we can to create a safer environment for all.

When you wake up to Khloe Kardashian's unedited photo debacle making headlines, it's not hard to see why so many women have body and beauty complexes.

Even for those of us who roll our eyes at Kardashian drama, the struggle is real. Even when we know that the images on Instagram are filtered and edited to unrealistic perfection. Even when we understand that societal beauty standards are arbitrary and stupid. Even with the proliferation of body-positive messages that encourage us to love the skin we're in, most women I know wage some kind of internal daily battle over beauty.

If only it were as simple as embracing what we look like in our natural state. If we truly and fully did that, though, we'd be smelly and unkempt, hair matted, nails scraggly, and teeth rotting. There's a certain amount of grooming that's reasonable to expect in civilized society, but what's enough and what's too much? At what point does beautification become problematic? There's no definitive line.

Then there's "health and fitness," which is good on the one hand, but toxic on the other. I could write an entire book on the social politics of fat on women's bodies. Follow that up with the make-up, the hair coloring/curling/straightening/styling, the wrinkle creams, the injections, and gracious, I'm already feeling mixed up inside barely 200 words into talking about women and beauty.

Writer and video blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom described these internal struggles women experience perfectly in a Facebook post. Sharing a photo of herself biting into a bologna sandwich, Backstrom wrote:


"You want to understand a woman?

Let's start right here: smack dab in the middle of a romantic moment I shared with a fried bologna sandwich. This was five minutes ago, y'all.

It was, in a word: intense.

Soft white bread, a generous schmear of mayo, and more than a couple slices of homegrown tomatoes. My word. I felt like confessing to my husband, which is why you have this picture.

I texted it to Ian, with a joke that I might actually be cheating, because nothing satisfies a woman quite like a solid sammy, hot tots, and a little bit of dippin sauce.

You can argue all you want, but you'd be wrong.

Sandwich. Tots. Dipping Sauce.

That's all we need.

I was fully in the moment when I got a little *ping* from my Optavia coach. She wanted to know how I was doing on the program. "The program" being a thing I signed up for a few months ago when couldn't fit in my skinny jeans and was suddenly motivated to shed a few bologna sandwiches.

So, now I'm invested to the tune of hundreds of dollars, with two full boxes of powdered astronaut food sitting in my entryway closet because I don't care how delicious a powder brownie mix is, NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, competes with fried tots and dipping sauce.

Anyways, back to understanding a woman.

You need to understand:

I am fiercely committed to enjoying bologna sandwiches.

I am 100% committed to becoming the next Brooklyn Decker via overpriced crash diet space food.

And I am ALSO anti-diet culture and will probably post a picture of myself weighing 200 pounds telling everyone on this page to LOVE THEMSELVES AS THEY ARE because, DAMMIT you are beautiful!

And you know what the crazy part is?

I am 100%, full-hearted, unabashedly all three opposing people at once.

The woman eating the bologna sandwich.

The woman who says "screw diet culture".

And the woman who signs up for random crash diets when I want to fit into a fashionable dress for a family wedding.

If you want to understand a woman, you have to understand this conflict.

I want to love myself as I am.

I want to enjoy life without reservation.

And I want to be beautiful by society's standards.

And I understand that none of these things agree or make any damn sense, and it drives me crazy, and makes me feel like a hypocrite, and makes me rage at the system, and makes me order overpriced powdered brownies, and makes me binge on bologna sandwiches, and makes me go to bed feeling like I should've done it better because if I was just

a little more disciplined

a little bit thinner

a little more consistent

a little more wild

a little more free

a little more original

but also a little more like the standard

then...maybe THEN, I would be an ideal woman.

And maybe I already am. I certainly believe that my friends are, and they enjoy bologna sandwiches.

But I wouldn't know. Because I look to the right and look to the left and all I see are things society thinks I should improve.

And it messes me up and confuses my brain and it drives me to space food and fried bologna sandwiches.

And that, my friends, is what it is to be a woman."

Seriously. She nails it.

It's not that men can't have this same kind of internal conflict; I'm sure some men are torn between wanting a burger and fries and embracing their dad bod, while also coveting Lenny Kravitz's abs. But for women, there are just so many elements for us to grapple with. We want to feel beautiful, but we don't want to conform to stupid societal beauty standards. We want to be in shape, but we want to love our bodies just as they are. We want to feel sexy, but we don't want to be sexualized. We slip down beauty standard rabbit holes—from hair to skin to weight to eyebrows—and we roll our eyes all the way down while also taking notes.

It's a confusing struggle, but for so many women, it's very real. Thank you, Mary Katherine, for keeping it real.