New First World problem: sexist adverbs!

In a 1,300-word essay for the Huffington Post, Cameron Schaeffer, a freshman at the University of Vermont, explains why "too" is "the three-letter word that cuts down women every day."

There seems to be an unobtainable one-millimeter-wide mark of perfection, and none of us can reach it. Everything is too this or too that. We see it every day in the tabloids. For example, one day a female celebrity is too revealing and the next day she is too matronly.

In my experience, I rarely hear too thrown around about men. You hear someone say, "He's short," but you seldom hear "too short." I hear women and men alike each day describing women as too something. But what does it really mean when you call a woman too? I asked myself, "too what?" I have determined that too means you're calling a woman too far away from your idyllic vision of what a woman should be. Something as small as calling a woman's dress too long or her muscles too built has a much larger social construct. With all the varying tastes and cultures in this world, it is impossible for a woman — or anyone, for that matter — to fulfill everyone's criteria. And why is it our responsibility to satisfy them, anyway?

What triggered Schaeffer's discovery of the appalling misogynist meaning of that tiny modifier? It seems that she looked in the mirror and wondered whether she ought to change her hairstyle. A friend told her she wouldn't want her new 'do to be "too long or too short." Life for a woman is so hard!

My epiphany about this word surprised me. I view myself as a well-versed feminist, but I never realized how deeply a three-letter adverb could cut. Of course I'm not deeply offended by something as innocent as my friend thinking my hair is too short or too long. What makes me furious is the constant strain on females to find their unreachable perfect self. This realization really struck me when I figured out that I've never been satisfied with myself. My internal opinion is always that I'm too this or too that. I, like most women, have been deprived of self-satisfaction and appreciation because of this word and this attitude….

How would anyone feel if they were trying their hardest to look presentable, be successful in their career or education, raise children, have an engaging love and social life, and hold it all together — all as they were told it wasn't enough. It is suffocating to walk through the jungle of media and vanity that is our world, as it subliminally whispers in your ear, "You're not what you should be." It goes beyond looks, even. In every context, it seems to be damned if you do and damned if you don't for women. It's either she's too prude or she's too promiscuous, she's too delicate and girly or she's too aggressive and masculine, she's too dumb or she's too bookish. The list goes on.

So what can we do? Well, there are an avalanche of issues women face — from rape to pay inequality to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. I would love to wake up tomorrow morning and see a completely egalitarian world outside, but I am not naive. Women are still objects to a disturbingly large number of people.

SO, like Sheryl Sandberg hoping that if we could just ban the word "bossy," women would no longer be perceived as bossy, Schaeffer thinks that if we just banned the word "too"–or complained a lot when someone used it–people's sexist perceptions would similarly change. Here's how to do the "too" consciousness-raising:

On the women's side of this issue, we can create change by telling ourselves and others, "I am more than enough, and I am exactly who I should be." Every day we should remind ourselves that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not just in a literal appearance sense, but in every part of who we are. If someone calls you too bitchy, for example, do not be afraid to remind them that you're not too bitchy, you're the right amount of assertive and empowered. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for women to stand up for themselves. It is not our fault that we are treated unfairly and always considered "too" something.

Alternatively, we women might reflect on how lucky we are to live in America, where our worst problem is that someone might think we're "too" this or that. Or maybe our worst problem is that we have to plow through whines like the one way "too" many times.