High Maintenance Women: Empowered and Proud

What’s the big deal with this term, “high maintenance?” Well, “high maintenance” is used as an insult rather than praise or an objective term. High maintenance hints to the idea of something being maintained, where it requires a lot of work to keep in good condition. Concerning people, it refers to a person or a relationship demanding a lot of attention, time, or effort.

This term is often used to refer to women who look like they are a lot of upkeep in a demeaning way. It alludes to them being vapid, self-centred, stuck up, or materialistic. These women are often pinned against the “cool girl” who seems natural and low maintenance, which is a topic for another day. Besides the clear stereotyping of boxing women into categories just by their looks, it is also problematic in the idea that women need to be maintained by others and how it suggests women needing to be natural. The term is also used to demean women, and as such, is a tool to control and shame women into reducing their standards. Have you ever heard of “high maintenance men?”

Let’s break it down. At its core, high maintenance refers to women who look like they take care of themselves, above what’s deemed the normal standard. In that sentence, we have “high maintenance” alluding to the act of maintaining women and the value of women’s appearances.


Women need to be maintained by others 

The main reason why high maintenance is used as an insult is that people think they need to have control over others. This means that when someone looks like they take care of their skin, diet, hair, clothes or makeup, they require too much management on others’ ends. No one is asking them to maintain such women, but the backlash to women who embody this attitude embodies the idea of control and keeping women "in their place.” Because that is what the idea of a “high maintenance woman” means — a woman who requires too much upkeep at someone else’s expense.

Think about it. We are at once told by society to take care of ourselves, but not too much! Don’t scare off the poor men who will need to maintain your beauty! We need to be womanly, but to other people’s standards, not our own.

And why do we have the idea of trying to control women this way? 

The valuation of women by their appearances

If the value of women (by society at large) is in their looks, then demeaning women who take personal pride in their appearance and do more than what is acceptable for women is about controlling these women. They have self-worth and self-respect, and the idea of them putting themselves first comes off as being at the expense of others.

There is also the idea of a high maintenance woman being superficial and seeking attention because the underlying sentiment is that women’s looks are only for men to appreciate. Ever heard, “Who are you dressing up for?” That’s exactly what I mean. It comes with the implication that a woman dresses well to seek approval from men. So, if you’re not dressing up for men, you’re attention-seeking.

However, being high maintenance is a reflection of high standards and expectations for yourself. The way you carry yourself in the world reflects your values. Looking like you are high maintenance, or having an attitude that you are high maintenance (regardless of your appearance), means that you are taking care of yourself as you are loving and respecting yourself. We do the same for things we care about, so why is this any different? Do not be shamed into changing the way you care about yourself. As LÓreal says, you’re worth it!

Be proud of being high maintenance

Ultimately, being high maintenance means that you have high standards for yourself. When you’re high maintenance and have high standards, you only allow people with high standards around you. This means that you surround yourself with people who uplift you and encourage you to go further. Intentions also matter!  By having your life together, you take care of yourself, and it often manifests in your appearance (particularly for women). You should be in charge, especially of your own life, and be your own supporter by loving yourself the most. What we need and want in terms of self-care is important.

At the end of the day, we should not be having such an issue with someone else being high maintenance. There is no need to judge people on the basis “to be maintained,” when they are perfectly capable of maintaining themselves and are happy to do so. This is especially so for women, as there are societal expectations on them in the first place to take care of their appearances. Instead, let’s focus on bringing people up to a higher standard, regardless of appearance, since having high standards can be in terms of looks, work ethic, or even exercise.