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This trope is the feminine-gender-role version of But Not Too Black.

Writers are often hesitant to present a female character with ambition when it comes to a career. In some cultures, women are expected to only have a job until they're married, at which point they'll quit to focus on being a wife and mother, so having a character who dreams of a serious career can suggest that the character lacks femininity and she will be seen as less sympathetic. If the writers want her to be an active, strongly motivated person, but think that people won't relate to an ambitious female, they have a problem on their hands.

The simple compromise is to give her an acceptable feminine goal: the job she wants (or already has) will involve the skills crucial to homemaking: caretaking, childrearing, cooking, cleaning, or other skills that showcase how suitable she is to be a wife and/or mother. This gives her a goal in life outside of wife and motherhood, but still proves that she obviously has the nurturing, caring instinct that would make her a good one. Consider also the idea of gendered careers in general: men are chefs, women are cooks; men are professors, women are schoolteachers, men are doctors, women are nurses.

In cases where a female character has a career that isn't typically feminine, it's very likely the audience will see her working in ways that emphasize her femininity more than her job would normally entail. In its worst examples, her job is only window-dressing for her role as The Chick, and there's a better-than-average chance that she'll be focused primarily on supporting (or failing to control) a male character, even when she's supposed to be in a position of authority.

If she already has a gender neutral (or downright masculine) profession, her Acceptable Feminine Goals is likely to become motherhood itself, and this will almost never be an easy transition; having chosen an unfeminine career, the struggle revolves around finding the feminine instinct that she's lost in her busy man's-world job, or punishing her for forgetting it.

This can sometimes lead to cries of Real Women Never Wear Dresses, especially in poorly-written cases where a female character's personality is relatively androgynous and action-oriented... except for her Acceptable Feminine Goal, where it seems tacked on in order to keep her from being too unappealing as a potential Love Interest for The Hero.

When adding examples, please remember that Tropes Are Not Bad, and having an Acceptable Feminine Goals does not imply that the character is somehow less Badass, or that her relationships are compromised, just for wanting to do something traditionally feminine. The point is that her goal is designed to be feminine to make sure she's feminine enough for the audience to accept her. See the Playing With Tropes link up at the top if you're not sure how the example fits in: it's not an aversion just because her career is considered masculine!

See also Feminine Women Can Cook and Stay in the Kitchen. Related to Never a Self-Made Woman and I Just Want to Be Loved, Career Versus Man, Family Versus Career. Compare/Contrast No Guy Wants an Amazon and Iron Lady.

Examples of Acceptable Feminine Goals include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sailor Moon is a mixed bag in terms of these. Some of the dreams the girls have are stereotypically feminine (to be a bride, an idol singer, owning a flower shop/restaurant, etc.), while the most masculine is probably Haruka's goal to be a racecar driver. Ami wants to be a doctor, Michiru a musician, etc. The most confusion among fans comes with Setsuna, who has a pilot's license and majors in theoretical physics yet is stated in the English information to want to be a fashion designer. This is merely mistaken translation and she wants to be a designer, which could be a career that would use her major/skills.
    • The straightest example is probably Makoto, who suffers from No Guy Wants an Amazon on occasion. She has a reputation for fighting, does martial arts, is very tall, and strong enough to take on youma before she even becomes Sailor Jupiter but she loves to cook and clean and wants to own a restaurant.
  • Among the most notable aspects of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise is the staunch defiance of this trope, almost bordering on Deconstruction. For instance, the title character is an heir to her father's bakery but chooses to pursue magical combat instructor career after the second season. In fact, almost every notable female character in the series makes a successful military/police career but this hardly does anything to diminish their femininity.
  • All of the girls of Eyeshield 21, but Mamori is the most obvious example. With one exception, the only girls associated with any of the teams are either cheerleaders or team managers, whose duties mainly revolve around cleaning up after them and treating minor injuries.
    • One of the major conflicts in Eyeshield 21 is comparing different advantages. Two of the ones that come up the most often are strength and height. A side gag shows the cheerleaders for the Jonandai Giants being three times the height of any of the players, and at least twice as bulky; one the players makes a crack about how the girls should be on the field instead. It's meant as a joke, but if this trope weren't in play, they could have given Gau a run for his money in the size and height category.
    • Mamori is intelligent, strong willed, hard-working, and has even been shown to be relatively athletic. However, nearly all of these traits are directed into being as motherly as possible and essentially being the ideal japanese housewife. For example, she's only ever exerts her will when she thinks her childhood friend is being threatened, uses her intelligence to help the football team, and wants to become a daycare worker. According to an extra, her mother graduated from a top-rate university with honors, yet spends most of her time running free cooking classes for the other housewives of the neighborhood...
      • Despite notes that she could be a doctor or lawyer, one chapter's bonus info lists her future goal as being a nursery school teacher.
    • Similarly, Suzuna is snarky, down to earth, and incredibly athletic. Yet she only becomes a cheerleader once her brother joins the football team (sure she enjoys it, but she only started doing it to help support her brother) and serves mostly as moral support. Similarly, her goal is to be as feminine as Mamori, despite being relatively tomboyish.
    • Hilariously inverted with Karin, a timid, sensitive girl who wants nothing more then to spend her free time playing the piano and drawing shoujo manga. However, due to her amazing talent as a quarterback, everyone keeps insisting her true calling is football (and she is forced to play for the team). Later on she DOES actually become a manga artist...for Shonen Jump.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Izumi Curtis is a Badass martial artist who wants to be a full time house wife. Riza Hawkeye is a Badass soldier, but her job is an adjutant, which means she's Roy Mustang's assistant and most of her work responsibilities revolve around babysitting him. Winry Rockbell is and wants to be a mechanic, but specifically, she wants to be an automail mechanic to replace lost limbs and develops skill in surgery, which is mostly shown through her support of Edward.
    • The exception being Major-General Olivia Armstrong, who will kick her little brother's ass without a second's regret.
  • Inverted in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service; Sakaki and Makino are a hacker and an embalmer respectively, while Karatsu, Yata, and Numata have spiritual gifts; at one point Numata even lampshades this when the girls are talking scientific jargon, leaving the "traditionally spiritual males" out of the conversation.
    • In a straighter example, a recurring female character is a nurse with a spiritual upbringing and a psychic power to hear the words of the dead. Her main interest in her work is caring for the spirits of the dead, and first appears finding an abandoned infant in a baby drop box at her hospital. At one point she's even reprimanded for citing spiritual practice over medical science. She seems an obvious Love Interest for main character Karatsu, who is oblivious to Sakaki's crush on him.
  • Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ends up becoming a schoolteacher that teaches elementary school kids in the country. Granted, she's still a total badass. This also doubles as Yoko finally finding some peace, until...

Film (Animated)

  • Averted in Princess and The Frog; Tiana aspires to own a restaurant and eventually does so. At the end of the movie, she isn't seen cooking or waitressing, she's seen visiting with her loved ones at their tables and dancing with her husband on the roof because she owns the restaurant and doesn't need to cook or serve herself (and, indeed, only pursued her dream as the result of her father's cooking).
    • On top of this, Tiana's business aspirations are solely motivated by herself; not a single person (initially) believes in her dream. Moreover her best friend Charlotte has "marrying a prince" as her top priority, and Tiana's mother is telling her to settle down because she wants grandchildren.
  • Mulan receives some criticism that the eponymous character is offered a position on the Emperor's council, but turns it down to return home; the first musical sequence in the sequel has her teaching martial arts philosophy to little girls.
  • The Disney Princesses in general fall into this. While several of them have vague goals of getting out into the world and seeing more of it, very few of them actually achieve it before they fall in love and start on the road to settling down—at least, for those whose goals aren't just to fall in love in the first place.
    • Just look at the three good fairies' gifts for Sleeping Beauty—beauty, song, and True Love's Kiss.
  • Ratatouille lampshades and averts this trope through Colette, who describes her struggle to break into the real world of professional French cuisine by stating to Linguine, in no uncertain terms, how utterly unlike "cooking with Mommy" it is, and how tough she has to be to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field. She tells him this while pinning his apron to the counter with knives.
    • Zig-zagged, depending on how you look at it, at the end of the film: Remy serves Anton Ego ratatouille. While artfully cooked and served in a beautifully professional manner, Ego loves it because it reminds him of the ratatouille his mother made for him as a child.

Film (Live Action)

  • The 1945 Warner Brothers film Mildred Pierce ("I'll do anything for those kids. D'you hear me? Anything!") in which the eponymous heroine becomes rich as a restauratress.
  • The Home Economics Story, as riffed on by Mystery Science Theater 3000, while probably Fair for Its Day, has this as its central conceit. On the one hand, it's clearly in favor of women going to college. On the other hand, it's to become restaurateurs, interior decorators, secretaries, nurses, sales clerks, nutritionists, librarians, seamstresses, teachers, nannies, and home-makers—or for the woman to earn her M.R.S. degree.
  • Pepper Potts. She's apparently an executive assistant (and later an executive, period), but she spends most of her time cleaning up after Tony and failing to keep him in line. A full time and seriously demanding job if ever there was one.


  • Averted in many romance novels where the heroines come from all sorts of jobs and their skills can become a relevant plot point.
  • Averted, and discussed on WHY averting it creates a Straw Feminist, in Murphy's narration of The Dresden Files. To survive in the male-dominated career of policework, Murphy has to speak Martian, and be able to interact with the guys on their own terms. But, this means she has to overcompensate, and be very 'manly', to make up for being five-foot-nothing, pretty and "look[ing] like someone's favorite aunt" (as Harry puts it).
  • In Twilight and the Illustrated Guide, Esme and Bella both wanted to be teachers and Renee is a teacher. While Alice has no job, she focuses her college majors on fashion-related fields. Rosalie focuses on mechanics and engineering and is one of the bitchiest characters. In the case of Esme and Bella, both quickly drop any ideas of a job for getting married and having children.
  • Averted and played straight in Betsy Tacy. Some of the girls focused on are ambitious for careers (opera, advertising, writing, social work), and succeed at them, while others stick with more traditional roles (teacher, homemaker). None of their choices are treated as wrong — just different and suited to different people. Soon after her marriage, Betsy turns down a job at a publicity bureau to learn how to keep house and cook, but continues writing short fiction and eventually takes the job.
  • Played with in the Where Are They Now epilogue of the Harry Potter series. We see that Hermione and Ginny ended up married to Ron and Harry respectively, and have a few kids. However, Word of God said that Hermione has a job at the Ministry of Magic where she reforms wizarding laws to improve life for House Elves and their ilk, as well as abolish anti-Muggle and Muggleborn laws. Ginny, meanwhile, played Quidditch professionally, before retiring and taking a job as a Quidditch announcer. In an interview, Rowling also said that Luna Lovegood married and had several children, but also had a job as the wizarding equivalent of a naturalist, discovering several new magical animals on her adventures.

Live Action Television

  • Sex and the City began as a franchise about ambitious socialites and their casual sex lives. By the end of the series, all of them are either married or in committed relationships.
  • Desperate Housewives to an extent since all the women in it only dream of being the perfect housewife despite of how bored they are of their job.
  • Cuddy in House technically has authority in her workplace, but she's usually using it to try to parent House, who usually gets his way regardless and undermines her; likewise, her fertility (specifically the focus on how she sacrificed motherhood for career and now, having decided she wants a baby, is now facing the perils of motherhood unwed and at an advanced age) is often the center of her subplots.
  • Inara of Firefly has a respectable career as a Companion, because creator Joss Whedon was told to add a space hooker to the cast; despite the fact that her job very much involves sex, social functions and emotional connection are supposed to be equally important, and she does a lot of comforting and nurturing.
    • Inverted with Zoe, who is Happily Married and takes her role as a wife seriously, but remains a soldier and seems to have no desire to be anything else.
    • Same with Kaylee, who loves sex and pretty things like dresses, but still is devoted to her job as a mechanic and is great at it (so great in fact, that she was better than the male mechanic Mal originally hired, fixing an issue he claimed was unresolvable without even leaving her post-sex high).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation's major female characters were a security officer (who died), a counselor, and a doctor. Other Star Trek series did better on this front, but famously progressive at the time Uhura of the original series was a telephone operator.
    • The security officer also once thanked the counselor for helping her learn to accept her "feminine side." At no point was it ever explained what exactly that means, why it was necessary to accept her femininity instead of just being a butch woman, why none of the male characters ever talk about accepting their feminine sides (or their masculine sides, for that matter), or why any of this would even be an issue in the liberal utopia of the 24th century.
  • Consider the careers of the six lead characters on Friends. Men: Actor (Joey), Scientist (Ross), Businessman (Chandler). Women: Chef/Caterer (Monica), Waitress/professional shopper (Rachel), Masseuse/Singer (Phoebe). One episode features a male nurse, but when Chandler tries to make fun of his girly profession, we learned that the nurse served in the Gulf War. Two of Ross's girlfriends (Amy and Charlie) were fellow scientists, but that's another trope.
  • Olivia Benson strays further and further into this with each passing season; while it's impossible to argue that she's anything but an Action Girl, her main trait is that she's compassionate, sensitive, and able to connect with victims better than anyone else in the squad, and her desire for motherhood is a core part of her character. Lawyers Alexandra Cabot and Casey Novak are complete aversions.
  • Roz on Frasier ends up pregnant after sleeping with a younger man (and as a result of Executive Meddling). A career woman with an active sex life, but without a husband or babies? Perish the thought. As soon as she finds out she's pregnant, she's immediately cool with it and wants nothing more than to be a good (if decidedly single) mom.
  • Super Sentai is another mixed bag example. A large number of the heroines aspire to be housewives (or even trophy wives), models/actresses/idol singers, elementary school teachers, cake shop owners or something similar. However, there are many more with different ambitions (martial artist, photographer, policewoman, farmer) and a notable inversion is Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger's Ranru, who gave up a career as an idol singer because she wanted to be a mechanic.
  • Inverted in Family Matters, where Harriet applies for a job as a manager despite having none of the necessary credentials. When asked where her experience is listed on her application, she says it's right there at the top: Mrs. Harriet Winslow, and proceeds to elaborate on the managerial skills she learned by managing a large family. She gets the job.
  • In Golden Girls, Dorothy is a substitute teacher and regularly offers her thoughts on the hassles of teaching middle- and high-school students. There was one episode where she teaches a class of adults, but the conflict comes from how she couldn't get them interested in learning anything. On top of this, every student Dorothy teaches over the course of the show is male.
  • This is mostly averted in How I Met Your Mother. Robin mostly puts her career before romance and the series as a whole portrays family success important to both men and women. Ted is the most family oriented of the group and Barney is starting to come around to that as well.
  • Morgana and Guinevere from Merlin both want to be Queen of Camelot — but Morgana (the villain) wants the throne in order to become more powerful (and ostensibly to legalize the use of magic in the kingdom, though she shows no interest in actually doing this once the throne is hers) and Guinevere (the heroine) wants it because she's in love with Arthur, and marrying him naturally involves her becoming Queen.

Newspaper Comics

  • Blondie and her next door neighbor/friend eventually became "career women" by starting a catering business, so most of the work they do is cooking.
    • Earlier on in the comic's run, Blondie called for being a housewife itself to be a job, with eight-hour workdays. This led to strips where she'd declare her work day to be over and kick back in a chair, while Dagwood asked who was going to do the dishes. Blondie predicted that the eight-hour housewife work schedule would be very popular.
  • In the final strip of For Better or For Worse before going into 'new-runs', it was revealed that Deanna gave up her pharmacy job to start a sewing school. Critics labeled this a last-ditch attempt to give her a properly feminine line of work.
    • John Patterson was a dentist with a stable job. Wife Elly, meanwhile, was a miserable Housewife who briefly attempted to work as a librarian and as co-owner of a bookstore, eventually getting laid off from the former and bowing out of the latter. Of their children, Michael became a celebrated author, while Liz became a teacher. Youngest April, treated as The Unfavorite, moved away to work with animals.
      • This trope is a good barometer for how sympathetic any female character in the strip is meant to be. Elly is a housewife and mother and the high point of goodness; Therese has a vague career in high-finance who had to be coerced into motherhood, and is the lowest point of evil.
  • In Bloom County, feminist Bobbi Harlow is the local schoolteacher. She does see herself also as a means to educate the inhabitants on modern ideas. ("Vocabulary time everyone. Define "liberated woman")

Video Games

  • Alicia of Valkyria Chronicles wants to become a licensed baker and own a bakery; she does, but her "bakery" is a truck with a lunch counter in it, and she brings her toddler to work.
    • This is made extra weird because Welkin, the aforementioned toddler's father, arrives on the scene after teaching a class of similarly small children.
    • Added bonus: Selvaria's DLC story shows that she also likes to cook because it reminds her of her mother. It becomes this trope when she tries to think of doing something nice to do for her subordinate, Johann, with whom she's become good friends. Instead of using her extremely high rank in the military or her connection to the Emperor or the other Drei Stern to improve his lot in life in ways he could never achieve on his own, she just wants to cook him a nice meal. That's how we know that deep down, she's really a sweet, ordinary girl and not a mass murderer.
  • Amy of Phantasy Star II is a doctor. This means she casts healing spells and can equip staffs.
  • Grandia II has this in spades; Tio becomes a nurse despite being more than intelligent (and compassionate) enough to become an actual doctor, Elena becomes a traveling singer, and Millenia, despite not liking children and being a manifestation of the world's equivalent of the devil, becomes a kindergarten teacher.
  • Persona 3 has Aigis, bad ass action Robot Girl whose ambition is primarily to understand what it means to become and live as a human... which means realizing that the meaning of life is to be in love with the protagonist.
  • Persona 4 has Yukiko. Her Social Link shows her trying to escape the destiny of inheriting her family's traditional inn. She spends her time attempting to figure out the career she wants (dabbling in interior design) and the type of independent life she wishes to lead, but external forces steer her towards accepting the fact that she loves the inn and is willing to run it, albeit in her own manner.
    • At some point, this applies to all of the main female cast of the game in context of their respective social link events.
      • Chie, in contrast to Yukiko, worries that others perceive her as not being feminine enough; though she later decides upon becoming a police officer.
      • Rise finds the aspect of her Idol career that requires her to be the designated sex symbol for perverts everywhere degrading, but she finds working as the homely girl in her grandmother's tofu shop to be boring.
      • Naoto, coming from a long line of great detectives, feels it necessary to hide her gender because she believes that, as criminal investigation is a very male-dominant profession, it is the only way for people to take her seriously.
  • Atelier Annie: Alchemist of Sera Island. The titular character starts out a lazy layabout who just wants to marry rich, and only joins the development project because the prize is a betrothal to a prince. All of the endings see her finding more productive goals in life but none of them actually see her marry him; in the Royal Alchemist ending, where she wins the contest and Joel's hand, she refuses because she's fallen in love with alchemy instead.
  • Beyond Good and Evil has Jade, who is both a martial artist/photojournalist/secret agent, and a foster mom to several war orphans, but the trope itself is subverted: both aspects of her life are part of the game's overall plot and her character as a whole, rather than just being elements of her character that don't contribute to the story. In general, Jade's gender is a complete non-issue; she's just The Hero who happens to kick ass and provide for and protect kids.
  • Tifa of Final Fantasy VII is a Badass martial artist who owns a bar in a slum, but her first (and only) appearance as a bartender is softened by her babysitting Marlene.
  • Terra of Final Fantasy VI. She resolves her quest to find herself when she adopts a small colony of orphaned children and becomes a surrogate mother figure.
  • Wild Arms is a notable aversion, giving Cecilia the burden of both leading a kingdom and channeling the gods in order to save the planet.
  • Potrayed interestingly in Dragon Age Origins; If you play a female Grey Warden, Sten will confront you at some point about being a woman 'and' a warrior, something he cannot understand. This is because within the Quanari men and women have clearly defined roles which they cannot diverge from except from leaving the Qun or death. Sten has trouble accepting others' viewpoints, but insisting that you can be both a fighter and female will earn approval. Other characters may also comment on you being a female Grey Warden, but that's OK, you can stab them.

Web Original

  • The gnome Hazel in Tales of MU intends to open an inn once she's done with college. While a barrier-breaker, as a river-gnome with some pretty progressive ideas, Hazel still intends to engage in the down-home, earthy sort of employment that is respectable for her people, likely because of how ingrained her gnomish cultural mores are in her personality.

Western Animation

  • Beautifully averted in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, in which the heroines' goals cover a wide range of interests: to be a great magician, to look after the family farm, to be a fashion designer, to join an elite athletic group, and to take care of animals. Even the more feminine interests of these don't associate themselves with negative stereotypes (Applejack is a businesswoman and a farmer, not just a passive homemaker; Rarity is an artist, not just Alpha Bitch, Fluttershy is a veterinarian, not just The Chick, and so on).
    • Little ponies gain a cutie mark when they discover what their special talent is, and there's no connection between gender and talent. When the Cutie Mark Crusaders are working to discover their own, they're shows trying out a variety of activities, including taking care of farm animals, candy making, hairstyling, mountain climbing, scuba diving, ziplining, carpentry, chimney sweeping, bowling and performing together in a rockband.