She For She

She For She

I recently came across this article in Time Magazine which collated thoughts on feminism from notable women in the entertainment industry.

Each of them, with valid grounds for their opinion, and it gladdened me to know that women with this type of powerful voice are using it to help stimulate discussion on how strong, successful and fulfilled women can be.

I’d like to especially echo Salma Hayek’s thoughts, “[Feminism] means being proud of being a woman, and [having] love, respect and admiration and the belief in our strong capacities. I don’t think we are the same, women and men. We’re different. But I don’t think we are less than men.”

For me, it isn’t about female empowerment in opposition to men, but rather, in addition to.  In the fight for gender equality, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that each and every one of us has been created with different abilities and talents to offer the world.  As a woman, I don’t need to prove that I can do every single thing that a man can do.  I just want the same opportunity to be able to reach my potential in whatever field I choose, which thus warrants the same respect and reward that any man would receive.

I have come to accept that this next season in my life is the one where many of my peers have figured out exactly what they want in their future.  Or so it seems.  It’s the chapter for ‘settling down’, for putting to rest the whimsical dreams of childhood and the rebellious, impulsive ventures of adolescence.  Quite simply, it is getting-married-buying-a-house-starting-a-family-time.

Those who know me, understand that it is not in my nature to envy others (I’ve just realised that the sarcasm of the previous sentence may suggest otherwise), and it frustrating to think that people enjoy the task of trying to unearth a bitterness that is often associated with being a single woman at a certain age. 

Please stop trying to prove that I am unhappy being single, because I’m just not.

I have come to accept that societal expectations, no matter how far progressed we might feel in this 21st century, always allude to the idea that happiness is unattainable outside of a (romantic) relationship.  This is untrue.  Happiness is unattainable without love yes, but there is much to love about the lives we lead.  I personally, have never been without happiness in my life solely because of my single status.

A recent catch-up with an old friend has left a bad taste, in light of my thoughts above. This ‘friend’ of mine was once very close to me, it was during our impressionable years, when we were studying and still working out who we were and what we wanted. Since graduating university, we began to see each other less and less, ultimately down to once-a-year catch-ups which for me, became more than enough.  As the cliche goes, I felt that we grew apart, each pursuing a different path in life.  

I had long been prepared to take leave of the friendship that seemed to no longer serve us well, but surprisingly, she wasn’t ready to let go.

And then she invited me to her wedding.

My natural reaction was one of excitement and support, there is no doubt how right the time is for her, she is set to be an amazing wife and mother one day.  In turn, I had always given her the benefit of the doubt that she respected me in the same way for the choices I made for myself.

It was perhaps, inadvertently, the conversation which followed her giving me the invitation, that has stained my perspective.  It went along the lines of, “At least you’ll know someone there,” (only one other girl I know had been invited with her husband, though I haven’t seen her for years) “And if you start seeing someone closer to the wedding, just let me know and you might be able to bring him along.”

Attending a wedding solo has never been an issue for me, albeit other girlfriends have had the sense to group me with numerous people that I know, thoughtfully considering my enjoyment factor on the day.  It did not feel that was the case this time around.

Her words and the way she relayed them to me that day, were very telling of what she actually might think of me.  The solo invitation was given in light of me not having a partner, yet the other girl is somewhat obliged to bring her husband.

Does it mean that no other ‘plus one’ outside a boyfriend or husband would qualify?

At risk of overthinking things, the whole incident highlighted to me the problem that women impose on other women when it comes to how we measure self-worth.  As basic an evaluation this is, I was denied the opportunity of bringing along a guest to a wedding where I won’t know most people, on the grounds that I am currently not romantically involved.  Subtext: I am not complete without a partner, therefore I cannot avail of the same privileges as those who are.

This echoes the earlier debate on feminism being about women being granted the same opportunities as men.  Many of us complain and are quick to blame the male species for denying us these things, often failing to realise that we are as much a part of the problem.

Whilst in admiration of Emma Watson and her He For She movement, let us not forget that in campaigning for men to change the way they treat women, we too must change the way we treat each other.  

How can we earn the respect that we long for from the opposite sex if we don’t even recognise and encourage it in one another? How can we feel empowered to do extraordinary things if we as women look down at other women whose life choices might be different to ours? How do we achieve gender equality if our measure of self-worth solely involves being in a relationship with a man?

I write passionately on this subject because I believe that us women need to change the way we see and engage with one another. It is fairly impossible to not judge another woman, but it is possible to support them.  

As women, let us not diminish ourselves to such labels of ‘married’ or ‘single’; we each have different paths, priorities, dreams and goals.  It is our duty – for the progress of our species – to allow each other to explore all aspects of womanhood that our generation allows.  There is still a long way to go, yes, but just think about how far we have already come.

Eira Joy is one of the founders of Sisters & Stuff and has worked in the media industry for over ten years. She will be quick to tell you that music and writing are two of her greatest non-human loves. Her favourite season is Autumn and her sister is her best friend.

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