There seems to be a movement happening right now, which places an emphasis on women being independent. Maybe movement isn’t the right word. But there is a push towards being independent. Especially if you’re a woman. And I wonder why this is. We raise our daughters to be strong, independent women, but do we really even know what that means? Do we focus on the characteristics that we think embody an independent woman, or do we actually understand what that means and entails?
In addition, we are seeing an increase in what I am going to call the Women’s Rights movement. With a changing political landscape, its important to look at things from an equality perspective. I will talk more about this later in my post, but right now I want to focus on this idea of independence. I Googled “what does it mean to be an independent woman”, and I got a whole host of responses. From being able to go to a restaurant alone, to being self reliant. I think, as a society, we are torn around this topic. People are afraid to chime in because society says that being independent is “good”. It’s a positive. And while I agree with that, I wonder if independence can actually be achieved?
Sure, you might be able to fix a car and hang drywall, but does that mean you should? There is this notion that if you’re financially able to pay someone to do these things for you, you are independent. But I would argue that you can’t have it both ways. If you want to be independent, you need to be able to do everything for yourself. And honestly, I’m not sure that it’s possible. Or like I said, that you should. Does being financially independent mean that you will never ask the bank for a loan? And if so, how many people can say that? If you answered yes to that, then I commend you for your actions. But I would think that most people would need some assistance in some aspect of their lives.
So where am I going with this? I feel like there is a pressure by society for women to be independent. I also think that it’s an unrealistic expectation. And maybe even a pressure for some women who don’t want to be independent, or who frankly aren’t all that good at it. I fall into that last category myself. I honestly don’t think I’m good at being independent. And not for lack of trying! In late 2015, I went through a bad break up. Now, I’m not saying that my ex-partner helped in anyway. Which meant that I had to be independent even in that relationship. I couldn’t rely on him. After the break-up, my aunt said something like “so you own a house, and live there all by yourself”? Maybe I’m giving away too much information about myself, but my response was “what other choice do I have”?
Just because I’m no longer in a relationship automatically means that I have to rent an apartment? And does owning a home make me independent? I would argue that it doesn’t. The thought that occurred to me though, is whether or not we, as women, do enough for ourselves when it comes to this idea of independence? Like I said, there are many ways we can define independence, so I struggle with its notion period. So to qualify independence as being able to go to a restaurant alone adds to my question about whether we do enough for ourselves?
From a relationship perspective, do we present ourselves as independent because we own our own cars or homes? Or because we can pick up the cheque on a date? Or is independence about making decisions and being mature enough to stick by them? The idea of being autonomous, in my opinion, would be a better way of describing independence. Essentially governing ones self. Now, the word autonomy is typically used as a political concept, and maybe that’s where I’m going with this. Maybe we are using the term independence in place of strength. I would much rather come across as a strong woman, than an independent woman in almost any situation. Strength, to me, embodies so much more. Independence just means that you can operate on your own. And again, I’m not sure that it’s the message I think we should be portraying.
You’re probably up in arms thinking that I’m saying we should rely on others. And I’m not. I’m simply making the statement that independence doesn’t necessarily mean equality, and I honestly think its furthering a sexist agenda. We don’t talk about men being independent. It’s a given. Even if a man isn’t independent, we don’t necessarily look at it in a negative way. A man relying on a woman financially implies that the woman is independent. Why is there a gender stereotype? Men are perceived as being independent, regardless, but women have to work for it. In my opinion this also implies a whole host of stereotypes. Which, again, is extremely sexist.
I think that we still have a long way to go with women’s rights, and I do not support any initiative to take those rights away. But at the same time, I think to myself – it’s 2017, we shouldn’t be fighting for rights and equality any more. They should be a given. The same goes for any other group fighting for rights. Or fighting to keep rights. It’s 2017, people. I think we should start focusing on equality – on both sides of the gender spectrum and stop giving arbitrary labels to something that isn’t necessarily a positive. Recognize that there is an imbalance between the genders, and use that to further the agenda. Rather than pressuring girls and women to fit into a box that ultimately undermines equality. But that’s just my opinion.
This post was inspired by a Louisa May Alcott quote that I read the other day. She states “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship”. What I take from that is that there is opportunity for growth and that independence may never be achieved. Independence itself is not a bad thing. I just think that we assign it as a qualifier without recognizing that life is a journey and we may not always be independent. We might need to rely on others from time to time. And is that really such a bad thing?