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Onwards! A huge welcome to Being A Woman Week, here on Any Other Wedding.
We had so many thought-provoking, incredible submissions come through recently from our readers, dealing directly with the many facets of being a woman, that we couldn’t resist grouping them all together, bam, showcasing the sheer talent and diversity of our readers and inspiring discussion. And so, Being A Woman Week was born. For more inspiring thoughts on being a woman, there are some incredible posts on International Women’s Day 2011 that will make you think, laugh, possibly cry.
This week here isn’t trying to emulate that. This is our stab at trying to gather together some of the finest submissions we’ve ever received, all dealing with the complexity of what being a woman means today. As well as some of our thoughts. And to kick things off, we wanted to write about what being a woman means, to us. All three of us. We each picked an angle, because let’s face it, Being A Woman isn’t something you can capture in 300 words. And this week is really about you, the readers.
Anna: On giving ourselves a break
My stab was going to be entitled “on the perils of high heels versus principles” until I realised that what I really wanted to write about was the impossibly high standards that we set ourselves. I’m betting that some of you will feel similarly. This is a list of my perpetual worries; worries that are always there, lurking in the background: I’m not an alpha-wife; I haven’t got promoted yet; I’m not devoting enough time to my friends; I need to lose half a stone; I’m not focused enough on the blog; I’m not exercising enough; I don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables; I don’t contribute enough to my marriage.
That’s not even all of them. That’s a lot of weight to carry around, hmmm? Yet I do, every single day. It’s like I’ve been genetically programmed to expect an impossible level of perfection from myself. Ask any of my friends, family or work colleagues. Any of them. They would all tell you the above is tripe. I KNOW they would. I know that I’m a good wife, friend, lover (joke). I know I do all of the above. Worst of all, I know that it’s all about balance, and it’s about selecting a few, reasonable areas for improvement and focusing on those. I know it’s about being happy with imperfection. Man, if my life were a project, and I could draw up a progress chart and a critical path, I’d be that alpha-woman.
But you can’t project manage life.
The sad fact is, if any of my friends came to me with the above woes, I would shriek “poppycock!” and proceed to lecture them on giving themselves a break. So what’s the difference when it comes to giving myself, ourselves a break? I could blame the media, I could blame society, I could blame patriarchy. But really, there’s no-one to blame but myself. I choose to carry round that burden of constant guilt. I choose to never quite be good enough.
So I guess this is a plea. For me, and for you, the readers, who also have your list of perpetual worries. To shed them. To accept ourselves as we are. To be happy with not quite good enough. Because that’s us, in all our flawed glory, that’s what makes us unique, that’s what makes us falliable and humble and accepting of others. That’s what makes us us.
Aisling: On Feminism
When we decided to dedicate this week to ‘Being a Woman’, I thought back to our EPIC celebration of our fine selves on International Women’s Day. It was, not counting the day Anna joined us here at AOW, my absolute favourite day on this blog. Never have I been so proud; of myself, of strangers, of the women I knew and those I was getting to know. It was a triumph for females and a triumph for feminism.
There are more and more ‘safe’ places to go on the Internet now to talk about feminism. Places where you’re not judged as a bra-burner or an angry man-hater. Where it’s acceptable for men to be feminists. Where the decisions you make are always good enough as long as you’re happy with them. This is my goal for AnyOtherWedding. I want us to become a place like this. The only (tiny) shadow cast over International Women’s Day, for me, was the assumption made by some that we were celebrating WOMEN AND ONLY WOMEN BECAUSE WE HATE MEN. Not the case, my friends. We were celebrating women that day, and indeed this week, because women are amazing.
When (I choose to believe in ‘when’, not ‘if’) the day comes that men and women are paid equally, when a woman isn’t held back in her career by childcare costs, when the glass ceiling has been well and truly smashed, when men everywhere are happy to declare themselves feminists in the pub with their mates…when that day comes, we will still celebrate women and celebrate feminism because we deserve to be celebrated. And no more so than by ourselves.
Clare: On Choices
Being a woman in 2011 should mean choice. It should mean respect and support from other women for the choices that we make. But I’m not sure that it does mean that yet.
Yes, we can now to go to work, and have careers, and really prove ourselves as equals to men. Yes, we no longer belong to men, or have to make ourselves look pretty purely for men’s gratification. Yes, we are no longer metaphorically tied to the kitchen sink. And all of those are huge steps forward that I am incredibly grateful to the women who fought for them for.
But those women fought for us to have choice. Which we still don’t have. Not properly. And that is something that we need to change. It’s something which only we can change. Because it’s us, as women, who don’t allow others the respect that they deserve to make their own choices. Choices that suit them, not the modern world’s idealised view of what a woman should be doing.
So my plea is this. Respect other women’s choices. Do not villify women because they do not do what we feel is what a woman should do. In fact, can we just stop using the word ‘should‘ altogether? When a woman makes a well thought out decision that is right for her, we have to step away from condemning them, even if the choice is not the one we would have made.
If a woman chooses not to have a high flying career, for whatever reason, don’t belittle her for it, support her in her choice.
If a woman chooses to give up her career and stay at home and have children, be glad for her that she is able to make that choice.
If a woman chooses to focus on her career and not have children at all, be proud that we live in a society where she has that choice.
If a woman chooses to change her name, or not change her name, just be bloody pleased that we now have that choice, rather than concluding that her choice makes her less of a feminist.
If a woman chooses to wear make-up and pay attention to how she looks, don’t assume that she doesn’t care about more important things.
If a woman chooses not to have an abortion, but supports your right to have one, don’t question her choice but be grateful that we live in a country where you both have that choice.
If a woman gives up work to study whilst her husband supports her, know that she would do the same for him.
If a woman chooses to wear a big dress on her wedding day, or go the traditional wedding route, don’t judge, but instead be happy that we are not all made in the same mold, because christ, wouldn’t that be boring.
When we can all honestly put our hands on our hearts and say that we do that, that we support other women in their choices, even thought they might differ to ours, that’s when women, and feminism, will finally have won.
Readers, what do you think? What’s your particular beef, your hobbyhorse, your patch of the moral highground? What can’t you abide? What are you proud of? What would you answer, if asked what being a woman is, to you?