Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Women Should Settle for Less

The tendency to try and scare women with possible future loneliness in order to force them to settle for less is nothing new. Take newspapers and magazines from 1, 5, 10, 25 years ago and you will find the same tired exhortations for women to lower their expectations, or (the horror! the horror!) they might remain single. Women are told that they have an exaggerated sense of self-worth, so they should be more "realistic" and understand that they are not all that fabulous. Somehow, I am yet to find an article inviting men to think less of themselves and settle for whatever is available instead of looking for what's best for them.

The profoundly chauvinistic UK's Daily Mail just came out with this kind of article directed at uppity women. The article is titled "The ego epidemic: How more and more of us women have an inflated sense of our own fabulousness." The most upsetting thing about this article is that it is written... by a woman.

"Us women are more egocentric and narcissistic than we ever used to be, according to extensive research by two leading psychologists. More of us have huge expectations of ourselves, our lives and everyone in them", says Lucy Taylor at the beginning of the article. She concentrates, however, on one area of female lives: dating: "In a recent magazine article, four women in their late 20s and 30s shared their thoughts about why they were still single. A 39-year-old beauty director claimed to be too independent for a relationship. A 38-year-old music agent attributed her single status to the fact she was an alpha female - independent, feisty, strong-minded, high-achieving and intimidating... The third woman, a 30-year- old arts writer and curator, has been having too much fun to settle down." Even though there is no indication whatsoever that these women are unhappy with their lives, Taylor tries to find out why these women are "still" single. Their independence is one of the characteristic that scares her the most.

Of course, the existence (and the growing number) of women who are having too much fun and love their lives too much to be tied down in the role of a cooking and cleaning robot for some loser represents a huge threat to patriarchy. Lucy Taylor is happy to participate in the efforts to convince these women that they have some sort of a mental disorder. She proceeds to diagnose women she only read about "in a recent magazine article" with surprising aplomb.

The efforts to present independent, strong-willed women who dare to make their own choices in life as mentally ill have been made for as long as patriarchy exists. It's shocking, however, that today we still allow for this to happen.

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