Can I be a strong woman without being independent?
This post has been loitering around in my drafts (unwritten I might add, but with the idea there) for months, but it seems important now more than ever. The recent Women's Marches against Trump and his policy have seen a weird strike back, with a whole load of people asking 'why did their husbands let them out'. In a disturbing way it's a little reminiscent of the old classic, 'who let the dogs out?', so why are people asking that about women? Everyone who joined in on the marches is simply exercising their autonomous right to go out and do what they believe in, and yet it's caused such controversy.
You see, there's this obsession on the internet with the #girlboss, the strong independent woman 'who don't need no man' and it's more than a little damaging. Before I go on, I think these notions in themselves are brilliant. Women don't need a man to be complete, or to be strong. But it creates this weird atmosphere around the woman who does rely on someone else for support.
When I was at uni I remember hearing somebody say 'yeah, she says she's a feminist, but she wears makeup and has a boyfriend, so it must be bullshit' about a fellow student of ours. And that's where the obsession with independence goes a little haywire. You're either alone, or you're 'let out' by the man in your life. There is no in-between. Except there is. And it's a big in-between. And it's been neglected and vilified.
This avoidance of the in-between is as old-fashioned as the notion that a woman can have a career or be a mum. And there's only one option that a feminist would choose, right? Wrong. You can have both. The whole point of feminism is that you have the right to choose. Some women don't want to be mothers, and that's cool; in the same way, some women want a family, and that's okay too.
It really all boils down to society's wish to categorise things. To label things. To wrap them up into neat little boxes and shut them away. Being a 'strong' woman must come through independence, or so it seems. But that's not necessarily true. Yes, it takes a lot of strength to be independent, but having people in your life that you rely on does not make you weak.
I personally get so many comments about why I consider myself to be a strong woman and a feminist when I cook dinner for me and my partner. Seriously. And I have to explain that cooking is something that calms my anxiety and makes me happy. And that's okay. Except it's not in the eyes of the media and so many individuals. Cooking for your partner fits into the 'anti-feminist' (I use quotation marks because it's simply incorrect) agenda, so I can't be seen as feminist. Or as a 'strong woman' because I support my partner in this way. But I am. Feminism is about choice. I choose to do it because I enjoy it. And I'm still strong, even though I support my partner. The fact that I've got to a state where my mental health is good enough that I can choose to support my partner shows I am strong. And he supports me right back too.
It's not just him I rely on though. I have my sister too. She's kind of my rock. if I need a pep up, or some advice I go to her. And she makes it all okay again. But that doesn't make me weak. I simply couldn't be a strong independent woman. I don't exist alone, in a little bubble of just me. I make my own money, I take care of my pets and I make my own choices about everything in my life. But I'm not independent. And that's okay.