Google will tell you a woman wants a man. Mr Right, to be exact, on bended knee. She cannot know her life or herself without him. A woman, this suggests, is not an autonomous being able to go it alone. She wants commitment.
Repeat the search, however, swapping ‘women’ for ‘everyone’ and we’re told something different. We all want to be happy
. Of course we do, but happiness is just so intangible, isn’t it? It’s such a personal thing. I believe happiness is founded in freedom.
By that I mean the freedom to be who we want, to do what we want, however, whenever and with whomever we want, unafraid of the backlash, unencumbered by fabricated limitations of gender, race or class (you know, like white men have been doing since forever). In case you hadn’t guessed, Mr Right can’t deliver on this singlehandedly.
You have to set things in motion yourself, nevermind the toxic dating advice that tells us 10 ways to please a man because anything is better than being alone. I really want to believe that we’ve evolved beyond this, yet still I see us chasing after fantasies concocted by someone else on our behalf, as if we’re unable to think for ourselves. But think we must. It’s up to us to decide what we really want and whether we’re truly committed to going after it. You have to commit to your own freedom, your own happiness.
Nobody else is going to do it for you. And nobody is going to sweep you off your feet but you. I could talk here about social conditioning, how we’ve been bred over the centuries to expect a man to make the first move. I could focus on how fine the line is between sexual harassment and ‘harmless’ flirtation...
But instead I want to emphasise this: when we put the onus on men to ride in on their white stallions and rescue us from the perverts and patriarchs, we might as well kiss any hope of freedom or happiness goodbye. We have to rescue ourselves.
More than that, we have to do what we can
to create a world from which we no longer need rescuing. It’s a tall order, I know. That’s why we start with the parts we can reach. We start with ourselves and address the role we’re
playing in all of this.
Pointing the finger of blame doesn’t always serve us. In fact, it astonishes me how often I’m blamed
for blaming men for all that’s wrong in the world, thereby making the place untenable for them (sigh). Yes, naming and shaming those raping our bodies raises awareness of the severity of the situation, but a more powerful way to bring about change is by empowering ourselves. If women don’t give a f**k about their own freedom, no one will.
We begin by cracking patriarchal codes from the inside out. Which means fessing up to our own internalised sexism
, since patriarchy isn’t just some pussy-grabbing president, it’s system of values and beliefs that has taken root in our collective psyche.
Our social and cultural infrastructures favour the powerful and the privileged, which means we’re all vying to get our mitts on a piece of that power and privilege in whatever small way we can. Sometimes that means pledging allegiance to those who hold the majority share. Obedience becomes our sanctuary.
It keeps the target off our backs if we seem less important in order to allow someone else to feel more important. Mr Right, for example. We actually choose to disempower ourselves out of habit
. Which is why waiting for that white knight to bestow us with his approval is indicative of the kind of thinking that engenders everything from the pay gap to female genital mutilation.
A patriarchal mindset pitches all things masculine (action, ambition) above all things feminine (intuition, emotion). Think of them as the two hemispheres of the brain. The left side (masculine) solves problems. But the right side (feminine) could create a world without problems
. She may be oppressed, but she is most certainly not obsolete.
The goal here is to amplify the feminine without
muting the masculine, to activate her without
deactivating him. One without the other falls short, as illustrated by the many problems we now face. But we’ve no hope of healing all this hatred unless we begin with some radical self
-healing. And that comes through radical self-knowledge. We enter into relationship with ourselves.
Why not get to know you
? What makes you happy and why, what makes you angry and why. Put down the media trash and pick up your own ideas. Find out what you’re really good at and do more of it. Discover what you really want and go after it.
Date yourself, even if you’re ‘with’ someone else. And, if you are, use the relationship as a mirror rather than a mechanism for self-deflection. Don’t hang your hat of passivity on Mr Right. Find out if you want to commit to
him rather than chasing commitment from
You may be surprised by what you unearth, like an adversity to commitment for example, which I’m very familiar with. It took me a while, but I finally realised how much I’ve struggled to commit to anything or anyone over the years. I’ve rejected whole chapters of my life
because I believed they denied me what I wanted the most. Freedom.
I turned my back on London after ‘committing’ to it for 18 years. I flitted here and there, exploring relationships with exotic men in equally exotic locations. I pursued a life on the road with passion, but I was chasing a freedom fantasy for all the wrong reasons, seeking the shock factor, rebelling against a system of conformity from the outside in
. I was playing at it, not committing to it. I always had one eye on the exit. My life had become one big get-out clause.
Whenever I entered into a relationship or contract, I felt like I lost myself. I seemed to naturally assume a role of subservience, of the minion to the manager, of the student to the teacher, of the woman to the man. I had come to associate commitment with entrapment, disempowerment, hence the dramatic nature of my rebellion.
But here’s the catch.
I’d chosen subservience
. I’d chosen to seem less important so that someone else could feel more important, even if they hadn’t asked me to
. Freedom had been available to me all along. It was simply a choice.
I’d been basing my future potential on past performance, assuming that what had always been is what would always be. No matter how much I chased the fantasy, so ingrained in me was this idea of obedience that on a subconscious level
I didn’t believe I could really be free.
Commitment issues, you see, aren’t always the by-products of play away egos. They can stem from a deep lack of self-belief, a lack of self-worth. If we commit to something, we fear we will eventually lose it. Yes, we may get it at first, but there’s no guarantee that it’s a keeper. There’s a deep sense that we’re not allowed to keep it.
The precariousness of this situation spins us into a panic. If we become dependent on someone other than ourselves
, something outside of us, to make us happy, what happens when they leave? If we commit to Mr Right over and above committing to ourselves, what or who is left when he’s gone? Worse still, what if we blame ourselves for his departure?
If, fundamentally, we don’t believe we’re deserving of the things we desire, we get caught in the dreaded confirmation bias loop, tripping over evidence of what we believe to be true: that we’re not worthy
. So, while we think we’re looking for someone to prove our worth, we just keep hooking up with those who show us the opposite. It's a battlefield
. It’s the kind of relationship rot that patriarchy both creates and perpetrates.
But here’s the good news. It’s all role-play
and we don’t have to accept the part. It’s all wiring that can be re-wired. Our internal patriarchs have thus far ensured that we remain strangers to both each other and ourselves. You can change that. And you can begin by dating yourself (safe in the knowledge that you won’t walk out or cheat, I hope).
I’ve been going steady with me for a while now. Checking in with my happiness levels in every situation. It sounds batshit, I’ll give you that, but this commitment to myself has been one of the most radical steps I’ve ever taken towards freedom.
It means asking over and over, is this acceptable, is this making me happy, what do I want instead? I may not always act on the answers, but at least I asked the questions rather than waiting for someone else to do so. More than that, this inner dialogue has become a constant source of love and reassurance. If I want to become the revolutionary I desire to be, I first have to deal with the BS on the inside. That’s where the revolution begins.
We can march. We can say “me too”. We can sign all of the petitions. We can do these vastly important things since they’re the threads that will weave a new tapestry. But these threads will be weak and snap unless they’re spun from a place of conviction and integrity
It’s no good dipping a toe in the waters of women’s lib before retreating into the arms of our inner patriarchs. If, on a subconscious level, we still don’t feel deserving of equality, we’ll never get it. So we have to give it to ourselves. We have to choose freedom, to see ourselves as equals.
Our history of oppression is no small matter. But if we hold too fast to the past, believing it impossible to create something different, we’ll just get more of the same. We'll relinquish our responsibility to become a part of the solution. But if we acknowledge that the problem on the inside creates a problem on the outside, freedom is there for the taking. These are unprecedented times…
To think I got all this from a random Google search on a Tuesday afternoon. And a lifetime of commitment issues. And a lifelong hunt for freedom. But it reminded me that we have a choice every day, in every moment. Commit to ourselves or commit to someone else’s idea of who we should be. It’s a no-brainer, surely?
So, here comes the irony.
Google isn’t wrong. Women do want commitment. But we can lose the dude on bended knee (unless Mr Right is right on). Women want commitment from women.
When we turn towards ourselves, we turn towards all of us. So when I say I give a f**k about my
freedom, what I really mean is that I care deeply, passionately, unwaveringly about yours too. This is my commitment. It’s what I want the most. This is me on bended knee…