There is a thought that has been building in my head lately. Well, not lately, for some time now.
Why do I feel that, at a time where arguably (in the first world) women are at our most liberated, are there more rules imposed on women than ever?
We are at a point in history where we are told that women can be all things, that nothing is impossible. We can do anything we want, be anything we want to be. The rules and shackles imposed by society for so very long are being thrown away and we are creating and running our own lives the way we want to. Or are we?
Somehow, despite all of this liberation; it seems that we are once again being told what to do, how to look, how to act and how to think, increasing not just from men, but from other women.
Sometimes it feels that the only thing we are not allowed to be, is ourselves.
I was watching Bridget Jones Diary over Christmas. Bridget Jones Diary was written in 1996 and released as a film in 2001. For so many of us, Bridget encapsulated so much of who we are, our characteristics and both our flaws and our strengths.
Her silliness, her hope, her need for love and looking for it in all the wrong places. Her inability to make the right choices. Her ability to pick herself up and dust herself off to try again, after an obligatory vat of wine and a few renditions of "All By Myself".
I saw so much of myself in Bridget and indeed, now over twenty five years since the book came out, I still do.
The thing is, we are all multifaceted people. Aside from my many similarities to Bridget, I am also many other things. Many of which are contradictory to the other. I am independent, but feel an innate need to be loved, cared for. I am both secure, and insecure in my appearance, my character, my trajectory in life. I may have finally reached a point where I no longer walk about swathed in black, but I still change my clothes as many times before deciding on an outfit. Whatever the occasion.
I have a career, but it does not drive me more than being happy in my life outside of work.
I have both a traditional and non traditional relationship with my partner.
All of the above is the way I choose to live my life. It is who I am. Because I am be more than one thing. I can, and do, have opinions about a thousand different subjects. They don't all have to be on the same wavelength.
This, for me, is what the women before me fought for. To be the person I am. To think the way I want. Act the way I want. Do what the hell I want.
After watching the film, I later watched a documentary about the writer, Helen Fielding who spoke about her own similarities to Bridget, which inspired her to write the book. One of the people in the documentary was Germaine Greer, who made comment about the routine that Bridget went through in order to ready herself for her first date with Daniel.
Germaine was eyerolling at the fact that Bridget felt the need to do all of this. Why was she thinking more about whether to wear sexy underwear or control underwear rather than, as Germaine said "Don't worry about your pants girl, just kiss him".
That is true enough. What we know, certainly by Bridget's age, is that a man cares more about getting into your knickers rather than their style. They don't care. From my own experience with my partner, he tells he loves the "wrapping", but it is what inside that counts. The body and the mind.
But should that mean that we should also not care? Is that now not allowed? The effort that we put in is never just about them, it is part of who we are.
But, now, in 2022, being like Bridget is discouraged. Embarrassing even. All of those traits that we saw in Bridget reflected in ourselves are now frowned upon. At a time when even the word woman is being taken away from us, by men who have decided they are women; why are our feminine traits being seen as wrong and traits attributed to men, now right?
There is nothing wrong with being confident. Forthright. Competitive. Single minded in our pursuits. Assertive. All typically "male" behaviours. An increase of these behaviours is all good for women, but more and more I see them the things that make us women, now actively discouraged and forbidden.
There is no right way to be a man or a woman. We can be any and all things, but by our choosing.
Even the choice to be a stay at home mum is now judged. I overheard a conversation the other day where a young twenty something was saying to friends that what she wanted most in life was to be a mother. At home, with her children. She was immediately jumped on. What about your career, your independence, your money. You can't "just" be a mother.
Of course she can. She can be anything she wants to be. Can't she?
I am not writing an anti Germaine Greer post, but I saw this quote from her relevant to this post.
If a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?
Can I not wear high heels? Put on my makeup, take an eternity to decide on what to wear? Why do these have to detract from the person that I am? Does this now make me vapid and silly? Why can't I be silly? Doing those things are part of what makes me, me. It does not make me less intelligent, less willing and able to be successful and walk the path that I want to.
But I want to walk that path the way I chose. Not chosen by others.
It feels sometimes like we have moved on from changing from we look like and how we dress for men, to now editing who we are as people and the persona we show to the world, for (some) women.
I walk to the beat of my own drum. Not others. I won't be told how to live my life or how to act/be. I see how far women have come, what we have achieved, what generations before us fought for and gained for us. I don't think they would want me to be put in another box.
We make our own rules. What we cannot and should not do, is impose those rules on others. So yes, part of me is Bridget. And I am not ashamed of that. Nor should I be.