Completeness

Thank you Jennifer Aniston, for setting the record straight.

Not only on the unkind rumours of a pregnancy, but about the truth of a woman’s worth.

Whilst I personally could not be further from the powerful female figure that Jennifer is given her contribution to entertainment and popular culture, as simply a woman, I truly understand and often experience the pressures of being judged because of my physical appearance.

Admittedly, being of Asian descent and growing up in a diversified Australia in the nineties is incomparable to the harrowing stories of racial segregation and violence of times past (and unfortunately, still in certain cultures); but I have undeniably so, had my fair share of trials navigating the world whilst coming to terms with my own identity.

I learned about bullying early on in life, being one of two, maybe three students with an Asian background at my Primary school. Fortunately, my parents raised me with enough love and unshakeable faith that I had the strength to get through it, yet still, the teasing is a hurtful memory.

Later in my adolescence, I uncovered through a range of experiences, more and more of the underlying racial stigmas at play despite our increasingly multicultural society.

I had often doubted my passion and ability in music and performing, due to being overlooked without much rhyme or reason beyond the fact that I did not have the right image / physical beauty / marketability to make something of what I so loved to do.

I fell victim to all of the insecurities born out of others’ perception of me – which seemed to be solely defined by the way I looked.

The current me recognises the triviality of this notion, but truthfully, the issues beneath the surface still somehow affect me.

Inadvertently, I had carried such futile opinions of my physicality into my adulthood, whilst beginning to carve a career in the media and advertising industry.

Ambition and academic conviction (backed by unwavering support from my family and certain life mentors) meant that I could find enough courage to pursue my professional goals, however it wasn’t without those dark days where I had focused too much energy on how I was different to others, in the most inferior ways.

I rarely felt good enough, attractive enough, talented enough, wealthy enough, cultured enough, interesting enough or strong enough as I was pitted against my female peers. There were nights I cried to myself wondering why I decided to work in an industry where other women would always look down on me for all of the reasons listed above.

Maturity and a stronger sense of self eventually set in and though it’s still a work-in-progress, I have definitely learned to embrace what makes me unique and instead, focus on those qualities in order to be the best person I can be.

Jennifer’s recent declaration on The Huffington Post has resonated with my own thoughts about what it is that defines us as women – beyond what the media and in turn, a conditioned society, seems to dictate is ‘perfect’, ‘desirable’, ‘normal’ or ‘worthy’.

I am of the same belief that the fruition of womanhood cannot simply be reduced to getting married or bearing children – it is rather in ALL of that which makes us who we are, however we choose to live our lives, with soulful purpose and kind intent.

This is not an opinion that is to be seen as defensive just because I am indeed a woman whom at this stage in my life may not be thinking of marriage or motherhood, but it is a challenge to you, to understand that we are worth more than the labels that society, culture and commercial institutions place on us, merely because of an obstructed view – given the very narrow lens through which these people look at the world.

Women as well as men, need to strive harder to steer away from objectifying all women, where basic and ignorant commentary creates harmful stereotypes and assumptions about an individual’s purpose here on this earth.

As I am having to learn to accept who I am, where I’m from, what I can and cannot change about myself, I hope too that all people can learn that same acceptance of other women, to instead have empowering conversations that rise above matters of race, age, height, weight, social status, marital status and other such superficial topics that can isolate those who happen to make different personal choices.

A woman’s completeness is in her own contentment, her own values, her own understanding of herself and the world, and importantly, her own and unique vision of what it means to have a fulfilled life.

Completeness

she for she

I might preface this post by saying that it is not my intention to cause anyone offence (well, it never is, really) whilst I indulge myself in this little rant based on a recent experience I’ve had as a career-focused single woman in her (almost) thirties.  Ugh, I actually detest the notion of having just labelled myself so blatantly in that way, however, such facts are crucial to this piece.

The offence that may possibily arise here, has to do with the ever-debateable topic: feminism.

I recently came across this article in Time Magazine which collated thoughts on feminism from notable women in the entertainment industry.  Each of them, with valid grounds for their opinion, and it gladdened me to know that women with this type of powerful voice are using it to help stimulate discussion on how strong, successful and fulfilled women can be.

I’d like to especially echo Salma Hayek’s thoughts, “[Feminism] means being proud of being a woman, and [having] love, respect and admiration and the belief in our strong capacities. I don’t think we are the same, women and men. We’re different. But I don’t think we are less than men.”

For me, it isn’t about female empowerment in opposition to men, but rather, in addition to.  In the fight for gender equality, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that each and every one of us has been created with different abilities and talents to offer the world.  As a woman, I don’t need to prove that I can do every single thing that a man can do.  I just want the same opportunity to be able to reach my potential in whatever field I choose, which thus warrants the same respect and reward that any man would receive.

I digress, hence back to the recent incident which has primarily inspired this post.

I have come to accept that this next season in my life is the one where many of my peers have figured out exactly what they want in their future.  Or so it seems.  It’s the chapter for ‘settling down’, for putting to rest the whimisical dreams of childhood and the rebellious, impulsive ventures of adolescence.  Quite simply, it is getting-married-buying-a-house-starting-a-family-time.

Those who know me, understand that it is not in my nature to envy others (I’ve just realised that the sarcasm of the previous sentence may suggest otherwise), and it frustrating to think that people enjoy the task of trying to unearth a bitterness that is often associated with being a single woman at a certain age. 

Please stop trying to prove that I am unhappy being single, because I’m just not.

I have come to accept that societal expectations, no matter how far progressed we might feel in this 21st century, always allude to the idea that happiness is unattainable outside of a (romantic) relationship.  This is untrue.  Happiness is unattainable without love yes, but there is much to love about the lives we lead.  I personally, have never been without happiness in my life solely because of my single status.

A recent catch-up with an old friend has left a bad taste, in light of my thoughts above. This ‘friend’ of mine was once very close to me, it was during our impressionable years, when we were studying and still working out who we were and what we wanted. Since graduating university, we began to see each other less and less, ultimately down to once-a-year catch-ups which for me, became more than enough.  As the cliche goes, I felt that we grew apart, each pursuing a different path in life.  

I had long been prepared to take leave of the friendship that seemed to no longer serve us well, but surprisingly, she wasn’t ready to let go.

And then she invited me to her wedding.

My natural reaction was one of excitement and support, there is no doubt how right the time is for her, she is set to be an amazing wife and mother one day.  In turn, I had always given her the benefit of the doubt that she respected me in the same way for the choices I made for myself.

It was perhaps, inadvertenly, the conversation which followed her giving me the invitation, that has stained my perspective.  It went along the lines of, “At least you’ll know someone there,” (only one other girl I know had been invited with her husband, though I haven’t seen her for years) “And if you start seeing someone closer to the wedding, just let me know and you might be able to bring him along.”

Attending a wedding solo has never been an issue for me, albeit other girlfriends have had the sense to group me with numerous people that I know, thoughtfully considering my enjoyment factor on the day.  It did not feel that was the case this time around.

Her words and the way she relayed them to me that day, were very telling of what she actually might think of me.  The solo invitation was given in light of me not having a partner, yet the other girl is somewhat obliged to bring her husband.

Does it mean that no other ‘plus one’ outside a boyfriend or husband would qualify?

At risk of overthinking things, the whole incident highlighted to me the problem that women impose on other women when it comes to how we measure self-worth.  As basic an evaluation this is, I was denied the opportunity of bringing along a guest to a wedding where I won’t know most people, on the grounds that I am currently not romantically involved.  Subtext: I am not complete without a partner, therefore I cannot avail of the same privileges as those who are.

This echoes the earlier debate on feminism being about women being granted the same opportunities as men.  Many of us complain and are quick to blame the male species for denying us these things, often failing to realise that we are as much a part of the problem.

Whilst in admiration of Emma Watson and her He For She movement, let us not forget that in campaigning for men to change the way they treat women, we too must change the way we treat each other.  

How can we earn the respect that we long for from the opposite sex if we don’t even recognise and encourage it in one another? How can we feel empowered to do extraordinary things if we as women look down at other women whose life choices might be different to ours? How do we achieve gender equality if our measure of self-worth solely involves being in a relationship with a man?

I write passionately on this subject because I believe that us women need to change the way we see and engage with one another. It is fairly impossible to not judge another woman, but it is possible to support them.  

As women, let us not diminish ourselves to such labels of ‘married’ or ‘single’; we each have different paths, priorities, dreams and goals.  It is our duty – for the progress of our species – to allow each other to explore all aspects of womanhood that our generation allows.  There is still a long way to go, yes, but just think about how far we have already come.

she for she

helen reddy sang it best

As quite an independent woman, I always wonder about other women who choose to devote their lives serving a man. Traditional gender roles seem a thing of the past, but observing the relationships around me confirms that they are still very present in the modern day.

Let’s face it, we’re built with different parts – physically, mentally, emotionally – we’ve been designed to be both inferior and superior to the opposite sex in various ways. Though feminist ideals shape a lot of what I think and believe, I have accepted that there are certain things that I cannot perhaps manage as a woman, as well as things that are expected of me, given my femininity. I’d rather not detail exactly what these things are as they may differ for each individual, not to mention spark heated debate that is definitely not my intention for this post.

I suppose I just want to better understand why many women somehow feel incomplete without a man by their side. Indeed, humanity thrives on companionship and a sense of belonging but is loving a man and earning his love really the only source of personal validation?

Admittedly, I have no credibility whatsoever to be writing on this topic, I haven’t yet experienced this idea of true romantic love – it used to be something that I wholeheartedly and wistfully believed in (not that I am now at miserable cynic), but these days it all just seems a little cliche to me. Too much cheese (even for a self-confessed cheese-lover). *NB Previous post exempted.

I am also not the domesticated type, my cooking skills are nothing to be desired (well, if I actually possess them at all) and I just don’t have a flair for other various chores (ie. my aptitude for ironing and folding needs a lot of work). Hence, I feel that if I don’t enjoy performing these tasks for my own benefit, why on earth would I want to commit to fulfilling such duties for a man’s profitability? Ha, with that mindset I guess I won’t be winning any wife/mother-of-the-year awards anytime soon.

Perhaps I am deviating slightly. Truth is, this post is a reaction to something/a range of things that have been happening around me lately. Women I know who have been lured into relationships where the breadwinning male expects his wife to be his servant. Men who abuse them when they fail to keep up with their household responsibilities. Why do these women stay and serve?

It seems a little far-fetched that women here in Australia find themselves in these situations, it’s almost ludicrous given how progressed we are as a society. The heartbreaking thing is, domestic violence can happen anywhere and everywhere. No woman, regardless of  her education, status, race, appearance, is exempt from it – it takes just one enraged, heartless and deeply troubled man to inflict the pain. Not just the physical pain, but the emotional kind – that which creates a permanent dent in a woman’s self-worth and dignity; that which requires ongoing treatment even after the visible bruises are gone.

I would never want to devote my life to serve a man like that and I feel blessed that I have the choice not to. Though marriage and time can change things and people, I want to do everything I can to ensure that my partner and I commit to being each other’s servants, to create an environment of love, respect, patience, understanding and selflessness. To know that I am strong enough to get out of any environment that doesn’t breathe those very values.

So yes you could comment on my inexperience in the relationship/love game, I’m also none the wiser at 28 years old, but I have encountered enough in my life to know that one of the most important ingredients to happiness is this: Love Yourself.

My hope is for all women (myself included) to embrace who they are as individuals, regardless of a man’s opinion or society’s expectations. Learn to love who you are, independent of how others show love (or lack of), to you.

You are beauty and grace and strength, you are woman, what isn’t there to love?

helen reddy sang it best