"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Saturday, March 26, 2016

la femme nouveau

Now Playing: Work by Iggy Azalea (this dream is all that I need cause it's all I ever had)

Once upon a time, a woman could become a wife, or a working woman. The two paths were so incompatible that women were fired upon getting married or falling pregnant. To choose an industry or academia was to live in a man's world, yet never be part of a man's world.

I feel like women are still making those choices today. We build our careers and sweat over textbooks at ages when our grandmothers were tripping down aisles and having babies, and being a working mother - or even just a working wife - is a condition that is still so full of barriers and stigma and gossip. I should know; I watched my mother do it.

I want to know what will make me happy. We're so quick to judge and ridicule women who give up things for love, but I don't think we live in a world where we can have it all. Men can. I never heard of a man who had to choose between women and job security. I've reached that age where I am, apparently, making choices for myself - but I don't know if I really had any say in any of the choices I made, and I don't know if anything I am choosing today will make me happy.

My friend got married around the same time I left home to come to ANU, which was a very real and visceral event to remind us of how different we are, and what different paths we have taken; how I have some open doors that she has closed, and vice versa. We don't live in the 50s; she still goes to uni, she will still work, we will both eventually find some way to balance life and love and work and family - or, at least, she will. Maybe I'll just be learning to balance my life with a cat.

She has the life I walked away from - not that I was anywhere near getting married in Perth, but there's a security in your hometown that you'll find nowhere else. I have so many opportunities here, but having lots of opportunities means having a lot of uncertainty; and, as always when you take a big leap of faith, when you capitalize on the privilege and luck that bears you hence, you also make sacrifices. Maybe we have both made the right choices. Maybe we will both be happy. I don't know. I certainly don't know if I'll be happy.

I think a lot about what it means to be a strong woman, how that term has evolved and yet has remained so stagnant. A strong woman remains a sexless one; we still associate weakness with falling in love, with being a fallen woman. We're constantly told that getting married too early or getting pregnant or even having too serious of a relationship will throw a wrench in our careers; I think at the end of the day society is still pushing us to be motherly or matronly, because to be otherwise, or even to be both, is to be something too momentous to handle. But I think it takes great strength to do something that society tells you not to, at an age where people judge you, without the ironclad security that this you are absolutely going to pull this off, that this is absolutely going to work - I admire my friend enormously.

In the previous generation 'to have it all' was to trick someone into reproducing and cohabiting with you, and to have the same burden of being stuck in an office all day as your husband, and all with less pay and the same housework responsibilities as the browbeaten 50s housewife. But equal happiness, equal opportunity...I think that still eludes us. Nothing I do these days seems conducive to finding happiness in my private life, just as the few months of utter indulgence did absolutely nothing for my career.

I hate the shame that is attached to so many things - I don't think it's shameful to be a woman who enjoys sexual relationships. I don't think it's shameful to want to be loved, and to love. I don't think it's shameful to want to be a mother as much as you want to be a career woman. Sex, love, children...these are not things that men have to apologise for. They are the things that keeps the world turning, that keeps the species alive. They are huge, momentous things. And, especially as someone who studies sexuality, I don't think I'd be where I am if I hadn't let myself love and indulge in these dreams sometimes. Dreams are the most intimate wishes of the heart. And the heart wants what the heart wants, as they always say.

I am deathly afraid that there are some dreams that will not be fulfilled; and I am frustrated because I feel like I have not been allowed to pursue them. Sure, these are my dreams and this is my career, but when it is funded by other people's money and opinions, to walk away, or even to compromise, is not really an option I can take. I have never been allowed to openly pursue the reckless, wild things that I loved; I did it anyway, but always with the idea that it was a distraction. But from what? I don't want to be successful and alone. I don't want to be chained to a relationship with no independent prospects of my own. I really...I want it all. I don't see any other way to be happy.

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