Before you read further, if you loved the article written by Ashlyn Howard Why It’s Better To Be The Girl No One Can Have, then read no further. However, if you’re still intrigued, I hope I can convince you of my point of view.
First of all, I commend Howard for her theme of self-respect. I am a fellow single woman in her twenties trying to stay afloat with rent, student loans, and finding my place in the world. A coming of age story is an evergreen topic, an especially popular topic on the internet, as we #twentysomethings often document our lives on social media. Our documentation is heavily revolved around how to grow personally, aka “find ourselves.” While the core of Howard’s argument is honorable, I will discuss why Howard promoted sexism in the way she argued her message.
- “All too often, girls in their twenties are misrepresented by the decisions they make, driven by emotion and passion. Sure, it’s your time to experiment and (if you’re single) exercise your right to be free and do whatever the hell you want” (Howard, 2015).
Representing woman as a creature who is only driven by emotions, blinded by passion, is undeniably sexist. Woman are fighting against this idea every single day, and here you are supporting this cultural notion of woman being weak. Women are just as reasonable as men, with an empathy that our culture does not allow men to openly express. I will not delve into this issue much further, as I implore you to read more into gender difference in boys and girls. Here is just one article that explores the issue.
Howard, please do not imply that our emotions are our downfall, because in many ways they are our weapon and our strength. Emotions allow us to have closer connections with those around us, to create a culture that supports others, and to make a killer sales pitch by connecting both heart and head. There is nothing wrong with being a passionate human being, because it allows us to live life to the fullest and to be more open to the world around us. Passion is what drives a person further in their career, and further in love with someone. Passion has little to do with the lack of control over their decisions-that’s a lack of reason in conjunction with emotion. However, maybe it’s something else entirely because why not? Why not take a chance on a “chill” night that might turn into a fruitful relationship, why not take a chance and learn something, why not chill?
Additionally, I find that it’s a common theme that #twentysomethings articles only speak to those who are “single.” Not only did your article not mention those are homosexual, as it’s not just women dealing with this at the hands of men, but they also eliminate anyone in a relationship. This elimination is unfair as anyone who is in a relationship can still, as you say, “…experiment…exercise your right to be free, and do whatever the hell [they] want.” A title doesn’t change this. It’s a sexist statement that supports a cultural view that women follow or are dependent on men. That men have all the power. Howard, I’m sure you did not mean to promote this view, but you must be careful with your words. In a world where advertisements that promote date rape can be approved and executed, a la Bloomingdale’s Holiday 2015 ad, we must be careful of how we represent ourselves. Feminism is as important today as it was in 1919, it just has more hidden complexities, just like racism.
- “Handing that power over to men (okay, boys) in their twenties is dangerous. Essentially, you’ll end up being treated like sh*t by guys who want nothing more than your body. There is nothing attractive about a guy who doesn’t respect you. Knowing this allows you to take a stand against it. We may never be able to change most young guys’ mindsets, but there is a way to carry yourself that will attract the right boys to you” (Howard, 2015).
As I started to say, sex does not give men power over us, and by having sex with men, we are not being treated like shit. Sex is not only about the man’s satisfaction-maybe the female is using the man! Maybe they’re using each other, which is OK because at least they’re on the same page. Your viewpoint disregards the fact that women are sexually mature human beings. You are saying that by having sex with a man, we have no power. Men have all the power in the situation, and we are merely a body, a vessel of sex for men to achieve orgasm. If you believe this to be true, then it would have to be true universally, in or out of a relationship, with a man or a woman. You assume that women have no way to maintain respect for ourselves or to earn the respect of others by participating in the act of sex, because our respect is dependent on our sexual partner. If this is true, then me and everyone I know is screwed.
Furthermore, I do not respect the way in which you represent men here. You are assuming that all men use women for their bodies, and that all men we have sex with outside of a relationship will undoubtedly treat us like shit. You also support the idea that men only have one thing on their mind; that their sexually implusive mindset is something that cannot be changed-it’s in their programming. Howard, shame on you, as these statements support rape culture in America. Have you ignored all of the arguments over school dress codes, or again, the backlash over Bloomingdale’s Holiday ad? There are plenty of men who respect women who are sexually confident, mature, and unashamed of who they are and what they want. Men are just as complicated are we are, and they also struggle with their own self-respect, but let’s get back to us women. I find more respect in the woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it, than I do the woman who prides herself in being someone who has a low number of sexual partners because no one can have her. Respect cannot be measured, but felt.
- “That being said, attracting a boy should be the last thing on your mind. Carry yourself with dignity. Treat your mind and body with respect. Do the things you love without paying any mind to the immaturity of the male species around you. Say no next time he asks you to hang out at midnight. Wear clothes that YOU like, not clothes you think guys would like. Find an interest or passion in something constructive. Stop texting your ex back” (Howard, 2015).
This paragraph is unorganized, as none of the thoughts here are not well-developed, and quite frankly are speaking about many different aspects. No, men are not all immature, and again, if a woman wants to hang out at midnight, then why say no? If a man doesn’t respect you for that, then that’s his issue, not yours. If you learned something from that disrespectful asshole, then it’s worth it (disclaimer: this absolutely does not pertain to assault as there is assumption of choice and consent in this argument). From this experience, you can more easily identify the next “fuck boy” that comes around (excuse my French). And YES, I agree that attraction should not be priority in our lives, but I also wouldn’t say that it should be the last thing on our mind. Attraction is a part of being a living creature, and our sexuality isn’t only about respect-it’s just a small component in finding ourselves.
Now, I want to explore the subject of “finding ourselves” in a broader sense, not just our in terms of our sexuality. Our journey to respect comes from making mistakes as Howard has mentioned making herself (as anyone on this planet has done). These mistakes may be done in connection with our sexuality, or it cannot be. Finding ourselves is most certainly helped by finding our interests and passions as Howard mentioned, as well as in the way we want to showcase that to the world-which was irrelevantly pointed to in the aforementioned paragraph when referencing clothing (again, refer to the date rape culture article provided above).
Interests and passions are a part of what make us unique and who we are. Carrying ourselves with dignity comes from exploration of these interests and confidence of its experience.I believe it’s very important to reiterate here that women’s interests, passions, and self-respect are not dependent on a man, and that our carriage is not dependent on the clothing we wear. If it were, we’d have a lot bigger issues at hand. Moreover, respect isn’t a cut and dry subject. It’s created by many, many immeasurable experiences. We should never completely determine our respect on any one person or group of people-whether you’re attracted to men or women, or find yourself in a bullying situation. But I can’t deny that these opinions do matter to us and have a strong ability to affect our perceptions negatively.
Good or bad, outside opinions give us validation and allow us to question what we know. External factors are why many woman have a hard time finding their confidence and self-respect. But the answer isn’t not sleeping with people, it’s in exploration. Thus, it is important to constantly test our boundaries, question what we know, and growing from whatever answer we find. This is especially when we are in our twenties, which is why articles revolving around #twentysomethings are so popular. This constant evaluation based on new experiences and exposure is vitally important for anyone-male or female-to know what they are comfortable and not comfortable with, to communicate what they will and will not tolerate, and to know what they want and don’t want in any relationship-interpersonal or intrapersonal. For some, sex may be a part of this exploration. Beyond sex, this rule of thumb extends to every aspect of our lives. Social relationships are what help us to grow emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. Attraction is healthy, which is why I cannot support the idea that relationships should be the last thing on our mind, but I do agree that relationships shouldn’t be a top priority.
Coming back to Howard’s paragraph above, the last sentence is a curve ball that I must briefly mention: since when have we been talking about an ex? Exes are an entirely different story, the reason it’s bad to text an ex is because the situation is going to emotionally hurt you. That relationship ended for a reason, and by clinging on, you’re not allowing yourself the breath to grow and heal. Yes, maybe the relationship will work out again in the future, but you need time to dissemble the fantasies you’ve made of the relationship, and to explore the reasons in which you can grow. This time will help you for your next relationship, with or without your ex. However, love isn’t a science, and if the emotional scar is still worth the risk to you, then good luck, but I pray that you listen to your friends’ advice.
Now, back to the pertinent issues here. The other theme I don’t find healthy in this article is to not be available. How are you going to find love by not being available? Yes, anyone who wants to be with you should prove that they are worth your time, and your heart. However, you cannot test what this looks like without testing your emotional maturity. The great thing about dating is that you have to know yourself in order to tell someone else who you are, you must be vulnerable and available to new opportunities. No one gets anywhere by being an unapproachable bitch (again, excuse my French). By playing the hard-to-get game, you have a big chance of loosing out on the opportunity to be with someone who isn’t interested in playing games and is 100% honest with you.
In the words of Gigi from He’s Just Not That Into You,
I may dissect each little thing and put myself out there so much but at least that means that I still care. Oh! You’ve think you won because women are expendable to you. You may not get hurt or make an ass of yourself that way but you don’t fall in love that way either. You have not won. You’re alone. I may do a lot of stupid shit but I’m still a lot closer to love than you are. –Gigi
The wants, needs, and desires we may find as a result of the “chill” hang out at 2 am you’re shaming, may just be part of a personal learning curve a woman needs in achieving the self-respect and love she deserves. If a woman likes to “chill” with someone she’s attracted to at 2 am-then who cares! If you’re not comfortable with that, then I’m so proud of you for knowing your boundaries. However, don’t impose your personal preferences on another woman. Having sex with someone doesn’t mean that you’re handing power over to a man. In fact, the emotionally available woman is probably closer to finding what she needs than the girl who isn’t taking risks and challenging herself (not just sexually!). We must be constantly open to new experiences in order to be aware of what we are comfortable with and to attain better judgment-even if it’s having a one-night stand. Do not be the girl who no one can have. Be the girl who has the courage to say no, the courage to be 110% herself, and to have passion. Be the girl anyone can have, if so lucky for you to have choosen them.