The American dream is a phenomenon that we’re all familiar with. Although it has lost much of it’s appeal since the 1950’s, the idea that all you need in life is a car, a family, and a white picket fence wrapped around your front lawn, is one that is still ingrained in all of us. For women, we have been pressured into a specific part of this dream, and rather than fading away it has simply changed it’s shape. I’m talking of course, about the expectation of being in a relationship.
As little girls we are bombarded with images and ideas of love from the mass media. Disney planted the idea in our heads that happiness can only be achieved with the love of a handsome prince. Perhaps if Jasmine had defied her father’s wishes and instead of marrying a “street-rat” became the first Queen of her kingdom, then maybe we’d have a little more faith in ourselves. However, like the rest of the movies she chose to marry a man and lived happily ever-after. So that’s what we’re faced with as children, Barbie goes with Ken, and Ariel with Prince Eric, but this expectation of hetero-love follows us through adolescence as well. When was the last time you watched a teen comedy that didn’t end with a perfect kiss and a happily ever after? Furthermore, romantic teen comedies also place the idea in our heads that sex means love. These films always move in the same way. Boy meets girl, girl fights off boy’s affection, girl gives in and has sex with boy, boy and girl fall in love and the movie ends. In reality, women are receiving messages that boys aren’t. Boys are feeling pressure to have sex with as many girls as possible in order to establish their masculinity. They’re hearing “fuck” when we’re hearing “love.” So really, what I thought was a flaw in my own logic was actually the result of me listening to the voices in American media. It’s good to know that my teenage years weren’t intentionally slutty, but it still doesn’t provide much comfort.
It’s not just the media that pushes women towards co-dependency with men. In many cases it’s actually due to a historical expectation. For example, my grandmother is one of the most educated women I know. She is hard working, well-read, and extremely powerful in her own right. However, whenever I see her one of her first questions regarding how I am is, “Are you seeing anyone?” I could win the noble prize for my writing for be one of the most powerful women in America but if I don’t have a man, then she’ll be forced to roll her eyes and sigh. Really? Is our worth as women solely based on our relationships with men? If I’m not sexually or romantically desired than am I flawed? Society would say yes. However, any reasonable thought right human being would of course answer no. We really have to think about this, do we want love for ourselves, or have we just been told to want it for so long that we just think that we do?
It’s the very reason why good girls throw their lives away chasing losers, liars, and cheaters. It’s because society is telling them too whether they are aware of it our not. If a woman is high powered and successful, if she has everything she has ever wanted in her life, but she doesn’t have a husband or a family then she’s not really a success story is she? A woman has to have a man in order to be complete. Not only does this idea hurt heterosexual women but it is also detrimental to negative lesbian stereotypes. If women aren’t women without men, then what does that make a lesbian?
It’s important to understand that we are receiving these messages so that we can combat them. No woman needs a man to make her happy, unless that’s what you actually desire. If so, go forth and play with romance, sometimes men can even be fun, sometimes. The idea that the concepts of wife and mother are what define us as women and ensure our place in this world is the oldest in history. In these modern times it has become less relevant. I believe that if the push for female on male dependence no longer existed women would not only fully embody their power but marriage would also change. Perhaps gay marriage would be widely acceptable because the hetero-norm would no longer be dominant. Marriage between men and women would be less an expectation of sublime happiness in which men become the ultimate bread-winners, and would instead would become a pairing of equals.
So what do you want out of life? Focus your concentration on what your soul longs for and settle for nothing less. Don’t join the rest of lemmings as they scramble for love and relationships, just focus on yourself and main independence with or with out another in your life. If you truly desire a husband, three kids, and a white picket fence wrapped around your perfect lawn then go for it, let nothing stop you. If this is not your dream then don’t let it make you feel like less of a woman. We are all entitled to our own version of happiness.