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March 23, 2011

Don't fake it ladies!

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23 March 2011

When I was younger, I distinctly remember my mother telling me that I need to learn to be independent so that I never have to depend on any man. My sister was told the same, and thus, we are both headstrong, sometimes stubborn, women who know how to change lightbulbs and insist on helping to lug a big bookshelf up the stairs.

It occurs to me now that it was a strange thing for my mother to teach us, considering that she was so happily married to my father. There is no reason for her to have believed that good reliable men were so few. So by implication, she was told the same thing by her mother.

As we grew up and started sticking our noses into fashion magazines and allsorts, we learnt that this was indeed true - as women, we need to learn to do everything for ourselves. However, contradictorily, we are also told that men's egos are fragile, and they need to be the hero, so even if you can do everything yourself, you need to make your man feel useful and heroic, even if it's being "unable" to open the mayonnaise on your own.

But this has all been taught to us by our exclusively female teachers.

Is there something anti-feminist about this teaching? We are told to relinquish our control sometimes so we can retain our men and avoid being left autonomous but alone. We are taught then that autonomy is a fall-back option in case men are a disappointment, but at the same time we are subconsciously told to be afraid of pursuing a career in favour of our men's egos. We are told to choose romance over independence.

There is a flaw in this argument however: we never hear the man's side of the story. We never hear that men also want relationships, and want them to work. As Hugo Schwyzer says, "...men don't just want to be valued for what they can do; they want to be valued for who they are and for how well they can connect and love".

The media is selling men short by teaching women that their other halves are only interested in showing off their physical prowess and feeling that they are needed because of their strength rather than because they offer valuable love and a need to be loved.

As Hugo concludes, a relationship is really about what each partner can do for the other - it's about sharing and about a "mutual need".

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