International Women’s Day is fast approaching. A few years ago, I would have been the first to roll my eyes, declaring the whole saga a needless event for feminists to unite over their hatred of men, love of tofu, and favour of unshaven legs. Because let’s be honest, to those of us who do not consider ourselves linked with the title, the connotations of a feminist aren’t particularly positive.
Over the past year or so, I have started to explore what the word ‘feminist’ means to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do like tofu, and I’ll be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I shaved my legs (lockdown life...) This aside, I surprised myself with my own revelations.
In this article, I am going to cover a range of topics that I feel loosely relate to feminism, or what it means to me, at least. I aim to touch upon everything from the unfair expectancy of having children, to the importance of self-confidence and self-love.
When I got married, the one thing I was afraid of was losing my independence. It is something I have really struggled to come to terms with.
While the traditions of marriage have evolved with society, thankfully leading us away from the whole dedicated housewife thing, I do think that there are still a number of old-fashioned views infused within the act.
Of course, marriage is literally just a set of rings and a piece of paper (costing, on average around £20,000... *Insert vomiting emoji here*).
I have worked hard for various book and article publications under my maiden name, which was the main reason I decided not to take the surname of my husband after our marriage. This undoubtedly raised both eyebrows and questions as do most things constructed outside of what people consider to be ‘the norm.’
Why should I lose my most prevalent form of identity – my NAME – just because I got married? Marriage should feel like a uniting, a strengthening of a partnership, not a stripping of identity.
So this is going to sound REALLY feminist right now, and for this I apologise, but I just failed to see why I should take the name of my husband and abandon my own family name, which has made me who I am for the past 27 years. Everything from my precious Grandmother to the books I have had published links me with the surname Bradley – why would I want to lose that association?
Since I have been married, the amount of times I have been asked when I am having children is frankly unbelievable. Shock bloody horror: I don’t want children! And how dare I – as a woman – say such a thing?! Honestly, the pure look of disbelief on some people’s faces when I politely advise them that children are not on my life priority list is really bemusing. I’m not entirely sure as to why there is such a high expectancy for women to immediately start popping kids out once they’re married...
Long gone are the days that women were considered to be have been put on this earth simply to reproduce and keep the population ticking over.
And while we’re on the subject – how dare anybody question a woman as to why she doesn’t have or want children! I’ve seen quite a few articles about this as of recent – above all, it’s actually downright offensive! Before you ask a women why she doesn’t have children/why she doesn’t want children/ why she’s not trying for a baby, consider the fact that she might be unable to carry a baby due to medical reasons, she might be struggling to conceive and be dealing with the inner tumult of that every day, OR, God forbid, SHE MIGHT JUST NOT WANT CHILDREN, OKAY?! It is literally none of your business.
As an only child, I have never been the sort of person who needs the company, approval and reassurance of others. I have always been what one might describe as a ‘lone wolf.’
I’ve been lucky enough to have been constantly surrounded had a large group of friends, however, I am more than happy to do things on my own too. In fact, I actually often prefer doing things alone!
Take last year, for example (before Covid-19 was a thing.) I went to a gig on my own, and I bloody loved every single second of it! It was honestly the best night of my life.
Before I met my partner, I travelled around Europe and moved abroad on my own. My memories of that blissful years will forever remain to be one of the best things I ever did for myself. Call it a cliché, but through spending time alone, I re-found myself after a particularly difficult period of my life. Forced to spend time inside my own head had detrimental possibilities, especially given the fact that I was already suffering from a mental illness (anorexia) that crippled me from within. However, in contrast, I was finally able to really get to know myself, and was able to determine my own boundaries, strengths, weaknesses, goals and ambitions. I figured out what I wanted from life, who I wanted in my life, and exactly how I was going to set about in achieving everything I desired. It was a fulfilling disposition that changed my life, and has since aided the person I am today.
As women, we can get so caught in trying to impress others, when really, the only person we should seek to make happy is ourselves. Of course, the opinions of our loved ones and the ones we care about are important, but our own self happiness is without a doubt imperative beyond measure.
I came to the conclusion quite some years ago that people are going to judge you whatever you do, so you might as well just do you anyway! The people who are worthy of your time, love and friendship will adore you and remain loyal regardless of the choices you make, from bad relationships to terrible outfits.
I’m hardly going to lie on my deathbed in years to come agonising over the fact that one of my social media ‘friends’ didn’t like the dress I wore on a night out, am I? I’m hardly going to lie there and recall the time someone I have no time for whatsoever thought it was odd that I would chose to get married before buying a house.
I sometimes wear short dresses and tight jeans because I feel confident in my body (an invaluable sensation after suffering from an eating disorder), not because I aim to impress or seek the approval of anybody else, man or woman. It doesn’t make somebody self-centered to like the way they look or own their best bits and turn a blind eye to their flaws – why is self-confidence perceived as such as bad thing?! It’s not that somebody thinks they’re perfect, it’s just that they have confidence in themselves, which should be seen as a blessing, not a negative trait!
Everything I do, from how I choose to style my hair, to what I dedicate my weekends to, is to make myself feel empowered from within.
So do what the hell you want to do, and screw what anybody thinks of you!
Funnily enough, girls, we don’t live our lives to please others, do we?!
I will never be one of those girls who measures her worth in the approval of others. I will never be one of the girls who needs a man to feel worthy.
My independence is one of the most powerful tools I poses. At the end of the day, the only person we can fully rely on is ourselves. It sounds cynical, but it’s true. Its’ so damn important to trust your own judgements and gut feelings. It’s equally as important to have your own life and ambitions for your personal achievements.
I feel that independent women are often represented as arrogant, ruthless, and self-absorbed, amongst a whole host of other misconceived labels. These assumptions are only possessed by those among us who are narrow minded and set in their ways; those who refuse to think outside the box of conformity. An independent woman is headstrong, fiery and self-assured, because she knows what she wants and knows exactly what she needs to do to get it. Nothing and nobody can stop her, and woe betide you try and get in her way. Nobody but her is control of her own destiny.
An independent woman is intimidating only to those who have not discovered their own mind yet. An independent woman is dangerous only to those who seek to control her. An independent woman is arrogant only to those who fail to understand.
So let’s big up the women – all the women: the housewives, the working mums, the stay at home mums, the career women, the travelling women, the women who wear trouser suits, the women who wear saris, the women who wear short dresses, the women who play rugby, the women who dance ballet, the married women, the women who love cats, the women who love dogs, the women who ride horses, the women who drive their own car, the women who get the bus, the women who post selfies, the women who post their career achievements, the women who refuse to play by the rules, the women who recreate the word ‘norm.’
Let’s big up the women who wake up every day and vow to be themselves with their heads held high, oblivious to the needless opinions and put-downs of others.
These women; they’re the ones who are the happiest inside.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©