I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is going to be a cutesy piece about onesies and starfishing; about farting at will, freely and loudly, and never ever being compelled to relinquish the remote control.
But you’d be wrong. Not that those things are without their charm, but still, you’d be wrong. Because in actual fact this is a post about freedom; about the freedom to live in accordance with ones values, and about the very real and ongoing pursuit of fulfillment and happiness.
In the 1980′s, Pat Robertson, a US republican presidential candidate, once famously wrote that feminism was a movement which encouraged women to “leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Funny words from a frightened man. But it is true, I think, that the legal right and practical opportunities to leave unsatisfactory marriages is one of the greatest things feminism has given Western women. No longer fated to spend our lives trapped and dependant in an often stifling and sometimes abusive and coercive institution, we are freer than we have ever been. Nevertheless there is still a way to go.
As a heterosexual woman of thirty eight years old, I have lived without a male partner for five full years now and I can honestly say with no reservations whatsoever, that my quality of life has improved as a result. Some reasons for which I give here, in a list, because everyone likes a list:
1. I am not ever forced to set aside, disregard, or in any way compromise my own values for the sake of… well, a man.
The other day I read this article on a prominent parenting website. An anonymous female blogger had discovered that her husband was secretly using pornography and chatting to sex workers online, despite him knowing this would upset her greatly. After time spent talking things through, she had made the decision to forgive him and continue in her marriage.
And yet, she was not comfortable. Unable to shake the feelings of anger and betrayal, she posted to ask readers their thoughts. Had she done the right thing? The majority of responses were predictable and depressing enough, with urges to try to “understand” him mixed in with the insistence that all men used pornography, and that there was nothing women could do other than to accept it or be manless.
Which is rubbish. Not all men use pornography (there are many with more humanity) but as a single woman it’s very easy for me to choose manless over porn addled wankers. I am only too grateful to not have to be in the position of needing to decide between leaving someone with whom I have built a life and family, or staying in the newfound knowledge that that someone secretly prizes a few seconds of sexual release over and above the dignity, respect, and safety of women, and therefore by extension, me.
2. I do not have to negotiate the division of labour with someone who has been socially conditioned all their lives to believe that certain jobs are my responsibility really.
I think it might have been Julie Bindel who once said the practical application of feminist principles were a nightmare for heterosexual women. She was right. We are attracted to men, we form relationships with them, and before we know it, we are in conflict. We may well be in love with fundamentally decent men, who support and share our views on equality, who know intellectually that simply having a vagina does not make us more inherently suited to pushing a hoover around, working part time, or remembering everyones birthdays. But an entire lifetimes worth of social conditioning and unchallenged privilege is not easily undone, and negotiations, in my experience, often become protracted.
And do you know what? I just can’t be arsed. I don’t want to have to spend time and emotional energy persuading someone who is supposed to love and respect me to recognise the equal validity of my needs and time and ambitions. I’d just… rather be doing something else. Like practicing witchcraft. Not really.
3. My free time is my own. I get to spend it how I like.
An observation: many women in relationships seem to spend an awful lot of time doing things they don’t much like in order to please their partner. As a single woman I get to say sod that. Call me selfish, but I like to spend my time pursuing my own interests and hobbies.
4. My money is my own. I get to spend it how I like.
Enough said. If I want to spend it all on Marlborough Lights and smoke myself to death, I can.
5. Plus I really do get to starfish in bed, fart at will, and keep the remote control to myself.
Which is not to be sniffed at.