“Do You Have A Boyfriend?”

Posted on January 5, 2015 in Sexism And Patriarchy, Society, Taboos

By Federica Romana Simone:

In this day and age women are capable of doing anything; not that they were not able to before, just that they probably did not have the chance of proving themselves. Nowadays women can be judges, police officers, news reporters, doctors, university professors… They can be whatever they want. Or at least this is what we keep on telling ourselves.

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During the holiday period families gather together, you see those relatives that you have not seen in what seems to be forever, but in reality you “just” saw them last Christmas. I think this might be the case for many of you but let me give you my own example. I am Italian, 22 years old, graduated with honours from university – a full year in advance (3 years instead of 4) , and now I am doing my M.A. in a prestigious university and have lots of plans for the future.

But what do you think is the first question that my relatives, who see me once a year, ask me the moment their eyes land on me? If you thought “how’s Uni going?” or “what are you working on now?” you could not be more wrong. The first question I get, every year since I turned 16 is “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Now, I am not a very ugly, or an impossible-to-date kind of girl. I just have never had a long lasting relationship. Once I reply “no” to their question, whichever relative asked the question loses interest and starts chatting to someone else. As if the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend makes me a not-so-interesting person, or diminishes my value as a girl! Because we all know that if by the age of 22 you still don’t have a stable, long lasting relationship, well there must be something wrong with you right!

Uh-no, I really don’t think so. Why should I be defined by the man, or the lack of thereof, by my side? I am a young woman (debatable for some, apparently I am old already!) with a bright future ahead, with or without a partner. But nope, not according to society.

In some countries I am already too old. I should have been married already,had a couple of kids, or at least been engaged! Why should I waste my time in libraries, studying for too many exams, or in offices doing unpaid internships? Perhaps I should really stop what I am doing and start pursuing the ‘right’ path. My last boyfriend resented me for leaving him alone a lot. After all, this girlfriend of his was writing a thesis and had 5 other exams to prepare for in a month. With spending so much time reading those books in the afternoon, working at night, and going to class in the morning;it’s no wonder then that she didn’t have enough time to spend with him. So let’s face it – the man was right. He clearly did not have any other choice. His girlfriend was being selfish and boring!

It seems our society will always praise the men rather than the women. If you think that hard work pays off, well you are not entirely right. You might be a world class lawyer before 40, defending countries (yes countries! e.g. Greece), giving speeches at the UN, and so much more, and yet being labelled as “the pretty wife”. This is exactly what happened to Amal Alamuddin (now Clooney). She is unbelievably brilliant and powerful, and yet people know her as the woman who convinced George Clooney, a chronic bachelor, to get married. As if none of her qualities, or previous experiences matter. She is Mrs. Clooney and that’s it.

Why do we need to define ourselves by the man we stand behind? Why do women always need to be objectified, and classified as either a wives or as mothers? And if they fail to qualify for those categories, they are worthless? Why? Well, there are many answers: society is based on a patriarchal model, or women have traditionally been home bound and only took care of the family, or girls used to be treated as property and bargains from fathers to potential husbands and so on.

But, it is 2015! Why the hell can’t we shake these old ideas off our backs and move on?

I am sure this has happened to all of us at least once. No matter what achievements we manage to accomplish, we still feel like we are somewhat empty because we don’t have a partner by our side. It is something so deeply ingrained in our culture that we can’t seem to let go.

Who knows, maybe 2015 will be the ‘good year’. The year when everyone realizes that being a girlfriend or a wife isn’t all that a woman can be. Maybe in 2015, all different societies in the world will understand how essential it is to educate girls, and stop considering them as objects. Maybe in 2015 we will understand that there is no shame in being single, and our employers will pay us the same amount they pay their male employees. In the mean time I will keep on looking up at my favourite role models, and wish that one day I’ll be like Amal: gorgeous, smart and with a kick-ass career.