I’ve never understood movies in which women are always pitted against each other, usually over a member of the male species. This just doesn’t happen in my reality. My girl friends have always been supportive, and when we have disagreements, it’s often to do with clashing personalities than with men.
But I’ve realised that we haven’t truly passed the Bechdel Test. According to bechdeltest.com, a movie that passes the test must have:
- At least two (named) women in it
- Who talk to each other
- About something other than men
While most of my friends are women, most of our conversations revolve around romantic and sexual relationships with men. Note that I live in a fairly conservative society where sexualities that fall outside the hetero are still not widely accepted. Girls are still brought up to be obedient, with the unspoken expectation that they’ll eventually be married to a man and have his children.
Navigating our twenties seems like an increasingly desperate swim for the shore rather than a relaxed exploration of the seven seas. People are worried that they may never reach dry, stable land, and are worrying about this incessantly. While many guys lament that girls only like bad boys, girls are worried that they aren’t able to match up to marriageable standards.
Just what these ridiculous standards are, I’m not entirely sure, except that they involve losing weight, wearing make-up, not seeming too clever, and being dutiful and caring. For starters.
I’ve always wanted to discuss books, films, or social issues with my friends when we meet. However, the conversation inevitably steers towards “Have you got a boyfriend?”, usually accompanied by an almost pleading gaze. Hearing my resolute “no” always seems to break down a wall between us. While they chide me for being too independent most of the time, I can sense their relief at knowing that there’s that one Crazy Cat Lady amongst them who’s never dated, never kissed someone, never had sex. We then proceed to talk about their latest romantic or sexual encounters, feeling happy for anyone who’s found a new boyfriend, or trying to analyse the text messages some guy sent.
As much as I sound like a magnificent asshat for saying this, I’m really tired of this. It seems like I can’t escape having to analyse someone else’s romantic life all the time, when all I want is to talk about the latest Game of Thrones episode. I want to discuss movies without having to answer questions about which character I think is the hottest. I want to discuss the cinematography, the characters, the female characters, not which man I think I’d like to bone.
Frustratingly, some of my most satisfying conversations involving society and politics have been with guys. Guys who (disturbingly) look up to me for being “independent” and are comfortable discussing these “male topics” with me. As much as I hate to say this, I know they (subconsciously) see other girls as inferiors, because these girls desire the life that has been prescribed to them since their gender was known. I wonder why they can’t talk to my other girl friends as frankly as they talk to me. And then I realise that it’s because I’m “different”. I’ve denounced marriage, I’ve travelled abroad alone, and thus I’ve denounced my femininity. This has allowed me to engage in discourse with men. Where I live, many wives and girlfriends exist to comfort and to please men. My dad never taught my mum how to use technology or discussed politics extensively with her. I noticed, so do many of my male friends. They meet up with other guys or girls who have earned their respect to talk about these issues instead of voicing their opinions with their significant others. It’s disturbing indeed, how you’ve got to earn this respect, and how only independent girls are allowed into this sacred space. It locks many other women out, and these women are those who would live with them and have children with them.
There’s so much pressure for young women to find a mate and reproduce these days that our lives revolve around trying to please men. When a guy doesn’t reply our text messages, we’re always wondering what we have done wrong. When a guy doesn’t see us as a potential partner, we wonder if we’re not good enough (or too independent, too smart, too aggressive) for him. And this most of all: when a guy dictates, we listen. We freaking listen and destroy the friendships we’ve carefully built. We listen and allow him to control our behaviour, our appearances, our lives.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong discussing men with your girl friends. But I often wonder if our conversations have been inspired by mainstream media, which often depicts women as desperate, needy beings whose one occupation in life, the one that secures her womanhood, is getting her ass married to a man. More seriously, I’m worried about the nature of these conversations. They seem to stem from fear and anxiety more than anything else. It seems like whatever liberation has been granted us is just a show. We go to school, we work, we vote, but those are our side jobs. Our main concern should be whether we are good enough (or too good!) to get married. If not, we’d better change our damned selves or get left on those dusty shelves.