I was contacted by the people who do PR for VILA to write something about their new campaign: something about confidence not being for sale. They have this cute little montage of models falling on their faces on the catwalk, and then gracefully picking up their shoes and walking on.
I like the spirit of the campaign. Confidence is good. Not letting things get you down when they are actually quite insignificant is good. But I wanted to write something deeper, really think about the rhetoric around getting up after falling down.
Have you guys followed the "women can't have it all" debate online? About this vague concept of "having it all" that haunts our dreams and visions for the future, this goal that supposedly lies just around the horizon, attainable if we just work a little harder, give a little more, be a little better? And the tragedy of it all is that we never quite reach that goal, always having to make choices that eliminate other options, until time brings us to the end of the road where you just have a straight line towards the horizon, no more exciting bends or exits to take?
What does "having it all" even mean? I'll tell you what it means. It means that society is telling us all what our objectives should be, what can truly make us happy, and how we are at fault for still failing to find that pot of gold at the rainbow's end.
Just imagine society (the media, the people, the capitalism, the patriarchy, the everything) as the leprechaun that dances around a pot with a lid on it, supposedly filled with your happiness. It taunts you with tales of what exactly you are missing out on: more money, better looks, a perfect education, a captivating personality, a reliable boyfriend that loves you the way you are but also gives you passionate lovin' after big yet romantic fights, a rewarding and highly esteemed career, a wild sexlife, time to read all those books you should be reading, the perfect pair of nude pumps, holidays abroad, perfect relationships with your family, cooking skills, interesting friends, both security and freedom.
It is a fact that we as women (or as men) probably aren't capable of having all of that. OF COURSE we fail. Much of feminist theory (HOLLER) is about that. It is important to analyze all the ways patriarchy is setting us up to fail, since this is a very real cause of the dichotomies of womanhood, like being sexy BUT NOT TOO SEXY, or being confident BUT NOT TOO CONFIDENT, whereas for men more is simply that: more. But how about we first ask ourselves what we REALLY want apart from what we SHOULD want according to society (and patriarchy)? What's the use being depressed that we aren't getting something we're not even sure we actually desire?
After all, isn't it a lot easier to get up after failing if YOU were the one who set the bar? Wouldn't you be more motivated if your motivations were your own, rather than a mix of what you want and what everyone around you wants? It can be hard to take your own side. Saying no once in a while. Not going for the thing everyone around you seems to be loving.
I often feel jaded or ungrateful for not being over the moon about invitations to certain events or other offers I'm getting thanks to my blog. It can be hard to REALLY accept and pursue your own priorities rather than someone else's. I believe it might even be harder for most women than for most men, because we are continuously reminded of what we mean to others, rather than putting an emphasis on what we are to ourselves (the male gaze and all that). Some people around you probably won't understand and give you a hard time, but in the end you'll be a lot happier if you fight your own battles. If you know what it is that you want, pulling the lid off the pot of gold won't be such a let down.
Yes, getting up after falling down is a good thing. But before you set off on a fool's crusade for some vague concept of happiness that might not even ring true for you, ask yourself what road you want to take. If you know what you want, falling down once in a while is just a part of the prize. I hope that's the way those models felt.