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2017: The year of the Woman

Going into 2017, I’ll be twenty-four, and it’s scary to think I will be hitting my mid-twenties.

I’m not going to lie; I’m starting to feel a little bit of pressure to meet societal expectations that are placed on women of my age; meeting someone and settling down before the age of thirty.

I have no intention to as of yet, but I’m always asked do I have a boyfriend and the sly comments: “you better hurry before the good ones go.”

Looking at my friends and girls that are similar in age; the majority are in serious relationships, engaged and then there are some that are married. It’s almost like I’m the strange single one saying ‘whoa put the brakes on buddy you’re too young for this stuff’.

Enjoy and relish your twenties. They only come once. That’s my mantra anyway.

We are heading into 2017, which is why I find it difficult to fathom why women can’t choose how they want to live their life without facing criticism from others.

From a young age we are told or shown that it is socially correct to follow these steps; find your soulmate, get married and have babies.

This reminds me of the old nursery rhyme about kissing in a tree that I used to sing as a kid; first come’s love then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.

This shows that from a young age we are led to believe that you have to take these steps; ‘love’ ‘marriage’ and ‘babies’ to be happy.

Men can do as they please and are often admired for their bachelor lifestyle. So why are there double standards for women?

Actress Jennifer Aniston articulated her thoughts in an essay penned for the Huffington Post on July 11.

She responded to the latest untrue rumour that she was pregnant, and offered a fiery and at times powerful message to the idea that any woman is somehow incomplete without a child:

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own happily ever after for ourselves.”

Aniston has become the embodiment of the modern woman who has determined her own ‘happy ever after’.

I admire Aniston for addressing this issue as I feel there is this constant societal pressure for women to get married and have children, and if they aren’t they are usually judged as ‘spinsters’ or ‘selfish’.

Can it not be that we have reached an era where we can be happy and fulfilled without being a wife or mother?

Of course, there are in fact many good reasons why women might choose not to have children.

While women’s rights have improved over the years, a constant struggle is the gender-pay wage gap.

Women often face bias from employers who don’t want to pay for maternity leave and are hesitant to offer promotions due to the assumption children will make mothers less reliable or less dedicated to the company.

This so-called “motherhood penalty” also affects pay. Add in kid-specific expenses like childcare and education, and suddenly not having kids seems like ‘the rational decision’.

I think most importantly female virtue should not be measured by our ability or willingness to bear children but who we are as a person.

I know a lot of people think that by not having children you cannot understand true love. I don’t agree with this, but I’m not a mother.

I believe you can love deeply without being a mother and feel happy. There is not universal metric for love and no threshold for it either. You can love your partner deeply and your family even without children.

Let’s ditch the idea of the perfect nuclear family and find fulfilment in your relationships with friends, with your career, or even with your cat. Who cares!

We shouldn’t have to meet what society thinks is acceptable to be complete. That’s why I liked Aniston’s point about determining our own “happily ever after.”

It’s nearing 2017; we should be embracing what we have accomplished and what we have in our lives instead of focusing on what society expects you to have done. In Jennifer Aniston’s words let’s create our own ‘happily ever after’.

Imogen Atkins
Imogen is an aspiring broadcaster who has recently relocated from the Manawatu to the big smoke to further her education. She is working towards a Diploma in Broadcasting and Journalism at the NZ Radio Training School.
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