I was watching CNN’s Headline News one day a couple weeks ago when they aired a report that claimed that a lot of women are afraid of ending up alone. Just the opening sentences of this brief report created mixed feelings for me as I tried to come to terms with the statistics they were throwing out.
At first, I was offended at the idea that the media was once again stereotypically downplaying the innate strength of women. I then quickly took a personal assessment of this statement and found it to have truth inside me as well.
That is not to say that my situation alone should be used as compass to gauge the general feelings of women on this or any matter, but CNN had statistics to show that other women did indeed feel the way I felt about ending up alone in life.
The report targeted a specific group of women – those who are successful in the workplace. In fact, these women were not just afraid of being alone when they get older, they were also afraid of being destitute and living on the street as a “bag lady.”
A March 27 report in the LA Times said that according to a poll by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, “Six in 10 women describe themselves as the primary breadwinners in their households, and 54% manage the family finances… Even so, 49% fear becoming a bag lady — a homeless woman who wanders the streets of a city lugging her meagre belongings in a shopping bag.”
Further, the report said, “Such concerns were most pronounced among single women (56%), divorcees (54%) and widows (47%). But even 43% of married women harbour such fears, according to the study.”
I have to say that while thoughts of becoming a destitute and living on the street occasionally cross my mind, I have also taken steps that would protect me from such a future. Once I know that I have done what I can to protect myself, there isn’t much more than can be done and I do not want to sit around and worry about it.
However, it is the notion of being alone in my older years that plagues me. Although as a creative person, I most certainly need time alone to shut out the world and listen to what is going on inside me, at the same time, I do not like to be alone for extended periods of time. On the contrary, I enjoy having others around me and to feel the companionship of relationships. This is a healthy aspect of human interaction.
Having said that, as a strong and very opinionated woman, I am no stranger to the fact that being around a creature such as myself can be jarring for both men and women. American author Anya Seton once said, “A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” I certainly have a thick skin because I need one, but I think it sad that women feel they must protect themselves simply because they take a stand for themselves or on an issue.
Why is it that women who do not need a man to save them or take care of them scare men so much? Why do such women even scare other women? Why must women who have opinions, share those opinions and take a public stance on important issues feel as if they should resign themselves to a life of solitude simply because the world still cannot handle women with the courage to speak their minds? Why does the world have issues with successful women?
The aforementioned LA Times report also had this to say: “Yet many [women] also worry that financial achievement alienates both men and other women. Forty-two percent said financially independent women intimidate men and run the risk of ending up alone, according to the survey. Almost one-third (31%) said those women are hard to relate to and don’t have many friends.”
What a sad world we live in when we reject the success of one group of humans simply because they are female. How very short-sighted of humanity. If ever there were a clear indicator of the continued patriarchal rule of this world, this is it. Moreover, that even women are uncomfortable around other women who are successful is an utter travesty.
As women, we should be supporting those women who succeed in their fields and doing whatever we can to ensure the further promotion of a female presence in every aspect of life – religion, politics, business, etc. These women should not be abandoned just because we might be uncomfortable with change (i.e. women in leadership positions).
We have been socialised to believe that successful and opinionated women are somehow a type of feminine Frankenstein’s monster, unnatural and strange. But it is completely natural for women to want to reach their full God-given potential. In fact, to do anything less than reach our full potential would be a sin.
Still we keep our distance from these successful women. They have too much energy, too many ideas and they want too much for their lives. We don’t want to shake the proverbial boat and make anyone mad who continues to adhere to the oppressive patriarchal paradigm. But this boat needs to be shaken. In fact, it needs to be overturned and we need a new boat… one that is inclusive of women.
We need a new system that not only encourages women to reach their full potential as humans, but also applauds them for doing so (as has always been the case for men). Instead of rejecting successful women, instead of making them feel isolated and alone, it is time to support them and surround them with the encouragement they need and deserve.