Maybe it's time to reevaluate why we view romantic relationships as more important than all our other relationships.
Emma Watson has referred to herself as "self-partnered" instead of "single," thus effectively shattering stigma for single women everywhere—and making headlines across the globe.
For the record, she wasn't exactly trying to redefine what it means to be single by calling herself "self-partnered." She said it in an offhand way in her interview with Vogue, as part of a much larger statement about the anxieties she's facing about turning 30. "I was like, 'Why does everyone make such a big fuss about turning 30? This is not a big deal…'" she said. "Cut to 29, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, I feel so stressed and anxious. And I realise it's because there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you're not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you're still figuring things out… There's just this incredible amount of anxiety."
She added that it's taken her a while to get to a place where she can be content on her own. "I never believed the whole 'I'm happy single' spiel," she said. "I was like, 'This is totally spiel.' It took me a long time, but I'm very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered."
Emma Watson for British Vogue, 2019 https://t.co/UvMasc0hYl— DAILY CELEBZ (@DAILY CELEBZ)1572968608.0
Since Watson first made this statement, the Internet has latched onto the term "self-partnered," viewing it as an alternative to the negative implications that come with the word "single." It's true that society can make things quite hard for single people. We live in a romance-obsessed world, one that feeds us Disney-movie weddings from an early age and tells us we have to shape ourselves around our romantic relationships.
So through this lens, in true #HeforShe fashion, the fact that Emma Watson has said that she's learning to be happy while single is inspiring, if unsurprising. Watson's been a proponent of various forms of self-love for a while (she was an ambassador for female pleasure website OMGYes) and has always been a proud feminist leader.
It's true that "self-partnership" shouldn't be our end-all, be-all gospel. After all, we all need relationships, love, and support from others. But so often, the world we live in doesn't encourage us to value the love we share with family and friends as much as we value romantic love. It doesn't encourage us to value our spiritual communities or our relationships with our artwork and our own bodies and minds half as much as it tells us to value our partners. It doesn't tell us to truly value ourselves.
What if there was a paradigm shift? So many of us grew up in homes where we bore witness to negative relationships, watching parents stay with each other unhappily because they were wedded (literally and figuratively) to the idea of their partnership. Particularly for women, many of us still struggle to find the strength to leave abusive relationships, instead staying with people who don't treat us right because we're too scared to be alone.
But what if we started valuing activism in the same way that we value and idealize romantic love? What if we valued everyday acts of kindness like we value relationships? These statements might seem incredibly idealistic, but the power of cultural expectations shouldn't be underestimated.
In general, we're in need of a shift in terms of how we view and understand relationships, both to others and ourselves. In some ways, the change has begun. So much has been written about the importance of developing one's relationship with ourselves before loving others, and the "love yourself" mentality has been peddled with increasing frequency.
Self-care is great. Going on dates with yourself, taking care of your space, recharging, exercising, focusing your energy on your health or craft, political organizing, or literally anything else besides dating are all perks of being single (or I guess "self-partnered" is the proper term). Watson's statement has inspired many women to share their own stories of why they love dating themselves.
Still, too often, the "love yourself" mantra is painted through the lens of neoliberal capitalism. Just paint your nails and take some selfies! the Internet yells at us. Love yourself and if you don't love yourself, you're failing! While self-care is important, it's rooted in an isolationist, black-and-white, selfish mentality that can often just make us feel worse in the end.
also important to remember that heteronormative relationships are the lifeblood of capitalism & a message like tun… https://t.co/0sXy4Sv6oE— lyndsay tk 🕷 (@lyndsay tk 🕷)1543768414.0
But what if instead of focusing on shallow self-love based in loving our appearances and parading our happiness around, we focused on long-term healing, deep connection, and growth within ourselves and our communities? In her book All About Love, bell hooks defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." What if we used this definition of love instead of the traditional one?
hooks' definition is pliable, just like love itself. Love is amorphous and alive and it happens on a different timeline for us all. Of course we don't just find our one true love at 29 and sail off into the sunset. (The sunset is and was always an illusion created by Walt Disney and Coca Cola). Another extremely desirable bachelor, Keanu Reeves, 55, just started dating for the first time in years—and his girlfriend, 46-year-old Alexandra Grant, has some relevant advice for everyone, whether in a relationship or self-partnered. "I don't think we can help other people until we work on our own healing, or else we are going to keep promoting inherited or naturalized belief systems that aren't useful within the work we do," she said. "I think that we really are in a time where we need to love those who are different than we are, and take action and responsibility towards that."
Emma Watson's and Grant's philosophies don't imply that they want to be single forever or that they're anti-love, but they do imply that both of them feel it's important to focus on their growth, starting with what's on the inside. This is an important distinction, as there's a big difference between being happy being single in the moment and being totally closed off to the possibility of love; and there's a difference between feeling unworthy of love and committing yourself to growing, so you can be a better partner and person.
You don't have to be euphoric about being single, just like you don't have to be miserable about it, their statements imply. Whether you're in a relationship or not, you don't have to be anything. Regardless of how you feel about it, if you don't have a partner right now, you're not alone in that. The number of singles around the world has never been higher—and we've never been healthier. Some are worried about this trend, but others feel it could be a good thing, a step towards deconstructing the unsustainable and isolating structure that is the nuclear family.
These are just a few of the many reasons to embrace being "self-partnered." Plus, some of us just really, really enjoy being alone.
I personally love that Emma Watson calls being single "self-partnered". We really need to overhaul the way we think… https://t.co/utagHy9rm6— Rachel Thompson (@Rachel Thompson)1572951235.0
The fact that ACTUAL EMMA WATSON felt pressure to have her shit together by 30 is pretty telling. But surely using… https://t.co/ogYcy1CCFX— Hazel Hayes (@Hazel Hayes)1572951024.0
Although maybe it’s because when you tell someone you’re single, the automatic assumption is that you’re actively l… https://t.co/R7v6NMLZk2— Hazel Hayes (@Hazel Hayes)1572951216.0
What Emma Watson said is rad. Society paints single women as "sad, spinster cat ladies" + it's a fear tactic to for… https://t.co/3mGq5t8qc2— Selena Coppock (@Selena Coppock)1572982385.0
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.