A Single Story

Bear with me, today, guys, because this is a bit of a deviation from my normal post topic.

There are days when I really wish the internet had never been invented.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet. It is my best friend. I stay up too late at night chatting with it about my day, it helps me with my homework, and when I don’t know what to do, it gives me helpful advice. The internet is an awesome friend.

The internet is also sometimes an asshole friend: when you complain about your boyfriend cheating on you, the internet asks what you did to make him cheat. When you are in the middle of a fun conversation, the internet makes a racist joke, and all of a sudden, you’re uncomfortable and not having fun anymore. But it’s just the way the internet is. You can’t change the internet. It’s the price of admission.

But the real thing that I regret about the internet is that with so much out there, I know how much I am failing to measure up to my own ideals.

I’m not necessarily talking about the Pinterest Effect, although that’s part of it (why can’t I hand-craft little marzipan trains for my son’s birthday?), but about the ideals of fairness and equality in the world — ideals I care deeply about and do not always manage to fulfill.

I know I have issues around race. It makes me kind of sick and unhappy to think about, so I spend a lot of time looking away from it, which is me disappointing myself with how I deal with disappointing myself. The best I can do there, I think sometimes, is to keep my issues inside my head, where the people to whom those issues are grossly unfair never have to deal with them. That, and try to teach my children to do better.

But I also have issues around feminism. In theory, you see, I am absolutely for feminism. Women are absolutely 100% equal to men. Women should get paid the same. Household tasks should be divided evenly, including the childcare tasks. Women should have the same opportunity to participate in jobs as men, and “women’s work” (the traditionally female jobs) should be valued by our society as much as the equivalent “male” jobs. Women shouldn’t have to be the emotional caretakers for their partners, and men shouldn’t have to pay for dates and buy gifts and “woo” in a way women don’t.

But in practice, I really do long to be taken care of that way. In practice, I want a man who is taller than me, and physically strong, who can make me feel delicate and protected in spite of my sturdy 5’8″ frame. I want a man who will open car doors, who will pick up the check. I want a man who will take charge, and make me feel things. I want a man who will do yardwork and his own home repairs. I want a man who will sometimes just wrap a fist in my hair and kiss me until I can’t breathe, who will take control of my body.

And yet I rebel against the notion that this is “what women want.” And every time I ask for it, with word or with action, every time I choose the man who makes me feel protected and secure, some part of me spits imprecations against my betrayal of the cause. How dare you rule out men less than 5’9″? How dare you pursue the “alpha male” type? How dare you look for your own pleasure and preference, at the expense of the cause?

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is a Nigerian writer and a feminist, and she talks about how important it is to tell a variety of stories. When your high school English class has you read a book by a Nigerian woman, and that is the only book you ever read by a woman from Africa, you leave feeling like you understand the perspective of African women. But you don’t. It’s the single story problem.

I am a single story. I am not all of the stories. And my story is still an important one, because it is my story, and because it is true. It is not All Truth, but it is a true story, one of billions, and no more or less valid or true than all of the others. Am I culturally brainwashed? You know, maybe I am. Maybe we all are, in some ways. Maybe my story is the Hollywood version of what my life was really meant to be.

But it’s the story I have. It’s the story I’m living. And it deserves a happy ending.

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