It was a sunny Sunday morning in Los Angeles, and I was doing what every thirty-something living their best life does: having brunch to praise the bottomless mimosa Gods and repent for the night before. My friend and I only had forty-five minutes of prime bottomless time, so I went into code red brunch mode. I put a bendy straw into the carafe of OJ and champagne, and signaled the waiter to bring a tray of all the thick cut bacon in the building. Before I could get the IV port of bloodies into my vein, my friend asked: So, who are you dating?
I hate that question. Not because I’m a cynic about love, or feel self-conscious about being single, but because the most interesting thing about me is not the man I’m dating. The question evokes an archaic, patriarchal idea that despite the extraordinary things my girlfriends and I have accomplished, we are not viable women until we have been betrothed to someone worthy of our ample dowry.
Last January, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an online community that encourages young girls to embrace their weird wonderful selves, took to the Twittersphere to engage in #AskHerMore during the Golden Globes. The hashtag, originally started by The Representation Project, urged reporters to ask women on the red carpet questions that focused on their talent, instead of on their fashion choices. The hashtag resulted in a sizzle reel of bad-assery starring some of our favorite female celebs who refused to answer questions that reduced their career accomplishments to the size of a small glittery clutch. Including ultimate crush, Elisabeth Moss, who literally gave the middle finger to E!’s cringe-inducing Mani-cam in true Peggy Olson fashion.
I am not a celebrity walking the red carpet, but I, like my imaginary best friend Elisabeth Moss, want to be asked better questions.
We all have the image of our nagging bubbie glaring at us from across the dinner table, wondering why we haven’t found a boy who wants to marry us. But as young women, we are just as guilty of reinforcing this archaic and outdated view by asking each other the same questions. We are engaged in an invisible race to the end of womanhood, where the trophy is a husband to put on our mantel that shows the world “I am worthy.” I am lucky enough to be surrounded by strong, smart, creative women, and yet I sometimes find myself wondering, above all else, how their love lives are going. Don’t get me wrong, dating is fun, and talking about dating is one of the perks of being a part of Taylor Swift-type lady coven. But I have friends who write books and direct movies and are building crafting empires, all of which deserve to be talked about way before we discuss who’s going to bed with whom.
This isn’t just a single gals curse. Many of my friends in long-term relationships have to deal with being introduced as so and so’s girlfriend or wife, suggesting that women are unable to create identities outside of their relationship status.
Organizations like The Representation Project, and See Jane are working to challenge limiting stereotypes of women in film and television, but would we pass the Bechdel Test in our own lives? Let’s challenge ourselves to sit at the brunch table and talk about something besides dating. We have power over our language, and how we use our words. We can choose to use our words to ask each other better, more thought provoking questions like what books are you reading? Or have you made any interesting new friendships? Before we ask about dating. We can tell what we value based on the questions we ask each other. So, instead of appeasing our well-meaning nagging bubbies over a rapidly dwindling mimosa, let’s show young women that they are valued for their creativity and intelligence, and not because someone decided they were worthy of sleeping with.