Monday morning awesome: relationship advice from a Feministing reader

Danya Ensing is a 19-year-old student at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and a Feministing reader. Last week, she posted this video over on the Community blog, and I thought it was so great that I wanted all our readers to watch it.

Danya didn’t realize she was a feminist until a few years ago, but once she did, she started seeing gender everywhere. “What got me really interested in feminism was the way I felt as a single, young woman when I moved to Toronto. I noticed in a big city the way that men looked at women (myself included) on the street, the comments that were sometimes made, and overall the way that I, as a female, was told to conduct my daily life (don’t go out past a certain hour, don’t walk alone, look people in the eye, etc).” Now, Danya explores feminist ideas and the representation of women’s bodies in her art and photography.

A little while ago, Danya had a few things to say about the emphasis that our culture places on romantic relationships for women. Specifically, she objects to the way that people try to comfort someone who’s just gone through a break-up, which is usually by reassuring them that they’ll surely find someone else and that will make everything alright. The assumption that a long-term relationship will happen and will bring happiness, Danya argues, ties those two things together, setting us all up for failure.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, even the staunchest feminist can start to feel crappy if they’re single. But, Danya reminds us, “there’s something so valuable about not being in a relationship and not having to put the effort into a relationship, because you have so much time to invest in other people and to love people around you like your family, and your friends, and people in the world.”

If you are single this Valentine’s Day, and resist the culturally-mandated misery. “Why not,” Danya suggests, “work through improving yourself and getting yourself to a place where you’re really proud and confident of yourself instead of finding that confidence in someone else? Because if you have the mentality that eventually you will meet someone else and be happy, on some level you are filling and insecure void in yourself with someone else.”

Word, Danya.

Full transcript below the jump.
Hello my friends. Today, I wanted to touch upon an issue called relationships. This video is going to be mostly geared towards females and girls, it also applies to boys but not as much. Allow me to explain.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of sentences that include phrases such as, “I’m so excited for when you get married.”

When?

Or, “When you are in a relationship.”
When?
Or something like, “When you find your soul mate.”

When!

When you get married, when you’ve in a relationship, when you find someone. And they usually end in something like “You’ll be happy.” Or “I’m really excited for it.”

The major issue I have when people say things like this is when girls are raised in an environment and a culture when they are told their entire life that when they get married or when they find someone special, it becomes expected that you are going to get married or you are going to find someone special. And I do realize that this is because statistically most people do end up in a permanent relationship for their life, but I also think it’s an incredibly unhealthy mentality to have. It creates an issue where they are looking for that person and if they don’t find that person, it seems like something is wrong with them.

If a guy is 40 years old and isn’t in a relationship, he’s just considered to be a bachelor and to not want to be in a relationship. But if a woman is 40 years old and not in a permanent relationship, she’s looked at as unvalueble, and that she can’t find someone, or not attractive and that nobody wants her. It’s not her choice to be single, it’s that she can’t find anyone, therefore she is single.

This also creates a situation where happiness is linked to a relationship, and that if someone is not in a relationship or a permanent relationship for their whole life, then they are obviously not going to be happy. But “relationship” and “happiness” are not synonyms. And lately it seems like I’m the only one who’s using a thesaurus.

And way too often I see people giving relationship advice after someone’s been through a breakup. They say things like, “It’s ok, eventually you’ll find someone new. When one door opens another one closes. Just wait it out, you’ll meet new people.” Which is probably the most ridiculous and self-harming way to deal with a breakup and relationship that I’ve ever heard.

Instead of focusing on how you’re eventually going to meet the right person if you’re single or if you’ve gone through a break up, the best thing that people can do is focus on themselves and the people around them. There’s something so valuable about not being in a relationship and not having to put the effort into a relationship because you have so much time to invest in other people and to love people around you like your family, and your friends, and people in the world. Why not work through improving yourself and getting yourself to a place where you’re really proud and confident of yourself instead of finding that confidence in someone else. Because if you have the mentality that eventually you will meet someone else and be happy, on some level you are filling and insecure void in yourself with someone else.

I really encourage people to start using the word “if” instead of the word “when”. IF you get married, IF you’re in a relationship, because then it doesn’t create this situation where someone feels like they’re missing out on something if they’re not married.

Singleness is beautiful, and I think that really needs to be emphasized a lot more than it is.

So IF I get married and IF I get into a permanent relationship, that’s awesome. But I also think it’s amazing to see really strong, independent women who don’t need to be in relationships and don’t feel vulnerable and unloved and unhappy if they don’t have someone else. Because I recognize that I am so immeasurably valuable and beautiful and loved by so many people in my life that I don’t need one other person to complete me and to make me feel like I’m special.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted February 6, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    This is wonderful! the timing is perfect. thank you!

  2. Posted February 6, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s insecure to want to find happiness with a partner. I agree that everyone should take time to figure out how to live independently from a partner, including establishing friendships and family relationships, becoming financially stable and enjoying interests and hobbies. But I don’t understand how having a “mentality that eventually you will meet someone else and be happy, on some level you are filling an insecure void in yourself with someone else.” I’m single now, and loving it. But I know that someday I would like to have a partner and have children, and if it didn’t for some reason, I would feel a void, and be somewhat unhappy. How does that make me insecure?

  3. Posted February 6, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    This year will be my third V-day in a row spent as a happily single woman. Frankly, the part I look forward to most is all the chocolate going on sale on the 15th!

  4. Posted February 6, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I love that there are young women out there who feel it isn’t necessary to define themselves by their partner, temporary or permanent. True, there are many more things to life than getting married, falling in love, etc. However, it is also important not to go too far to the other end of the spectrum. While being independent and autonomous are important to building self-esteem and inner strength, we should try to refrain from defining ourselves through our relationship status at all – single or married. All to frequently, I hear women introduce themselves as “So and So, single and loving it”. That’s wonderful that your life makes you happy, but remember that you’re a person first; single, married, in a long-term relationship, all of those things are just a part of your life, not your identity.

    • Posted February 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Whenever I hear a woman say “single and loving it” I know she is miserable. It’s like when a guy says he is “married and loving it” I know he hates going home to his wife.

      • Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        What a bizarre hasty generalization with no evidence. I’m happily married and love my wife very much, and enjoy spending time with her. What in the world makes you think that I would be lying to myself and lying to you? (Also your statement is trivially false since I work from home full-time, so she is the one who goes home to me.)

        • Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

          Ok maybe it’s a generalization but when someone has to add “…and loving it” it’s like they are trying to convince you they are happy especially when their body language says something else. My sister would tell people she was happily single after her most recent breakup but my family knows she is depressed over being single. This is one of many cases I’ve noticed throughout life.

      • Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

        You can’t assume you know everyone’s emotional state, nor that all women or men universally feel the same way, and that IF there were a subtext to their comments it would be the same for everyone who says something. That’s absurd.

        Also how do trolls get that spiky-yet-fluffy hair? It’s neat.

        • Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

          Yeah I must be a troll sharing an opinion that many women also have and having my primary email on file. I’ve been reading this site for about 3 years and have noticed in recent months there are more men on here sharing opinions which aren’t always in agreement with the popular opinion here. Would you rather Feministing only be known to feminists who agree all the time? I used to be a hardcore misogynist and hated gays before I saw everyone’s point of view. I wouldn’t learn half the stuff I learn here on CNN or the sports sites I go to. Don’t assume someone is a troll for sharing something you don’t agree with. I still have what you would call “misogynistic” tendencies but I was raised a certain way.

  5. Posted February 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the poster who noted that wanting to find a partner and be in a committed relationship doesn’t necessarily mean you are insecure. We are social creatures, and we need relationships to be fully happy–for some of us, that includes a committed romantic relationship. I think the important factor is whether you learn how to be yourself, in a relationship or out of it, and not make your identity dependent on another person. If you can do that, you can find happiness whether single or married or whatever, and you won’t compromise your core values for the sake of a relationship, or put your life on hold while looking for a partner. You’re also more likely to stay single when it’s appropriate–when you’re not ready for a relationship, or when you have other important work that you need to do for your own emotional health or otherwise. You have to live your life with integrity, regardless of your relationship status.

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