What does independence mean for a woman?

National Health System (NHS), media bias, poverty, foodbanks, education: The topics that women are discussing in Glasgow this very afternoon at a conference organized by the grouping Women for Independence (see hashtags #WomenforIndy and #WFIGlasgow) do not differ fundamentally from those that are also in the spotlight for political conventions or future forums. I don’t think it’s an indyref’s aftermath though, it’s rather a symptom of a new awareness and self-consciousness of women, and not only in Scotland. Many men react with scepticism or pity or even disgust when they hear about hundreds of women who come together discussing issues such as the mentioned above and many others. They react in the same way when the discussion comes to a women’s quota. I myself was always against that quota, because my honest belief was that efforts and competence should determine a professional advancement – and not gender. By now I think differently. Because the achievements of women in Scotland and all over the world are neither adequately valued nor adequately remunerated in very many cases. Either financially or ideologically. Women are still second choice human beings seemingly.

It’s funny – or sad, really – that it’s still necessary that women talk about these and further topics among themselves. Generally I’d say a mixed-gender discussion is the better way since feminism should not be about isolation from men or exclusion of men. But then, women have unfortunately a different attitude towards their kind than men have. Men have lived a healthy competition for centuries, but they also know how to take advantage of insider relationships. Where women usually tend to shake their heads in irritation – when men accomplish business while clinging glasses at the bar or even while peeing, and when men have no problem with reminding their pals of a long past favour to make an own demand now -, men are already on the fast track. Women can learn from that, but we don’t. In contrast, many women are catty, stand in their own way, tend to play their skills down instead of putting them in the true light. And many women respond with envy and resentment when a consexual acquits herself much better. We have to change that. Urgently.

Independence means so much more for a woman than the formal act of separating Scotland from Great Britain and forming a new nation, and that is why this conference today is not only interesting for Scottish women. It is more than that. Women in most, maybe even all countries in the Western world have to deal with similar questions and problems. There is our femininity on the one hand with all features that come with it. We want to love – be it a man or a woman, no difference there really -, we want to be loved for what we are. Some want to raise a family with children. But some also want to work and be successful, and that’s on the other hand where problems come in. How can a woman be a good mother, a good partner and a good worker at once? What does happen if the partnership fails? Is she able to manage taking care of herself and the children then? Or does she slip into a dependence, even more so if she’s not educated well enough? A dependence on a man or the state. Or maybe she’s already there when her partner works full time and she, considering the children’s well-being, works only part-time. Or maybe her employer has provided her with a fixed-term contract only, precisely because he believed she probably would want to have children and would not be available as full-fledged work force then, cost him money unnecessarily.

Women pay a high price for their personal independence. Be it in Scotland or in Germany, independence does mean a stable financial fundament in the first place. Education is important therefore, the better the education, the better the chances to get a well-paid job. But what then? Moving in with a man (or a woman) is partially abandoning independence. Marrying that person is a further abandoning of independence. Becoming mother and/or bad contracts shorten the rest of independence. But is it not equally our right, that choice to open up to another person, to get children, to unfold in what we do? So actually, it’s good to discuss independence of every kind among women, but we have to engage men as well. We are only able to make our independent decisions when men do support them. And the whole society really, by valueing what we give up with some decisions and according us a different kind of independence elsewhere.

But it’s still a long way. I know that from my own experience. I’ve given up some wishes for my personal independence. But I don’t regret.

©Maria Pakura

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