Over the past few years, much of the debate about women’s lives has centered on our roles in the workplace. We have been coached to Lean In, assume the Power Pose and balance career and family in Unfinished Business. While the approaches differ, they share one essential call to action: Women must fight for greater acceptance, equality and leadership roles in our chosen careers.
With the rise of Tinder and the hook-up culture, much has also been written about how women are owning their sexuality in a similarly independent manner. But when it comes to actual romance, many women appear far more conflicted. (Yes, this is a big generalization, to say nothing of assuming hetero-normative roles. For the sake of argument, work with me here.) The truth is, we are not there yet — and many women are struggling not only with their own behavior but conflicting messages from men.
I co-founded Jyst, the crowd-sourced anonymous relationship advice app, to give women a place to open up about their lives in a supportive environment where we can share, ask, advise and help each other out without judgment when it comes to some of our most intimate concerns. One of the biggest surprises has been how many women struggle to break free of traditional roles, even self-proclaimed feminists. A few representative questions: “I’ve been dating this guy for the past four months, but he hasn’t asked me to be his girlfriend yet. Do I wait or ask him?” “Does it ever work out to ask a guy out first?” The answers are split between ‘You go, girl’ pep talks, admissions of similar insecurities, and shared experiences that men do not always react positively when women take the initiative. For women who pride themselves on being assertive in other areas of their lives, this is an uncomfortable dialog to have in broad daylight.
While issues of women’s rights in the workplace and controlling our own health must be central, it is also time to have a more open discussion about the stereotypical roles we continue to play in relationships. After all, the personal truly is political — and the political is more personal than ever. (Just ask Hillary.) The dialog must include men as well as women for we are all participants and we will all be the beneficiaries of change. Relationships are clearly in a state of flux, and if we are to come out of it in a better place, it’s time to be honest about our desires, confusion and vulnerabilities. As with all matters of the heart, that may just be the hardest thing of all.