"How To Be Alone" Is Anti-Feminist?

"How To Be Alone" Is Anti-Feminist?

You may already have seen, and presumably been charmed by, Tanya Davis' video poem titled "How To Be Alone."  It is a step-by-step guide to re-entering the world as a single person after a break-up.  And, frankly, it's adorable.

But not to The Globe And Mail columnist Russell Smith, it's not.  

He calls it "pair-bonding-obsessed weepiness," which confused me.  Did we watch the same video? 

The video that I watched celebrated being alone, and encouraged women to get out and live their lives, even if they are not in a relationship.  The video I watched says that not only is it okay to be alone, sometimes it's preferable.

He calls it "anti-feminist, retrograde and disempowering to women."  What?  Where?  

Did I miss the part in the video where Tanya Davis fixes the camera with a steely eye and says, "DAMN YOU BETTER FIND A MAN FAST, 'CAUSE YOU WORTHLESS ALONE"?  Let me check my notes… no, all I have here is some quickly scribbled quotes like, "It's fine to be alone" and "If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it."

Where is the disempowerment?  The entire point of the video is empowerment.  

The. Entire. Point.

He criticizes Davis for "looking anything but happy and confident."  This makes me think that Smith has confused real life with the way life is in commercials.  Does Davis look happy and confident like a woman in a Toyota commercial, or a Tampax commercial, or a Taco Bell commercial?  No she does not.  Instead, she sticks to looking happy and confident like a real person in the real world.

This is a common mistake, confusing real life for television.  It's particularly difficult to entangle when you are watching real life unfold on a computer screen.  But I can assure you, there is a vast gulf between the two.

Smith finally moves into the meat of his argument, which is that society considers it acceptable for women to go to the gym or the library alone, and has for quite some time.  But what Smith fails to grasp is the extreme self-consciousness of the newly-broken-up.  

Women are already made to feel exquisitely self-conscious whenever in public.  A woman's appearance, demeanor, and grooming are essentially considered public property, and are scrutinized accordingly.  And a break up can leave a woman feeling raw, eroded, and lacking in self-confidence to an almost pathological extent.  

Is it "anti-feminist" to admit that sometimes women lack self-confidence?  That the sexual revolution of the 1970s did not turn every woman into a battle-hardened, steel plated Amazon?  That women have feelings of inadequacy, which can be violently exacerbated by a bad break-up?  

If that is the case, then I guess I am an anti-feminist as well.  Dear Rush Limbaugh, I take back everything I said, please sign me up for your newsletter.  Enclosed you will find a check for the fee.  Regards, Erika.

In this context, Davis' words and presentation are meant as a balm for the troubled soul.  A soothing pat on the back, and a nudge back out into the world.  If Smith fails to understand this, then I can only imagine that either he's never been dumped, or that he has no soul and has therefore never needed soothing.

(And as a final note, as a hard-core knitter myself I can only say: DUDE, STEP BACK.)