Image: Brad. K
My parents have been married for 32 years. Being raised by a couple who still love and support one another after all this time, in a society where 42% of marriages now ends in divorce, is a privilege. Mum never hides the on-going joke in our family that Dad is "lucky" to have her, and whilst I would usually brush such comments off with a roll of my eyes and a smile, she said one comment to me over the weekend which made my smile turn sour.
She called herself a "prize" to Dad, something which he has "won" and that I should think myself as a "prize" in my relationships, too. Whilst she wore this label like a badge of honour and saw it as some kind of compliment, I found being called a prize just as offensive had someone called me a sack of sh*t.
To assume that I am just a "prize" to my boyfriend suggests that I am merely a product. My boyfriend didn't 'win' me in a game of tombola. I don't live on his shelf gathering dust. He doesn't unlock me from his cabinet and bring me out to show me off to his guests after one too many whiskeys at a dinner party.
If I am a prize, then I can be special, yes. I am something which someone has fought for, something which is yearned, something which is treasured after winning. But I also don't have a choice. I just have to sit there and look pretty until my boyfriend 'wins' me and then showcases me as evidence of his achievements. If I am a prize, I can't 'win' my boyfriend nor can I reject him either. He's not equal to me. He's just my winner and my keeper. I can't treasure him as much as he may treasure me and I can't show him off either because how ridiculous would that be?
What interests me the most is how this might not just be a generation thing. A few of my friends have admitted that they like to be thought of as prizes and princesses to their boyfriends. These girls are self-described feminists, intelligent, hard-working women. Their argument, in a heterosexual relationship anyway, is that a man should show off his girlfriend or wife and that it's nice when he proclaims that you are 'his girl'.
I agree that it's nice to be shown off. But if by calling yourself a prize, does this mean you are really equal to your partner? I feel if women see themselves as prizes in the relationship then they can't possibly argue that they and their partner are on level ground. To assume you are a prize suggests you are either above or beneath your partner (worthy, valuable and treasured or submissive, silent and claimed) as with every prize there is a winner.
If a woman sees herself as a person rather than a prize in the relationship, does she lose her value and self-worth? I don't think so. As a person, a woman has the status to distribute as much respect as she can attain it. She is also given the encouragement to approach a man and ask him out rather than be made to feel like she has to sit and wait for her Prince Charming to come and whisk her up and claim her.
Of course, there are far, far, worse ways women can be treated and being called a princess or a prize is a compliment when you compare it to some other names women have been called. But that doesn't mean that as women we should limit ourselves to just that. A woman, just like a man, should be treated with love, respect, care, and should be treasured because she is a person- not because she is a prize.