“Woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself.”
–Susan B. Anthony, Speech in San Francisco [July 1871]
There is one very obvious meaning to this quote from Susan B. Anthony. In her time, women were much more dependent on men than they are today. Even back then, Anthony knew it was unwise to depend too much on a man. The “protection” Anthony referred to can be interpreted literally as protection from physical danger. But protection can take many other forms, such as financial, emotional, protection from the elements (providing housing), protection against hunger (providing food), or protection against other men’s unwanted advances (sexual).
It’s still excellent advice for women to avoid depending upon the protection of a man. On the surface, it may seem that most women realize this. Because in most American families, the husbands and wives are often both wage earners. But contributing to the family income doesn’t always mean the woman doesn’t depend on her husband, boyfreind, etc., to handle certain aspects of her life. Taking care of the yard, for example. Or planning for retirement, saving money for the future of for major purchases, purchasing insurance coverage, etc., are often aspects of life which women relinquish control.
Women shouldn’t depend on men–not because we should not trust them, or because it is bad for them to want to “take care” of us. Admittedly, it is kind of nice sometimes. And one of the benefits of a committed relationship is for the two people involved to divide up the responsibilities of life, making it easier for both parties.
The key is–don’t DEPEND on a man. Women should be CAPABLE of doing things for themselves–just about anything–without having to wait on someone else to do it for them. So in the case of breakup or divorce, accident, or worse, the woman won’t be left in the lurch during an already difficult time.
We could go further with this concept. Not only should women not depend (be dependent) on a man: no one–man or woman–should allow themselves to be completely dependent on anyone to handle any important aspect of their lives. When a person chooses to puts themselves position of dependence on someone else, because it leaves you feeling completely lost if that person fails us.
This doesn’t mean you have to be expert at everything.
You don’t necessarily mean you need to be able to rebuild your own carburetor–but you should educate yourself well enough so you can “talk shop” with the car repair shop and show you’re not a person who can easily be taken advantage of.
You don’t need to be able to fix your own refrigerator–but you should know plenty about the problem before you call the repair shop. Or, if you’re opting to replace your appliance instead of having it repaired, educate yourself about the different models available before stepping foot in the store. (I’ve found it’s a lot easier to do this research online, anyway, where you have access to a lot more information and reviews than you will at the brick-and-mortar store.)
So, what to do if you’ve been dependent on a man (or other person) for a long time?
It’s never too late to be an active participant in your own life. Pick a segment of your life that would cause you the most problems if the person you’re dependent on drops out of the picture–then start slow. Educate yourself. Find resources, then educate yourself. And don’t become discouraged if the process seems to move more slowly than you would like: remember that each new thing you learn is more than you knew yesterday.
This is YOUR life. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of someone else’s actions–or lack thereof.