The Scarlet Letter:
We live in a culture that often trivializes female friendships. I’ve been told many times that friendships and conversations between women are back-stabbing in nature, competitive and half-hearted. Although this can be true, there also exist some insightful and meaningful friendships that women share. The kind where the intimacy isn’t so exaggerated that it becomes suffocating. The kind that involves family histories, critiques on popular literature, gynaecological wisdom, confessions and sorrows.
My latter (and more positive) understanding of female friendships was recently validated, when I overheard a conversation between female friends about another mutual friend who is going through a divorce. From the nature of the conversation, I get a sense that the way women view the world is changing, and women are getting tired of being stereotyped. To cut a long story short, the mutual friend was getting divorced because her flirtatious ways had taken a toll on her marriage. Emotion and opinion aside, the friends I’d overheard chatting had come to the conclusion that her flirting was solely for attention and only because her husband was always too drunk to show her affection nor care about her feelings. She was however, still a good mother and gracefully performed those daily obligations.
I was rather surprised to witness that a group of four women, chatty and opinionated, had just read a mutual friends flirtatious behaviour as simply a natural expression and a liberating form of playfulness. Something that made her feel attractive and alive to sensuality – a thing she thought she’d lost. They saw it merely as a sweet escape from the solemn reality she’d eventually have to return to.
I mean let’s face it, we might not all be the same, but people flirt. Flirting among human beings is biologically driven as much as it’s art as instinct. It’s a big part of social interaction and even accepted in some social circles. Yet despite this truth nor her silent cries for attention, society had probably deemed the soon to be divorcee, an adulteress for flirting. And that too by men who occasionally, even flirted back. Symbolically, she now wears the Scarlett letter.
The Scarlett letter is an 1850’s work of fiction about a woman charged with adultery and forced to wear the letter A (for adulterous) upon her clothes. However, upon wearing it, she decided to add fancy embroidery as if to appropriate the letter as a point of pride.
As societies and communities, we often belittle, shame and call people names when we think we have knowledge that validates what we believe. She is flirting with men, therefore she is adulterous. Period. I read a beautiful quote that once said having knowledge is nothing if you have it in your head and not in your heart. I’m certainly not condoning adultery, but I guess what I’m saying is that having knowledge of something is nothing if it doesn’t make you a humble, non-judgemental individual.