This weekend, I finally got my hands on a copy of The Gentlewoman, the new UK-based women’s style magazine from the company behind Fantastic Man. It’s definitely a departure from most fashion glossies, with long, in-depth conversations with women: some well-known, some I’d never heard of, but all fascinating. While talking about their lives, a couple of them mentioned making compromises in order to get what they want from work and life.Céline creative director Phoebe Philo, who struggled to find time for her family when she headed up Chloé and eventually left the working world for a few years to spend time at home, addressed why it’s important to be realistic about what you expect from men:
“I have so many friends that are single — really intelligent women that are attractive in every single way — who are unable to commit to men. I worry that women are becoming too independent and dominant that they are losing any sense of softness or acceptance. I sometimes have to ask myself: ‘What do I want to be, right or happy?’ Our expectations of men are becoming supersonic. These women expect someone that looks like Brad Pitt, with the brains and creativity of Lucian Freud, and they think these qualities will merge together into someone who will love them and be totally accepting of all of their weaknesses. It’s just not going to f**king happen! The one thing I learnt from my mother, who is lucky to still be with the love of her life, is just not to ask for too much.”
And a few pages later, Sara Pérez, a winemaker in Spain, shared how she dealt with gender stereotyping when she took over her family’s vineyard from her father:
“I had to survive. So I spoke loudly, like the men, and said bad things. I swore. Eventually, with lots of effort, they understood that I respected their job, that I was working seriously, and hard, and that I was the one who decided who to buy from. … By the end, they showed me a lot of love. But they’d still say, ‘My God, you’ll never get married with that mouth …’ “
Sara went on to say that she tried to make powerful wines at first because of her desire to fit in among the mostly male winemakers in the area, but then she decided she needed to be true to herself and decided to make wines she “really adored.”
When The Gentlewoman was announced several months ago, some noted that the name seemed a little old-fashioned and dull, especially compared to the male counterpart, which sounds like the name of a superhero: Fantastic Man! And in a way, these women talking about making compromises does seem a little dated — except it’s not. We’re just not at a point where we can have everything we want without giving a little.
I found it somehow comforting that these two successful women admitted to making concessions on their way to happiness and success. Sometimes it feels like people look down on those who make compromises, saying that doing so compromises who you are. That doesn’t always have to be true, but telling the difference can certainly be difficult. For these two, it was about finding what they were comfortable conceding in order to obtain what they wanted. And anyway, all of life is a compromise — for everyone, not just women — isn’t it?