“I’ve had a pretty good year,” began George Clooney when giving his acceptance speech award at this year’s Golden Globes.
Clooney was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award, but that’s not what he was referring to as being the good part of his year.
“It’s a humbling thing when you find someone to love, even better if you’ve been waiting your whole life. And when your whole life is 53 years,” continued Clooney, pausing to invite hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to take their usual potshots at him.
“Amal, whatever alchemy brought us together, I couldn’t be more proud to be your husband,” gushed Clooney with as much giddiness as is appropriate for a newlywed in his 50s.
When the news broke out about Clooney getting engaged, everyone wanted to know, “Who is she?” Who is the woman who got Tinseltown’s Quintessential Bachelor to put a ring on her – and his – finger?
Amal Alamuddin’s list of achievements as a human rights lawyer is as long as Clooney’s list of movies, her educational background as impressive as his Hollywood pedigree. The public was not surprised that Alamuddin was, well, is beautiful; they were pleasantly surprised that she is also successful and smart.
A combination of physical and cerebral attributes, nicely tied in with the strong character traits associated with success are hard to conceive as co-existing in one woman. (We’re not even going into fashion sense yet.)
One older gentleman once told me, “What a woman like you – with your degree and your career – does not understand is that a man just wants someone who can take care of the house and kids so he can go work.”
I dryly told him that I had a yaya (nanny) who did all that so I could work. I don’t think he got the memo.
You see, for sometime now, little girls have been raised to the drum beats of empowerment and feminism, their lullabies are about being everything you can be, and their fairytales are about reaching for your potential and going after your dreams.
And in this fairytale that she’s mostly writing herself as she goes along, she grows up, works on her own time and spends her own dime. She is her own person. A marriage, a child – which need not be in that order – may or may not be in her future, but it will be according to her terms. Not according to her parents, and not according to her biological clock. (The beauty of economic empowerment and scientific advancement, I tell you.)
She is Cinderella 2.0. And she comes in many different permutations, Amal Alamuddin – Clooney just being one of them.
Problem is, this conversation has been one that we’ve been having among ourselves, us women.
The same old tune was still being played for little boys who were raised to be a chivalrous prince. It’s not bad per se, but it’s a lesson that needs a software update, because without it, it’s outmoded way of thinking that leaves him clueless how to approach and “court” this version of Cinderella.
The good news is there’s been some catching up.
The Clooney Effect
Dating site Match.com conducted a national study that “clears up the mystery of the dating game.” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and chief scientific advisor of Match.com coined the term “The Clooney Effect” to summarize the survey findings.
“Men are not looking for dependent women anymore,” said Fisher. "Like George Clooney, many men seek the 'new woman' – someone who is smart, powerful, and self-sufficient.”
Fisher quoted the survey findings to corroborate her claim. When asked what they look for in a relationship, 87 percent of single men said they would date a woman who makes "considerably more" money, is better educated, and is more intellectual than they are. Apart from that, 86 percent said they were looking for a woman who was confident and self-assured.
"Today, men want an equal,” said Fisher.
As I was watching George Clooney giving his acceptance speech, I remembered Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago when I was invited by a cosmetic brand to give a talk on empowerment to a group of young women. When we conceptualized the talk, we decided to focus it on self-love and loving yourself enough to fearlessly and ambitiously go for your goals.
Most of the women were nodding their heads as I spoke, but one girl in her 20s tentatively raised her hand to ask a question which she first carefully premised.
“I know everything you’re saying is true. But my closest guy friends have all told me that they would never go for a girl who is smarter or more successful than them. And I see a lot of women out there who are successful but are alone. I want to be successful, but is that the trade off? I don’t want to be alone.”
The other women in the group slowly began to nod. This was something they, too had heard before.
Thankfully, I had just interviewed some gentlemen for an article on just exactly that issue and quoted one of them. “Ambition is sexy. I like a woman who knows what she wants. Girls shouldn’t feel like they have to dumb themselves down. Guys should step up,” I told the young girl, echoing the words of my male DJ respondent.
I’m not sure I was believable enough for her, but I remembered her as I watched George Clooney that evening. I hoped she was watching, too. I hoped it reminded her that a woman no longer has to look at being smart and self-sufficient as being a trade-off.
In this epoch of Cinderella 2.0, she’s a partner to her prince in every way. And if there is no prince? Well, if the glass slipper doesn’t fit, she ain’t gonna sweat it.
She’ll go off and buy another pair or go barefoot.
Ana P. Santos is an award-winning public health journalist. Her series of reports on HIV and AIDS published in Newsbreak was named Runner Up for Best Investigative Report in the 2011 PopDev Media Awards. Read more of her work on www.sexandsensibilities.com (SAS) or follow her on Twitter: @iamAnaSantos.
This article was first published by Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.