Another Thing We Need to Stop Telling Women: What Is Brave and not Brave

November 18, 2015

It's what Billy would have wanted.

A couple months ago I wrote this rantypants post about why we need to stop telling women they shouldn’t travel solo. (And by “we” I mean jerky people on the Internet and not the actual “we” as in “you and me” because I’m pretty sure you and me would know better than to tell ladies what to do.)

I wrote it after reading an article on NPR, in which two male experts warned people, particularly lady-people, not to travel solo. And if they do travel solo they should never do anything as audacious as go to a restaurant all by themselves.

And then last week I found myself reading another article on NPR (because nerd). This one was about dining solo. In the article, they profiled a female food writer who, after years of ordering in room service while on trips by herself, decided to step outside of her comfort zone and go to a restaurant solo while traveling in Peru.

She was quoted as saying: “dining out alone felt like a courageous act.”

The rest of the article lauded the benefits of eating solo. (For example, we can focus more on “the experience of food itself.” Which I’m taking to mean you don’t have to share your food with anyone ever. Which is basically the one big reason I like dining out by myself. Because HANDS OFF MY CHEESE DIP, WEIRDO.)

This is all mine! ALLLL MIIIIINE!

This is all mine! ALLLL MIIIIINE!

But then things went downhill once I got to the comments.

As they tend to do.

Unlike the comments in the previous article, which basically told women they shouldn’t even bother leaving the house let alone the country, these comments did not berate the woman interviewed for doing something on her own.

Instead these comments berated her for having the audacity to say that dining out alone as a woman was brave.

“I never knew I was so courageous. I always assumed I was just hungry.”

“If dining out alone feels like a “courageous act”… you know you’ve got a pretty good life, with darn few real problems.”

“What’s so sad is that this is apparently a monumental accomplishment for her. yikes. hope she’s not planning on having kids and passing along that dna.” (Editor’s note: WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?)

I probably don’t have to say this, but judging from the names used to leave these comments, they were left by men.

So, just to recap, ladies:

1. We shouldn’t ever go out alone, especially not in foreign countries, because that’s scary and we could get hurt.

2. If we do go out alone, we should never, ever imply that what we’re doing is courageous. Because, whatever, woman, stop your bragging. Guys have been doing that shit for YEARS.

3. Also, if you do for whatever reason claim that what you’re doing is brave, you shouldn’t have kids. (Again. WTF?)

Here is the thing:

I have to agree.

Dining out alone as a woman is not a brave act.

At least it’s not for me.

In fact, I get all peeved when a waiter or another guest in the restaurant makes some comment to me about my being brave for dining solo. Because, WTF, dude, would you make that comment to a man? Besides, I’m just eating a pizza. I’m not facing a firing squad after demanding equal education rights for women.

Not brave. Just hungry.

Not brave. Just hungry.

But that’s not to say that dining out alone as a woman isn’t a brave act for another woman.

It’s just not brave to me because I’ve done it a lot.

But there are a whole host of other things other women do on a regular basis that literally make me hyperventilate with fear. For example, dating and having babies. Heck, even the act of sitting underneath a ceiling fan makes me feel nauseous and like I’m probably going to die. (Seriously, that thing could fall down and decapitate me at any moment. AT ANY MOMENT, I SAY!)

The great thing about bravery is that it’s not some one-size-fits-all situation.

You get to decide what’s brave for you. Just like you get to decide what’s unbrave for you.

If it freaks you out, and you still do it, that’s bravery, my friends.

Maybe that means enjoying tapas at a table for two by yourself.

Or, maybe, that means going to a tapas restaurant on a date and sitting at a table for two underneath a ceiling fan.

(Excuse me. BRB. Just got to go hyperventilate while thinking about that last scenario.)


Is dining solo a brave act for you? If not, what is a brave act for you?


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On November 18, 2015 at 9:37 am Brittany said:

    I am all sorts of feeling this today. I am comfortable doing most things on my own, but being alone in a country where I don’t speak the language is a first for me that is freaking me right out. Here I am though, using wifi on a plane (thanks, JetBlue!), on my way to Belize. Without a male to protect me, to the great disappointment of the Doctor who gave me my vaccinations…
    Brittany recently posted..Anxiety and Being Alone Abroad For the First Time

  2. On November 18, 2015 at 11:52 am JessieV said:

    UM. you need to share that cheese dip. with me. bravely.

    but seriously, i SOOO agree. there’s so much to be brave about in this world. normal life may or may not be brave, but to blow it up and say what we can and can’t do? uff da.
    JessieV recently posted..Love, Change, and the Expression of Thought: 30 Americans at the Detroit Institute of Arts

  3. On November 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm Claudia said:

    Dating? Hyperventilate. Seriously. I am sooooo brave. I travel solo, dine solo. SO SO SO BRAVE.
    Claudia recently posted..I’m sorry Bali, you’re really not my type

    • On November 23, 2015 at 8:04 pm Sally said:

      I think the key is to not actually hyperventilate on the date… or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Not that I’ve gone on enough dates lately to know.

  4. On November 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm Jeanie said:

    I’ve been told I’m brave for moving over seas, travelling, driving on snowy roads and doing it all myself. I’ve never felt brave in the midst of those things. I’ve recently purchased a house and saddled myself with a mortgage. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done…and no one has commented on my bravery. Very curious.

  5. On November 18, 2015 at 11:55 pm Priya said:

    I’ve eaten out alone but one thing I’m kind of afraid to do is go to a bar alone and just have a drink by myself. It’s on my list.
    Priya recently posted..27 Random Things Learned From 27 Years of Life

  6. On November 19, 2015 at 7:52 am Gloria said:

    This is just another reason I love your blog, Sally! I agree with you on all points. Sometimes It is a bit uncomfortable to go to a restaurant solo but I do on occasion and I don’t expect a medal when I do. The servers sometimes make it a big deal that you are on your own. It’s a whole host of daily micro aggressions that make women feel that they are not “normal” when they do certain things. And when people tell me I can’t or shouldn’t do things, that’s when I want to more. Like Priya, I’m still working my way up to going to a bar alone. Maybe we should start a club…oh wait.

  7. On November 19, 2015 at 11:00 am Aurora said:

    Yes! Agreed! Dining solo – no biggie. For me. But holding a baby?! Whoa… And all that just helps me remember that there are all sorts of _types_ of courage. My dining alone courage. My solo travel courage. My adventure courage. My dating courage. My presentation courage. Some of these are easier for me than others, and different for everyone.

    How amazing would it be if we stopped limiting women and instead recognize all the possible ways that people can be brave, or not brave?
    Aurora recently posted..The end of the road

    • On November 23, 2015 at 8:01 pm Sally said:

      Haha. Can totally relate to the baby thing. I wouldn’t hold my nephew for the first couple months because he was so tiny I was pretty sure I’d break him. Now he’s such a bruiser, every time I hold him I’m pretty sure he’s going to break ME. 🙂

  8. On November 20, 2015 at 8:45 am Paula said:

    I love this post! Especially this line – “The great thing about bravery is that it’s not some one-size-fits-all situation.”
    Paula recently posted..What does it mean to be a real woman?

  9. On December 8, 2015 at 12:21 am Ceri said:

    I love these posts of yours, Sally. You’re a badass and I totally agree with what you’re saying. Dining alone isn’t brave for me and neither is moving overseas. But I feel brave for doing stupid things like going to music gigs alone. Everyone’s definitions are totally different.
    Ceri recently posted..35

  10. On December 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm Jeff Flach said:

    I’m going to be brave and comment as a man. As a hostel owner I literally see a ton of women traveling solo each year. Most are traveling a foreign country and most are not native speakers however it always amazes me how well the world speaks our language (we’re so lucky). Of course they are traveling alone so they are dining alone. There are many restaurants close to us and often I’m elated to find one of my solo female guests eating alone where I go to eat so I join them. Never once did I consider how brave she was or anything else. I simply thought, how lucky I was to be able to enjoy a meal with a pretty young woman. Hmm, Now I am left thinking that by joining them somehow I diminished the bravery of their solo dining. But seriously, I have a daughter that will be an adult soon. Of course I would (do) worry for her I have traveled the world mostly alone and when traveling with others find it very annoying to have to agree on every minute and direction and choice…. brave is acting in spite of a rational fear. If you don’t fear something that you rationally should (like venomous snakes) its called stupidity. If you fear something you rationally shouldn’t (like going to the movies alone, I do fear that) it’s called being irrational.

    • On December 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm Jeff Flach said:

      PS meant to point out that in the case of my daughter I would want her to travel and experience the world. I would worry but I would want her to get out there and experience it. I wouldn’t think her brave for doing so, I would think her irrational for not doing so.

    • On December 19, 2015 at 10:18 am Sally said:

      What a lovely message! And I’m sure the solo female travelers you’ve joined for dinner are delighted to have a thoughtful, insightful dinner companion. I know I would be!


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