From the woman who raised me to believe that overalls are totally acceptable formal wear and that you get closer to god on a mountain than you ever will be in a church pew, to the sister who effortlessly threads together her role as rockstar and nurturer and who sets the highest bar by which I will measure any attempt at mothering - I have spent most of my life surrounded by strong, independent, loving and beautiful women.
It’s no surprise that I’ve continued to seek out women that make me a better version of myself, more open, more honest, tougher. What has become more readily apparent as I’ve aged (slightly… ever so slightly…) is that the ugliest paradigm of paternalism is that it too often causes us to stand, neck craned, staring up at the glass ceiling and italian leather soles framed by men’s suite cuffs. If instead we brought our noses down, we’d see amongst us the answer to our proverbial question - how the hell do get to a place where “women’s issues” are just human issues?
It’s important that I note two things: first, that I understand why we crick our necks thus and second, that there is a solution.
Speaking to the first point, we’ve been told our entire lives, as women, that we have to work harder to get where we’re going and that lesson comes from men (often unintentionally) and women (usually intentionally) and then it bears itself out in our lived experiences. The only way to keep slogging through, at some points in our lives, is to keep our eyes on the prize and our heads up lest we loose hope, motivation or worse - our self respect.
But we all know this. If you’re a sentient woman these days it’s hard to miss the ways government legislation seems to overlook women’s voting power, how global inequities are enacted more violently upon women and how even our basic biology risks our lives - child birth has killed and will kill millions of women throughout history. You can’t ignore the fact that though many of our male partners and spouses believe themselves to be progressive when it comes to women’s issues, they still default to antiquated expectations. And it’s not their fault - it’s society’s.
As such, what I find disheartening is the tendency we have to look to men to support us in our quest for equality. Don’t get me wrong, my male friends are feminists - feminists with beards who are just as offended by what patriarchy says about the role of men (news flash, it’s not women that think “all men are abusers” - it’s patriarchy) and who fight side-by-side with their friends, girlfriends and sisters to end it. One of the best feminists I know is a banjo playing, beer drinking, bearded dude from Ohio and I’ll tell you what, his politics are sexy.
It’s great that there are supportive men, but there are so many issues to address we can’t ask them to do it all and most importantly, we can’t expect them to fix the most broken bit - our relationships with one another. This Women’s Day, I propose women focus on supporting, loving and appreciating other women.
Let’s take our eyes off of those cheap leather soles for just a second and look around ourselves at the women standing by our sides. These are the people that support us, challenge us, pick us up when we’ve fallen to pieces and yet they often go unacknowledged in our own lives. You don’t have to call yourself a feminist (however, unless you sincerely believe that you deserve to have fewer rights just because of your genitalia or gender expression - you are one) but you do have to support and appreciate the women in your life. It’s non-negotiable, it’s not a question of “getting along with men better” - that’s just lazy talk for acting in a way that only people who want to sleep with you put up with. Most importantly it’s not risking your hard earned position at the top of the pile. The fact is, when we act in that way, the pile we’re climbing is made of other women. We’re only tearing each other down.
We aren’t going to make a difference if we are all lusting after another piece of shiny glass - diamonds my ass, I want respect. So let’s start by respecting, loving and appreciating the women in our lives. Let’s look around, learn from one another, grow. With that collective wisdom we can work through our imperfections, our challenges - the things we identify for ourselves as little seep holes in our souls - not what society says we need to improve. I’d rather learn how to better express myself than how to dress for my body shape. Let’s fill one another up until we are so big, we push the glass ceiling off it’s foundations. “Global she-hulk, smash patriarchy!”
I started my morning yesterday with a note from a woman I admire professionally, wishing me success in my new role and offering to talk anytime I feel overwhelmed. I went to sleep after spending an hour chatting to a woman who feels like a sister at this point. Before dinner I received a message from a girlfriend in Burundi reminding me that I’d made good choices and that I was wonderful and I lay for a while aside my mother feeling noting but security and gratitude.
I woke up today to an email from a female friend wishing me luck as I set off on my latest adventure. She didn’t shower me with unnecessary praise, she didn’t, out of insecurity, try to suggest that my new role would sink me (she did tell me I’d sink or swim, but asserted firmly that she knew I’d do the later). She focused on telling me to remember the little good things that will get you through the big hard things because that’s what it’s all about. She suggested I pack cheese, oreos and peanut brittle.
That is what female friendship is all about - surround yourself with women who make you better. Be humble when you meet someone to learn from, but strong when someone needs your shoulder to lean on - it’s not a burden, it’s a blessing. Don’t ask a man to solve your problems, he can and should offer, but let him cheer you on from the sidelines - let him give you place to regenerate away from the fray and a hand to sooth your aching battle bones. Be a woman, be proud of that. Tell little girls that they are good, not that they are pretty. Admit that it’s hard to be a woman, but add that you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Starting today, on Women’s Day, make sure to appreciate a woman in your life, and to tell her so, at least daily. It will be good for you, good for her and better for women everywhere.
And for god’s sake, bring the peanut brittle.