Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the power, accomplishment, and awesomeness of all things female. I reflect on the generations of women that came before and those that will follow and wonder, how far have we come? Hearing stories of those few rebellious women in my family who dared to stand up to their husbands and declare independence is both sad and funny – however a small piece of me sees that today, things really have not changed so much.
With two masters degrees, I am academically more accomplished than my husband yet he makes twice as much money. When we go to shop for a car or large appliance (or just about anything else) – the sales person addresses all questions and comments to him, regardless of the sales person’s gender. And the kicker? I handle all family finances. Big decisions about household changes such as remodeling, or taking a vacation, or moving to a different part of the country – ultimately are deferred to him. I stand up, make my voice heard, talk rationally, speak loudly and logically – and ultimately it is the roar of the male that assumes victory still because I remain forever and always the weaker, second class, silly little female.
And it’s not just me who participates in this gender chess match – our country as a whole does it. Look at our current leader. The Me Too movement brought about some wonderful, much needed change by drawing attention to sexual predators, harassment, even the fondling that most of us experience in childhood and until recently lived with as a sick ‘rite of passage’ into adolescence. However even as man after man stands accused and is maimed by the media – Trump boasts about grabbing women’s bodies and kissing them without consent – a blatant admission of sexual misconduct – and faces no consequence. Our country has placed itself in a clusterfuck of gender stupidity that will not likely be resolved in the coming century.
Speaking Me Too (which I reluctantly say I belong too as a survivor of years of sexual abuse), I support the idea of this movement but the idea and the celebrity have gotten way out of hand. People use this movement to define their brand – the celebrity in the white dress, or the black dress, or with the special pin, or making that speech. As a regular person who has been there – and more importantly as a therapist who has worked with both the abuser and the abused – I think you’ve forgotten a few people. What about the little girls slitting their wrists because the smell of the curtains in their rooms brings back so much pain they don’t feel they can live anymore……or the teenage boys sneaking into their little sister’s room at night, running hands over developing breasts and hoping sister won’t wake up – and brother was molested by Uncle Brad when he was four years old and has no idea what to do with that. What about Teen Girl turning to prostitution because it’s the only way she feels worthy after dad started raping her when she was 6 and she is painfully unaware of her true worth? The Me Too movement is important – it is in fact vital. But its current representation left out the real people…..the ones who will never walk the red carpet.
What message does all of this send to our children? Does their gender define their worth? If they happen to be born female are they destined to a life of servitude, less pay, a quieter voice, second-class treatment? It is astounding to me that in 2018 this conversation is still relevant. We roar, we arrange marches, we talk about how far we’ve come and how we put ourselves out there – how we are feminists – and how change is happening. But it’s crazy. Nothing has changed much since I was born nearly 50 years ago, when my mother’s generation was marching, rebelling, trying to create change. Why is any of that necessary? We are all human beings walking around on the same planet. Having different chromosomes doesn’t change your rights, your strength, your worth – each of us can choose the life we want to live not because of our gender, but because we are born human. I want my daughter to live a happy, limitless life and to be free – not because she is female, but because she is alive.
Since we are celebrating women today – what does it mean to be female? Let’s end on a positive note here. I’ve always looked up to powerful leaders such as Maya Angelou, Jane Addams, Jane Goodall, and my great-grandmother Helena (who my daughter is named after – more on her in another post). Women have instinct and when we are able to quiet the outside voices, we can feel that instinct and just ‘know’ – that is our gift. We create life – and I don’t just mean biologically, but emotionally and spiritually too. We give (sometimes to our own detriment) to everyone around us, supporting others and empowering our children and partners so that they become the best people they can be. We are at the center of the ‘ripple’ – whatever we say, do, create, ripples out so that it touches those around us and impacts families, communities, and so on. If we allow ourselves to avoid drama, ignore the loudness and negativity that sometimes overpowers us – and quiet our minds; if we trust our instinct and believe in our own worth, we women our pretty damn awesome.
Happy International Women’s Day.