Women hold up half the sky. – Mao Zedong
In belated honor of International Women’s Day, I have to acknowledge how much I love women. (Warning: this is a bit of a long post so settle in!) First, I loooove people. There is nothing better than a hysterical laughing-attack, an unexpected note in the mail, or a deep conversation held during a walk or over a favorite beverage. I am often surrounded by men in my work industry, as well as my husband’s work industry. I appreciate males’ inkling to be straight-forward and sometimes light-hearted or goofy. I appreciate that I can send a blunt work email and not worry (too much) about how many ways it can be analyzed. I never can relate when women talk about their catty, estrogen-fueled, office environments. However, as much as I appreciate certain masculine tendencies, I am so thrilled to be a woman whom is surrounded by so many enlightening, empowered, beautiful women, and I cannot imagine a world without these intelligent souls, bringing intangible gifts into my life daily.
The most inspiring women I know have varying outward identities. They are scientists, business executives and owners, stay-at-home-moms, doctors, fitness coaches, spiritual mentors, and health care workers. They are vibrant, warm, and have an unmistakable intelligence behind their gaze. They reinvent themselves as they share the limelight with their significant others and their children. They have been sexually-abused, fired during maternity leave, often eyed hungrily and inappropriately (whether showing flesh or not), and been passed up for promotions by women and men. They are survivors, and they are still soft and gentle. Being a woman is definitely multi-faceted, invigorating, and challenging.
Personally, I don’t recollect being judged as “female/other” until I was out of high school. It seemed, until that point, I was equal to all within the body I carry. I am not sure if that came from a lack of awareness or a protective “bubble” environment, but I am thankful for either answer since I was able to develop confidently and without fear. Around 19 years old, I noticed a shift.
I remember reading The Awakening for an American Lit class and, looking back, I realize I had an incredibly narrow view of the female perspective. I remember arguing over my conservative paper with my more feminist, male professor. Long story short, I am so thankful to men like him who challenged my traditional and narrow views of the roles of women, especially in romantic relationships.
I am less thankful for the men I remember, in no less than half a dozen instances, that degraded my existence, based on the fact that I am female…assaults with a broad range of implications, including uninvited, inappropriate touches and words from strangers, friends, family, and co-workers (one resulting in me filing a sexual harassment claim within my first 6 months at my first job out of undergrad). Although I feel fortunate to not have experienced rape or anything close to rape (and we all know the alarming statistics for that – even just in America), I have been judged based on my female anatomy multiple times.
I have been blamed for coming home with slashed tires from a street festival because I was wearing, essentially, a V-neck shirt by my ultra-conservative, well-intentioned, but extremely off-base-on-this-one father. (I thought about leaving that experience out because some of you know the identity of my father and know how wonderful he is; although, if I left that out, what story is being told? What behavior is being protected? Even amazing humans can make mistakes in a cloud of prejudices.) I was told by my boss he was hesitant to let me present at a multi-million dollar project interview because he was afraid I would be perceived as a planted distraction because of my looks. I have had my rear grabbed by a friend of a friends…while my future husband (then-boyfriend) was in the same room (that shows a lack of respect to both of us). I have been (questionably) laid off because I answered an owner truthfully when asked if I was thinking about starting a family soon. My personal examples extend much further than this. Having said all of the above, though, I have never been mistaken for a “party girl”, model, or someone who just has routine, poor judgment. I believe my experiences are hyper-typical to the female experience. What a sad sentence to write.
And there is more. As women, we have the distinct honor to carry our children. We know with privilege always comes responsibility. In my case, as most of my readers know, this has carried great sadness. My husband gets asked how his work is going while I get asked why we don’t have a family yet. (This is a familiar topic of mine.) My husband accepts social invitations while I wonder how I will hide the fact that I am not having a glass of wine since I don’t want people to know I am five weeks pregnant and have a history of losing babies. My husband goes in and out of a dentist appointment in a breeze and I get stuck letting the hygienist know about my last hospitalization which somehow makes it seem appropriate for her to discuss my miscarriages openly with her for the next hour. It is an honor to be a woman, but it does come at a price.
There are unique advantages, too. How many times have I had my door opened for me, my chair pulled out for me to sit down, or – when dating – a man insisting on treating me to dinner? How many times have men and women been extra kind, helpful or polite because of my femininity? (Man who asked me in 2010 if he could pump my gas for me because he does it for all “handicapped and women” … I am NOT talking to you! I politely declined his stunning offer.)
It has to be said that, although women are brave and resourceful, I believe men would be doing the same things if they were women. Does my husband wish he could shoulder a fair share of the physical, emotional, and social pain of our miscarriages? Absolutely. Did my boss stumble over his words and then apologize after realizing he shouldn’t have been afraid to let me do my job by presenting that project proposal to our client? Without a doubt. I believe our perspectives make us who we are, and make us choose how we choose, and we all are not so different, regardless of sex, gender, color, or other distinguishable characteristic.This isn’t said to diminish women and our strength or spiritual gifts. The unique journey – the journey of being female and having a female perspective – is still so important to our human experience (whether male of female). This is said, instead, to make the tie between us all…to say that if we celebrate one, we should celebrate all without compromise or competition. The wild, cosmic energy we carry within us continues to delight and surprise us, even when faced with the adversities met with being female. So, today I am celebrating the women in my life, as I believe we all should. I am celebrating the grit behind the experience, and the compassionate, wise women whom routinely rise above, and with, their beautiful, female bodies.