My first major was Woman’s Studies. I took a gender studies and feminist philosophy classes. And then I couldn’t bear it anymore. Literally. I became so depressed and soon realized why. From force feeding to fatten and foot binding to marital rape, women born just like you or I are born into helpless situations all around the world. It tore at me, at everything I was and I felt like a coward when I traded in my major.
I wasn’t a coward, I was a child. A young girl full of hope and a belief that the world was a generally good place and that people were inwardly kind. I had a lot to learn. Though, I do still believe that deep down inside of the cruelest person is a vulnerable, scared soul that wants to be loved.
I’ve seen that we follow along with cultural norms, societal expectations without barely noticing that we aren’t even really making choices anymore. A lot of the cruel practices I learned about were “traditions”, men expected them of other men and women of other women. It was learned behavior that had become so common place that it was accepted. The first person to stand away from the pack and objectively evaluate the situation was a brave soul.
Photo by Jawad Jalali
It is women with a conscience that speaks up who can change the world.
Malala Yousafzai peacefully defied the Taliban because she believes women should have a right to education.
The women of Mauritania whom fight against being force fed as young girls because they have begun to care more for their health than for “tradition.”
But it is also, you and I, our mothers and grandmothers that speak against being placed in traditional roles that don’t fit us any longer. Women used to specifically go to college to meet their collegiate husband. Then, something changed, more and more women started desiring careers of their own. In the 80’s the emerging trend of career women and mothers were scrutinized for not being stay at home moms, or baking cookies for the school bake sale. Now, stay at home moms seem to be more and more fearful of losing their sense of self to motherhood. We have a new cultural expectation of ourselves and that is to maintain our identity no matter the path chosen. The line between career and family is not a new one but the perception and understanding of that line continues to evolve.
That desire for a sense of self, to express our worries, our individual gifts and our dreams seems to be most important to this generation. We want a voice and we seek it out. I think that is powerful. It is that will to choose our life path that changes the path of women around the world. It is that core belief that we each have something to contribute that changes history or rather herstory.
Our culture is one of self expression. The music we choose, the clothes we wear, the career path we follow and of course when and if we create a family and how we choose to guide our children. I believe the trend these days is to question what the “crowd” is doing and figure out what fits us best. I like this trend. We seem to be valuing individualism and therefore personal choice now more then ever before. Of course there is still a whole lot of pressure to do it all and have it all but maybe the more women that speak up and defend their individual choices, the more accepted the choices will be.
I think honesty, vulnerability and courage is at the heart of connecting us all, and I mean all. Think of our mothers and grandmothers who were taught when to speak, how to be polite at all costs and not to air their dirty laundry, even amongst friends. When we keep our deepest darkest secrets, pains and fear to ourselves we build isolated communities. Imagine feeling and thinking the exact same thing as your next door neighbor or best friend and never knowing it.
Maybe I just really love being a woman but I think women have the power to change the world. The circles we form amongst girlfriends, the trust that allows us to speak openly for hours about the most vulnerable subjects, those moments make us feel less alone in our thoughts. When we feel less alone in our thoughts, we feel less alone in our life’s purpose, our vulnerability finds it’s courage in the reinforcement of like minded women. When we keep everything to ourselves, we lose out.
Photo by louis montrose
I believe these circles of women who talk about anything and everything are the reasons we see pockets of change and progress happening around the world. Traditions which abuse women are being fought by the very women who are abused. They have found not only comfort but courage amongst other women. They build an army of thought together and it becomes hard to ignore.
I imagine these circles of incessant chatter coming together throughout history. These circles are what made it possible for women to bravely influence the men in their lives but maybe more importantly, when women get behind other women, we alter the course of our future. We gain courage to fight for the right to vote, the right to our children, to an education and the right to leave.
I think we should continue sharing the things that make us question life. When we share the things that make us feel alone, we stop being alone. We must be willing to say the things that embarrass us most, willing to break down stereotypical roles that constrain us and willing to love and support our fellow girl.
Love to you,