That’s right. It’s a list. (Or, more annoyingly, a listicle.) About women. And things we need to do (or stop doing) to each other. Right now.
1. Women need to stop telling each other what to do.
Oh, the irony, right? Here I am, telling women what to do right here! But what I’M telling you is right. And herein lies the problem. Our belief in our rightness doesn’t equal everyone else’s wrongness or lacking. In our viral world, you cannot get through a day without seeing headlines about “24 things women should stop wearing after age 30” or “7 things women should never do in front of men” or “7 convincing reasons to wear makeup.” (These are all actual titles, people.) The internet is inundated with crap content that is churned out by content mills as a way to get people to click on the link for advertising revenue. And it works. Because all too often we are looking for an easy way to “improve” upon ourselves with quick fixes and instructions.
I don’t need some young whippersnapper telling me about “10 haircuts that women over 40 can pull off.” I really don’t. I mean, if I feel like getting a Mohawk as a celebration for turning 50 (which is WAY off), then I’m damn well going to rock a Mohawk. Just like you don’t need me telling you that we should stop beating each other up with information that is covertly, subtly telling us that we are less than. Like…did you pick up on my little inference about aging being a bad thing? The “way off” attempt at humor—which also implies that being older is something to resist? Subtle. But present. And something I will touch on in my #4.
If you want to offer me encouragement, I’m all ears. But if you want to tell me how I can “have it all” or cleverly hide my tummy or how your parenting style is better than mine, or how to make my boobs look bigger or perkier, then…thanks but no thanks.
On that note, let me continue telling you what you need to do. (No, the irony hasn’t left the building.)
2. Give one another grace.
A lot of grace. All the time. All. The. Time. This follows my first “ToDo” for a reason. For most of us—women especially—it’s in our nature to want to help. We’re so darn helpful that we sometimes end up being bossy, stepping on toes, not listening, miscommunicating, making someone feel small…And here we were just trying to help. Damn. But that’s where grace can swoop in and save the day.
We need to give grace all over the place and thankfully accept it from others. Grace is like water on the fire of hurts, mistakes, misunderstandings, oversights, insensitivities, unkindness, thoughtlessness…You see where I’m going with this, yes? Even when we are trying our best to help, love, and do right…we still need grace. Lots of grace. So don’t be stingy with it. Give it, accept it, and move on.
It’s absolutely free! And there is NO shipping and handling charge! What are you waiting for??”
PS—You can read about how grace is my word for 2016 (and ever) here.
3. Stop striving toward the illusion of perfection.
Let me break it to you gently: we will never be perfect. Not exactly a groundbreaking statement, right? I think we all intellectually accept that we are not perfect…yet we still chase the greased pig of perfection. We click on those titles from #1 for a reason—we are in the constant search of bettering ourselves because we think we’re not enough.
I absolutely 100% know that I am broken, but that doesn’t exactly mean I need fixing. I recognize that I have scars, but I see the beauty in those scars. Even so, I am so freaking critical of myself. I would wager that you can relate. At least a little. Not good enough. Must do more. Must try harder.
We’ve got to stop setting the bar so damn high for ourselves. We’ve got to stop communicating to women and girls that being thin and pretty adds to your worth. That reality TV is reality. That our value is more what we present on the outside than what we have to offer on the inside. That being small—whether in body or spirit—is the goal.
We’ve got to stop the culture of intensive parenting that pushes us to do some seriously crazy shit. I mean—really. Does it really matter to our kids that we not only bake and frost the cupcakes for school but decorate them to the point where Cake Boss would be impressed? You know what I think they care about? That they taste good and are loaded with sugar. Period. I think they’d devour cupcakes from the grocery store and be thrilled. But we will stay up until the wee hours in order to keep up with the Mom Joneses. What exactly are we communicating to our kids? To ourselves? Nothing healthy, in my opinion. We’ve got to lighten up on ourselves and the world around us. If we could do that…now that would indeed be perfect.
4. Stop accepting “like a girl” as being synonymous with “less than.”
While it’s no secret that I am a feminist, I know that both women and men have challenges specific to their gender. Major stereotypes push women to be ladylike and men to be macho. The phrase “like a girl” illustrates both sides of that coin.
When a boy or man is told that he does something “like a girl,” the intent is to make the guy feel weaker and less. It’s meant as an insult and not only communicates that likening a male to a female is supposed to be humiliating, but that if boys don’t show their toughness or physical prowess, then they deserve to be judged as such. This kind of attitude permeates society so thoroughly that we often don’t even recognize it. Just listen to coverage at the Rio Olympics. There are unfortunately tons of examples—like how the powerful, successful swimmer Katie Ledecky was called “the female Michael Phelps” and said to swim “like a man.” I love this tweet in response:
(Interestingly enough, when a woman is said to do something “like a man,” the judgment only swings one way: she isn’t feminine enough.)
Let’s work to end this bullshit, shall we?
We’ve got to work to end negative societal messages that reinforce that women are the “lesser” sex. What if “like a girl” meant that there was a fierce, open-hearted energy to whatever is being referenced?
You play soccer like a girl
You talk like a girl
You run like a girl
You write like a girl
You “do” math like a girl…
Just imagine. Maybe even Nike would add “like a girl” to their “Just Do It” campaign and it would mean bringing passion and strength to whatever it is you do.
Such a better message to send…and receive.
Okay…I’m done with my recommendations/rant for today. Thanks for sticking around and putting up with my bossiness. And I hope it is easy to see that there is a thread woven through all four of these encouragements:
We simply need to increase our support and lessen our judgment of one another. We can work at it every day, and then try more tomorrow. It will change our world.
And let’s do it like a girl.
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