We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When I think back to my adolescent wishes for the future, and about the woman I imagined I’d become, I realise that my teen ambitions were superficial aspirations; lofty ideas based on proclamations such as “when I grow up I’m going to be a millionaire/Mrs Mulder/Mrs Furlong/Jacques Cousteau’s research assistant“…. While most of those things are no longer attractive to me (Fox Mulder? Edward Furlong? What was I thinking?!) or no longer possible (RIP Mr Cousteau) and while I could still be a millionaire…the main thing is that my idea of what it means to be a woman has changed.
When I think of my definition of what it means to be a woman, I think of someone who is confident, self-sufficient and comfortable in their own company. Someone who has success or is working towards her goals be they career and/or home driven, who has friends who she can regularly turn to for support or a giggle; someone who is adventurous and knows her way around a kitchen & a bedroom. Knows what it means to love and be loved, is supportive of other women and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or speak her mind if she feels the need to. She isn’t defined by other people’s expectations.
“As women, our lives are infinitely complex. We’re wives or significant others, we’re caretakers and givers, we’re business executives, we’re life coaches and life providers.” ~Macala Wright
Not that I’m saying that I’ve achieved this zen-like muliebrous state. Some qualities I’ve nailed and some I’m blindly stepping through the effeminate minefield towards.
Like a note to self, I’ve compiled a list of things to help keep me on track in becoming the woman I’ve always dreamed of being…keeping in mind we are the sum of all our experiences, mistakes and all.
- Be kind¹ but not always nice¹.
- The way we dress effects the way we feel, act & the way others react to us. You don’t need to be a fashion icon, but you do need to remember the image you want to portray to the world.
- You don’t have to talk to strangers but it’s nice to give a smile.
- Invest in your education or creativity. I truly believe a happy and fulfilled woman is the healthy heart of every family or a building block for a future one.
- It’s OK to say no. You don’t have to be everyone’s yes-girl.
- Always tell your family that you love them (even if your brother is a complete shit at times!)
- Know how to be a good friend. One that listens, is supportive and has fun with them.
- Take the time to truly understand what the meaning of feminism is. Its not about women above all others, man hating or burning bras. This is 2012! Start [here]
- Exercise every day. A 1 hour workout is 4% of your day. Virtually nothing when you think of it like that!
- Respect your elders but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they say.
- If you believe what you say, then eventually others will believe in you.
- Remember important events and details of people that matter. And invest in a great app that helps you do such things!
- Just like Kenny Rogers said…’You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em“; learn when to take the high road.
- Learn how to give bad news with grace.
- Keep your house clean and tidy. It does wonders for your demeanor. And stress levels when your mother/-inlaw comes over!
- Regularly kick some ‘soul goals‘ (a term my hubby coined which means doing something good for others without expectation of praise or acknowledgement).
- Own a basic tool kit and know how to use it. Drilling stuff is actually quite cathartic!
- No matter what the magazines tell you, it’s not about being fashionable. It’s about being attractive; for yourself and for the people that matter to you.
- Knowing that a way to a man’s heart is through his tummy (figuratively speaking) is not classed as manipulative!
- Fresh flowers are not a waste of money; they are an investment in the happiness of your soul.
- Just because you make bad mistakes doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
- Giving your heart away leads to some of the best experiences in life. Learning when to do so is half the fun.
- Try hard to have no regrets. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.
- Learn the art of polite chit chat. It makes those parties where you don’t know anyone, less awkward.
- It’s OK to change your mind or change direction; to take a different path. Courage is knowing what & when it’s not working out for you and then doing something about it.
- Embrace the internal self pep talk; they really do help your confidence (just remember the internal part because people just think you’re weird when you talk to yourself).
- Know what things are important enough to make sacrifices for. Our lives are so busy that we inevitably have to decline/cancel/skip/run-late for things that we wish we had time for, but it’s seeing the bigger picture and knowing that you can’t do everything all the time. And that’s OK.
- “she eats takeout on china and serves champagne with pizza”! here here! [via]
- Remember: you can do anything but not everything. It’s OK to ask for help.
- What it means to be a woman is different for every one of us. Figure out what it means for you and live your life with whatever purpose you want for it!