Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. ~Maya Angelou
I grew up in the mystical, magical, far-away place known as “the 1970’s”. If there is a decade with more conflicting eyewitness reports from survivors, I would like to hear about it. Because of this, I won’t pretend to speak for anyone else; but for me as a kid, the 70’s were a great time to be alive. Parental supervision was at a bare minimum and high adventure was at a maximum, almost daily.
If you believe I am mistaken in this, just think of the way any child you know behaves when they think they are not being watched…they are all superheroes saving the planet.
The neighborhood I lived in was the definition of “homogenous”; all white, heterosexual, middle-class Christians with typical gender role marriages. The vast majority of mothers with school age children were stay-at-home. I bring this up in the context of our monthly theme, “empowering women”, because in the political evolution of our country this kind of community and these kind of women have been vilified as “backwards” and “part of the problem.”
So let me tell you what these women were like, from the perspective of a little girl: they were totally badass. RADICALLY badass. The vast majority of them, in addition to raising three or more children, kept beautiful homes with an open door to all the other children in the neighborhood. They kept well stocked fridges and grew vegetable gardens and cooked wonderful meals. They volunteered at church, school and for the League of Women Voters.
They were ready, willing and able to parent any child who entered their circle of influence if the need arose. They organized fun-filled neighborhood picnics and events and knew not only who every single child belonged to, but every single dog as well. They took classes at the Y, led Girl Scout troops and were den mothers.
In terms of crafts, sewing, and the art of entertaining, they rivaled Martha Stewart but without an ounce of her attitude. They never appeared to require praise or thanks. And they seemed to do all of this on very little sleep.
Looking back, I think the secret to their seemingly superhuman success was this: they supported each other. There was no “that’s not my kid” when it came to any of us and there was no “that’s not my problem” when something went wrong for someone else. I grew up in a community of women who had each other’s backs, no questions asked.
To me, that is what “empowering women” is all about. We don’t get to pick and choose who are the “good gals” or “bad gals”. We remember instead that in our hearts we are just as little children: superheroes saving the planet.
It feels like my entire adult life, the very essence of womanhood in America has been “damned if we do, damned if we don’t”.
If we work, we are not the best mothers; if we stay at home with our children, we are not the best role models. We are wrong if we “care too much” about our appearance. But if we “care too little”, some random guy is going to write a letter to the editor about how disgusting we are in yoga pants or the POTUS will call us “pigs”.
If we love sex “too much”, we are sluts; if our interest is “too little” we are prudes. In the age of social media, every body type has been proclaimed as revolting by SOMEONE; sadly, often by other women. Women who vocalize a lot of opinions are “bossy bitches”; women who keep their own counsel are either “doormats” or “above-it-all”.
There is no “just right”. There is a LOT of apologizing. There is a LOT of shame.
This month Shareen and I, along with contributors new and old say: MAKE IT STOP.
This month we stand up for all women; we validate our choices, we understand our pain. We tell and listen to our stories with open hearts and open minds…we are safe here. We are accepted, allowed and appreciated.
To empower a woman, you need do just one thing: HAVE HER BACK. I learned this as a child from a lot of amazing women and it has been reinforced in my life by a lot of amazing men, too. And we remember most of all that when we stand up for ourselves, we stand up for all women everywhere.
Let’s remember to empower each other all day, every day.