These days, it seems the best way to get through to a lot of women is to be a man who comes up with memes and mini-motivational messages that sound pretty but really don’t do anything but disparage women, blame them for failed relationships or lack of relationships, and remind them how they must bend themselves into pretzels physically, emotionally, and spiritually to “keep a man.” Though I realize I’m living a testosterone- free existence sans the alleged benefits of testicles and a penis, my hope is what I have to say will permeate the minds of the women who read this despite my lack of “maleness”. The ongoing attack on women and girls is real and its effectiveness is evident in face to face conversations, books, film, articles, social networking, advertising, etc… From every direction, women and girls are bombarded with ill-conceived, sexist, and antiquated ideas about who they should be, how they should behave, what they should think, how they should dress, and what they can say without losing that ever important air of femininity all self-respecting girls and women should possess. If a child misbehaves, the first question folks ask is, “Where is his/her mother?” Because after all, a child engaging in humanistic behaviors such as tantrums is surely lacking in proper mothering, right? If a woman is accosted by a man in public, be it verbally, physically, or both, the question is, “What did you do to provoke this?” Because after all, that woman knows how her “mouth” can be plus, she really shouldn’t have worn that outfit if she wasn’t looking for something to happen to her. If a once married woman is freshly divorced or separated, she is quickly labeled as yet another woman who, “just can’t keep a man.” Because after all, the positive and lasting status of a happy relationship solely falls on the shoulders of the woman and if that connection is somehow compromised, it must surely be because the woman didn’t cook enough, work out enough, listen enough, or blow her man enough. I mean, seriously, when are these women going to get it together? That seems to be the prevailing question when it really should be, “When is this society going to stop holding women responsible for all the tragedy while stripping them of their parts in all the triumphs?”
In this meme and social networking laden society, I see countless attacks on girls and women. Before there is even sufficient opportunity for a girl to develop into an independent minded, pragmatic, creative, self-assured individual, there are all these societal rules and standards applied to her that do nothing but stifle her personal growth. She must learn early on to suppress her intellect, her interests, her ambitions, and her sexuality lest she run off all the boys with her well-earned confidence. She can’t think too highly of herself and what she has to offer the world because what good is education and professional success if one has no man? I mean, all the personal achievements in the world won’t hold you at night and give you babies. So, before a woman can even effectively get started, she’s stunted by someone else’s boundaries for her life. If her clothes are too body conscious, she’s a ho. If she dresses too conservatively, she’s a stick in the mud. If she likes to have an unabashedly good time, she’s a party girl only good for one thing. If she prefers books and baking to bashes, she’s the ideal for a wife, who will likely be cheated on with the woman having the unabashedly good time. On the surface, all this makes it appear there is no winning. However, girls and women can walk away with the win – if they create their own definitions. When women opt to define womanhood for themselves, be it a homemaking, cookie baking, baby raising, homeschooling one or one of bachelor degrees, boardrooms, mixers, and contract negotiations (or even one in between), we WIN. When we understand “real” women are not just one way but are made up of every kind of woman conceivable from the video vixen to the nun, we WIN. When we stop defining ourselves based on the antiquated and damaging views of old wrapped up in a bow and made to look pretty, we WIN. I see memes regularly pitting one type of woman against the other. Recently, it was Amber Rose v. Michelle Obama waxing philosophical about doing anything for attention versus demanding respect. It raised my dander without question. I don’t know Amber Rose or Michelle Obama, but I do look at them and see two women seemingly doing the work that makes them happy. One twerks and one touts the goodness of homegrown vegetables and regular exercise and to me, BOTH are women deserving of respect and patriarchy has no right to strip it from either of them. When women become elitist and use what they see as their social status to down other women whose life choices are different, we LOSE. When we let the framework of patriarchy define womanhood for us causing division among us, we LOSE. I hate being a loser. It took a lot of introspection, reading, listening, inquiring, and rewiring for me to get past my upbringing and the affect societal ideals of what makes a woman worthwhile for me to understand the constructs of femininity and realize I get to define what it means to me without the influence of old adages, religious rhetoric, or sexist foolishness developed by men and sadly partly perpetuated by women. Though it took me almost 40 years, the journey was worth it because – I WIN. Now I know without question, the prostitute on the corner is a woman just like I am in the corporate world. The 21 year old woman with two children by two different men trying to hold it down is a woman, just like the wife of the President of the United States. Different lives, different choices, but still women and deserving of better than a bunch of judgment and denigration.
Despite my lack of male parts, I know now what it is to be a woman. It is simply about being comfortable in one’s skin, being interested in constant self-improvement, and not feeling the need to make apologies for being witty, talented, flexible, sexual, or spiritual. It’s about standing firm in who one is and not letting it be a result of who someone else said one should be. That is how we WIN. When we teach these ideas to our daughters, nieces, and mentees, we allow them to visualize a world in which they create their own reality instead of one that picks the truth for them forcing them to acquiesce to an existence of mediocrity and glass ceilings. I need to see little girls WIN.
Memes and mini-motivations messages via cell phone videos have their place, I suppose. I generally think of these things as funny ways to pass time, but when they are used as tools to down women and convince them everything that ails humans is our fault, I have to take exception to them. Changing the definitions is how women WIN.©