Tag Archive: Women


Flipping the Narrative

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I was attending a meeting with a bunch of amazing women whose goal is to improve conditions for other women in the workplace. Yes, it is very union driven, yes, we advocate for equality, no we don’t man bash or burn our bras. Anyway, one of the women was sharing a story and in its telling she was using a word that for some reason was bothering me. Sometimes when this happens it’s more of a Princess Bride thing ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

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This wasn’t one of those situations, it was more that she was using the word because we are so used to it being used to describe women dealing with things emotionally. The word she was using was ‘weak’.

Before going further let’s look at the definition of that word:

  1. Lacking the power to perform physically demanding tasks, having little physical strength or energy.
  2. Liable to break or give way under pressure, easily damaged.

Now let’s hit the thesaurus: delicate, puny, flabby, flaccid, debilitated, feeble, frail, sickly – you get the idea.

Why the English lesson you ask? Simple, this woman was talking about women and using weak as the descriptor, ‘women should be allowed to be weak, have weak moments.’ Being puny, flabby, frail and easily damaged is not at all what she meant. (OMG it is a Princess Bride thing.) She was talking about visibly expressing emotions. In the course of what she said she unwittingly changed ‘weak’ to ‘vulnerable’ and I thought that was a better word:

Vulnerable – exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Coming from the Latin vulnus – wound; vulnerare – to       wound.

So then again maybe not.

Expressing emotions, being emotional doesn’t mean easily damaged or weak. I think it is time we start changing the words we use, especially the ones we use unconsciously.

Women are not the weaker sex!

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Yes, I said it. Oh, I’m not going to deny that generally men are physically stronger, but we all know that’s not what we are actually talking about. It is entirely possible that is where the phrase started from, a general physical descriptor, somewhere along the way though it came to mean so much more.

It became a way to limit woman’s participation in society. We weren’t allowed to learn on an equal footing and so we were considered intellectually inferior. We were restricted in the types of employment we could get, limiting our independence, meaning we were rather dependant on men for financial survival – therefore less capable which meant weaker. Women process things differently – there are research papers and books galore proving this – but because a lot of that processing involves emotions, men say we are weaker.

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I know I am not the only one who cries at really irritating moments. There was this one time I was sparring with this guy and he clocked me one in the head. I freaking belted him till I was pulled out. I was fine until someone asked me if I was okay and I burst into tears. I wasn’t hurt, I hadn’t lost – not that it was a fight, I was just processing and the adrenaline and frustration of him not being censured for breaking the rules resulted in me losing it momentarily. Which just made it all worse because I came down on myself for being weak. I say again, I wasn’t hurt and I’d gone hard at the guy after – there is nothing weak about that. Perception is though that tears equals weakness.

What a crock of shit. Emotions are powerful and can be overwhelming. What they are not, is a weakness. So how about we consider that women have inherent strength due to the fact we were created to process the full tsunami impact of emotions (oh and go through childbirth) and men were not. In fact, that men have determinedly refused to allow emotions a place has been proved to be damaging, hence the push in recent years to say it’s okay to get in touch with what is going on inside.

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Women have been restricted, persecuted, belittled, abused and debased and we still keep pushing forward. We then get back on our feet and take the next step towards where we want to be, with tear tracks marking our faces as we do so. This is strength. The ability to endure, to overcome. To keep raising our voices even whilst being told to hold our tongues, or just plain ignored.

So let us go forward now, no longer saying women need to be allowed moments of weakness or vulnerability when what we are referring to are periods of assessment, processing and growth.

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Embrace all the differences, all the moments and reach out a hand when you need to, knowing it isn’t weakness, it is simply understanding what it is you need as you journey through life.

Women are resilient, determined, creative, instinctive, smart, driven and powerful, and we can do all of it whilst laughing, crying and experiencing every emotion in between.

 

Three Things

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A beautiful friend of mine has recently started a business pushing (sorry selling) make up. Now if you know much about me, you’ll know that make up is one of those things that is a very low priority in my life. I wear it on stage or for special occasions, I’m just too lazy to bother with that in my everyday. I’m not going to write here about my lack skill or disinterest in make up, what I am going to comment on is something I think is incredibly important – women’s self esteem.

Now my friend knows the women she has targeted, we’re nerdy, geeky and a few other fun descriptors, so she caters to that by running fun little competitions. Her interactive approach certainly dragged me in. But targeted marketing is not my topic.

What has driven me to write this post is one of the games she posted where it said: what would your warning label say and state three things you like about yourself. Can you guess which part sparked this blog post?

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The warning part turned out to be easy. Everyone can have a little fun with that. Turns out though that writing publitlythree things you like about yourself is somewhat more difficult.

Part way through writing my three things I started to feel guilty that I hadn’t written down anything about being a wife/mother or family related. I don’t know if its’ just me or women in general but so much of our identity is derived from others, at least when talking in a public forum. My family are hugely important to me and I’m incredibly happy with my life for the most part. Sure there are always things that aren’t perfect, but what is a perfect life and why would i want it anyway when I am clearly not perfect. That may be a whole other thought stream though, so back to my current topic.

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When I settled on my three things I’ll admit to being a little surprised that I could have written more, so I will use this opportunity to get into this a little more. This may seem a little self indulgent but it’s my post and I’m going to be unapologetic about it.

Things I like about myself:

My brain, it functions well. I read, think and love to learn.

My body, I have abs, I worked hard for them, I needed to as I’m in my 40’s, have had two kids and wasn’t blessed with a metabolism that means I can eat what I want. I am stronger and fitter now than i was in my skinnier, younger years. The problem is when I google my ideal weight, I am currently apparently over weight. Crap is what I say to that. If I got down to my ‘ideal’ weight, what I would lose is most of my muscle mass and I like being strong. Sure I wish the last o f my mummy tummy would go the heck away but I’m pretty damn proud of this body of mine otherwise.

As a person I’m proud of my determination, fierce loyalty and my work ethic. I am comfortable with the fact I am a complex creature who is basically an introvert. I love feeling capable and strong. I have a giggle when people say I’m scary and feel a little bemused when people call me inspiring. I enjoy my job, to the bemusement of most and I’m proud to say I’m a published author – though part of me is still a little disappointed I had to do it myself in the end. I know I don’t comfortably fit into the boxes society likes to use and I’m good with that. My friends are the ones who accept the many, sometimes broken layers, of who I am, abrasive edges and all.

Now to the point of this self indulgence. Introspection. It’s always good to acknowledge our strengths. Knowing what we like about ourselves can help us through the harder and darker moments of life, if we allow ourselves to embrace them.

This leads nicely to the second part of my thought process from that little game. Whilst the warning part was easy and many participated, more than a few didn’t write anything for this second part. I haven’t asked why this is but I do have a few speculations. When life isn’t perfect, or even good, it can be hard to see the positive to find the things we like. Most of us don’t like to toot our own trumpets because we are socially coerced into believing it is wrong, arrogant or something. Thirdly, sometimes we just don’t know how to answer that question, when taking a close look at ourselves it’s so much easier to see the flaws and things we don’t like.

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This is sad. Think about it. So much of what society pushes subliminally (and sometimes not that subtly) is that a successful woman is one who adheres to, or measures up against certain stereotypes and appearances. We are judged by how we fit into the boxes, not how we colour those boxes in. Women are still taught not to rock the boat, we still know that our success can be undercut by men – this is how Weinstein got away with what he did. We are shown pretty pictures and told, this is the ideal.

Well I’m going to call bullshit. Women are varied, and strong and flawed and more than capable in achieving whatever goals they set for themselves. Sometimes our own worst enemy is ourselves, we allow ourselves to quietly sit where society has placed us, we pick on other women who don’t fit that norm and thereby reinforce the crap. It is time we stopped doing that. It is time we embraced ourselves for the awesomeness  and individuality that is in all of us.

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After all this my point simply is, finding three things about ourselves that we like shouldn’t be hard, and certainly admitting and embracing them shouldn’t be shied away from. i challenge you to look deeply into yourself. Look at your perceived flaws from a different perspective (I’m not bossy or a bitch, I’m organised and focused, I get shit done). Look at yourself in a positive light, examine the things that make you you. The sum of your parts, good bad, indifferent, is what makes you interesting. It is what makes you not fit the mould and proves you are no Stepford woman. Look at your body and be proud. Look at your achievements and what you do well and take satisfaction in them. Look at your personality and shout about how awesome you are.

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There is an old Japanese custom where a broken item is repaired with gold, making it more beautiful because of it’s flaws. It is about time we allowed ourselves to embrace this.

I am flawed and I am awesome.

Shout it, believe it.