March 8th is International Women's Day.
It's important to look back and celebrate how far we have come. (and by "we" I mean both women and men). Yet there is still so far to go.
In my work on understanding the differences between men and women, I study the messages that we're sent, the images of what it is to be a man or a woman. I see how we're portrayed and the language and images we are bombarded with in advertising, the media, on TV, in magazines and movies.
The messages that men receive aren't great. Even today, the definition of what it is to be a man is extremely narrow. But women have it even worse. Be sure to read What I Learned About Marketing to Women at the Athena Film Festival for an up to date look at how women are portrayed in the media today.
The assault starts at a very young age. In her book A Woman's Worth, Marianne Williamson talks about women who try to reclaim their "lost girl."
The lost girl is still within us - the girl who wasn't allowed to blossom, the girl whose natural childhood instincts were unnaturally capped at puberty, the girl who was squelched in fear of the woman she would become. We were treated with suspicious looks at the very moment someone should have been turning up the applause. Our natural impulses were thwarted and distorted.We don't know how to be women because we were taught it's not OK to be girls.
Ask any woman in your life to read that passage and you'll see just how widespread this feeling is.
There is hope
But here's why I'm hopeful about the world in general and women in particular (the fate of the two is inseparably intertwined).
For as long as I can remember, women have become less of themselves. They have tried to alter their themselves to be what they think society/other people want. But women are finally coming to the realization that that is simply not working.
I see a seismic shift. Today, instead of becoming less of themselves, women are becoming more of themselves. They are coming more into alignment with their authentic selves. They are finally giving voice to their true feelings. (just look at the explosion of women bloggers).
The more women come into alignment in one area of their life, the more they notice when something is out of alignment. I think that's one of the reasons women are so stressed out right now.
“Stress may be as much a question of a compromise of values as it is a matter of time pressure or fear of failure.”
Harold Kushner Living a Life That Matters
So on International Women's Day, I want to send a message to the women of the world:
- Be more of yourself, not less of yourself
- Define your values - what is the one thing you absolutely will not compromise on? Stay true.
- Make your voice heard, especially when someone says that you are something you are not.
- For the love of God, stop tearing down other women. Yes, if instead of piling on, you stand up for her you may lose the approval of men. Get over it. It's inexcusable when men are misogynists. It's unforgivable when women are.
- Support your daughters. They start out as such bright lights with such big dreams. Tell her not to listen when the world says she is not enough. Fill her with the self-confidence to continue to shine brightly when the world scolds her and pressures her to dim or diminish everything that makes her feel worthy.
I'll leave you with this quote from Marianne Williamson also used by Nelson Mandella:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Happy International Women's Day.