A Woman's Guide to Unlearning
Last week, the world celebrated International Women's Day - a day to honor the achievements of women not only today, but every generation before us.
But, how often do we really celebrate women? I'd argue that might be one of the few days a year that we actually do. And not only are we not celebrating women, but even in the year 2022 we are still dictating how women should speak, dress, behave, etc.
While women in America may have the right to freedom of speech, we are so acutely aware that there is an unspoken script we must follow. Don't say anything offensive or someone's feelings might get hurt. Don't disagree. Don't raise your voice. Sit down. Stay quiet.
And never mind the restrictions and criticism we receive for what we wear. Don't show your bra straps, it's trashy and distracting to men. Nothing too low-cut, you don't want to attract the wrong attention. Cover up. Hide your body. Shame, shame, shame.
The fact is, the millennial and Gen-Z generations have quite a boat-load of unlearning to do. We have been taught since birth that a woman's role is to please everyone else around her. Period. While some of this is at the conscious level, much of it we also learn subconsciously.
It is our duty to break the cycle. To end the unconscious misogyny that has been ingrained in our very beings that dictate how we live our lives, how we raise our daughters, how we treat our friends, sisters, mothers, aunts.
Okay, sure Selena, that all sounds well and good, but how in the heck do we break generations upon generations of traumatic patterns? Let's discuss.
Encourage Self Love
This one's for you moms, grandmothers, and aunts. Raise your daughters, granddaughters, and nieces to love who they are in this moment as well as every past version of them up until today. And no, I don't mean teaching them to say some affirmations in the mirror (although this is an added bonus). I mean, let's talk real shit. Let's talk real healing. Have the hard conversations.
Encourage them to talk about their insecurities and where they learned that they weren't good enough. Encourage them to stand up for themselves without question, no matter the situation. Encourage them to express their opinions in a room full of men. Encourage them to take risks, to pave their own paths just as we would encourage boys to do. The younger we have these conversations, the quicker we alter our societal norm.
Stop Passing Judgment
I know - this one is hard for everyone. It's natural for us to judge others, it's how we compare ourselves and measure up to those around us. But it is more detrimental than we realize. How often do we sit around gossiping about who gained weight, or that girl's risqué Instagram post, or how we hate her new haircut?
So much of our judgments of women are based on how we look. No matter what we do, we will always be criticized. We can drop 20 pounds and now we look too thin, we can trade our bikini for a turtleneck and now we're too conservative.
Is it so hard for us to stop tearing other women down? Is it so hard to not judge girls for lifting heavy weights, or for wearing a low-cut dress, or for not having perfectly lasered skin?
Shame on us. We are perpetuating the body image problem world-wide with these judgments and it must end with us.
How many labels have you received in your life? Too loud, overly-opinionated, the fat one, too skinny, psycho, boy-crazy. The list goes on. We call women "manly" for lifting weights, and "sluts" for showing more of their bodies than others might.
We are taught that we are desired by men because of our bodies, yet showing too much of it is a crime. It attracts the wrong people. We are unworthy and undesirable when we show too much of ourselves. We couldn't possibly still be amazing, intelligent, caring women if we're dressing that way. Impossible…right?
We were not put on this earth to please others. Read that again.
And while we've all done it before, we must put a stop to this endless scrutiny and stop labeling women for how they choose to live their lives. None of us is "better" than another. The first lady is no more holy than a stripper. It is how society has taught us to behave - which to that, I say, no more.
If and when I have a daughter I vow to teach her that the only label she should ever accept is "incredible", and that she could do nothing in her life to change that fact. We must teach our daughters to be proud of how they wish to live their lives, not cower away from their desires in hopes that society will deem them more worthy.
It's time to change the narrative, or society will continue to seize its twisted grasp on changing us.
If we're taught that we must show up a certain way, "or else"…I’m choosing or else.