Maybe it's because I'm raising two daughters, (and could possibly give birth to a third one, any day now, if baby is a girl) or maybe it's just because I am a woman myself, but there are a few things I'd love for women everywhere to know, but I can only hope and dream that I can manage to teach them to my daughters. And the sooner the better.
1. Let's stop being so petty.
The 2016 Rio Olympics have come to a close, but long before the burning flames were ever doused by a sheet of water, controversy was swirling and storming the internet about all the sexism at the games. This is our first stop on the Train of Things we Just Need to Stop Griping about.
First of all, I think that sexism is a real thing, and it does exist. But I think we probably accurately identify it about 10% of the time. That statistic is my own, but what do I know, I'm just a woman.
I believe we are only doing ourselves the disfavor if we choose to be petty enough to filter everything through the lens of the big, bad world full of big, bad men that are out to demean and belittle us. It makes us seem so small and weak and PETTY, and why not just be strong enough to stand above it?
"But they were being so sexist!" You insist. "Something needs to be said about it! Something needs to be done!" But were they?
-After Katinka Hosszu swam to victory and the commentator credited her husband as the "man responsible" for her performance, the internet lost its mind. But he's not just her husband. He's her COACH. And any sports fan knows that coaches often get credit for incredible progress or transformation in an athlete's career, as well they should. She placed 4th in the 2012 Olympics and was definitely considered an underdog at many points in her comeback journey to Rio. Now, I don't know the intricacies of their relationship, or marriage, or training. He definitely seems like an intense individual that could be hard to work with but that's not really my business. Women are strong. We can take a little tough love. And it resulted in ultimate improval and success, so obviously, something was working well. Why not give her AND her coach the benefit of the doubt that they both worked so incredibly hard to get to where they are? And maybe that's what the commentator meant in that moment. Not that she had no part in the victory, but that AS A TEAM (which he could have phrased better) they won the race.
-Again, outrage and backlash erupted when the Chicago Tribune reported that the "wife of a Bears' lineman won a bronze medal" in Rio. People felt like the headline reduced her worth and identity to merely the "wife of someone important" and it was highly offensive. Well true, he probably could have included her name, but be honest, a lot of people reading that day wouldn't have known who Corey Cogdell-Unrein was. Stating that she was the wife of a Bears' lineman just served to establish a familiarity with the readership, it being the Chicago Tribune after all. It wasn't intended to mean that she had no identity of her own. It was just using it's limited amount of characters in a headline to connect with the readers in a way that would make them realize, oh yeah, she's one of us.
-The makeup thing, granted, is pretty ridiculous. It seems fairly silly that people would need to be sitting around discussing this sort of thing at all. But remember.....WE are the ones that choose to wear makeup. No one is forcing us to. And so the discussion begins with us. In a similar way, why isn't anyone outraged that female contestants have a WAY more difficult chance of competing on the show "Dancing with the Stars" than their male counterparts? They have to do the same degree of difficulty in dance while wearing high heels, instead of comfortable dancing shoes. Why don't we all protest that? Make it FAIR? Well, because no one is forcing us to wear high heels. We choose to do so.
-Next up, outrage at women being compared to men, as in "Katie Ledecky swims like a man" or "Simone Biles is the next Michael Phelps". Well first of all, if either of those two things were ever said to me, I would take them as a compliment, but I guess that just shows how disillusioned I am as a poor, weak woman?? First of all, I think if we can all just take a deep breath for a second, we will acknowledge and realize that men and women ARE different, and that's why Ledecky and Phelps aren't swimming in lanes next to each other. It wouldn't be a fair fight, right? But then if someone says she actually swims in a way that resembles the way men are physically capable of performing, it's suddenly a sexist insult? I don't get it. And Simone wasn't being compared to Michael because she's not good even to just be herself, as a girl. She was compared to Michael because her incredible skills, talent, and accomplishments are going to make her go down in history as one of the best Olympians ever. The commentator was just giving a point of reference. Once again, I wouldn't mind if someone compared me to the next C.S. Lewis or Mark Twain. Not one single bit.
-And lastly, a BBC reporter credited Andy Murray for being the "first person ever to win two gold medals in tennis" while Venus and Serena Williams have won four each, and women everywhere hit the roof. Granted, it was a mistake. Andy Murray wasn't the first person ever to do that. But once again, this is a MISTAKE, people. I can see myself saying that! And then catching myself and muttering, "I mean, first man ever." Because once again, Andy and Serena aren't hitting across the net to each other. We keep sports separate and then someone slips up keeping everyone's track records separate in their mind and we FREAK OUT. It only serves to make us look petty and insecure. For all we know, before that commentator approached him, he went over in his mind every past men's tennis gold winner he could think of, and realized that Andy was the first man to do this two times. And when he commented on that incredible feat, he slipped up and said person, and that was his egotistical, misogynistic sexism rearing its ugly head. Or, it was a mistake.
Anyway, I could go on, but I will just end there. There are too many other things to say, and too little time.
#2. Let's stop assuming that everyone is out to get us.
Among women, this seems to be a crisis of epidemic proportions these days. We see other women's successes as our failure, their beauty as an insult to our own, their personality as something trying to overshadow our own, their happiness as a threat to ours. Everyone is out to better us, defeat us, beat us, belittle us. Everyone is hanging out without us, leaving us out, alone and lonely, and we are the victims.
And by the way, I'm preaching to the choir here folks. I doubt anyone battled insecurity and comparison and jealousy more deeply and darkly than I did a couple of years ago. I had sunk so deep into that pit I couldn't even see the light anymore. And if you find yourself there today, I just have to ask you like I asked myself.....how's that working out for you? Is it bringing life, and light and joy? My guess is NO. My guess is that it's sucking the life right out of you. It's destroying your peace, your sense of purpose, your inspiration. It's time to let it go.
It's time to stop assuming that all of the women everywhere in the world are out to get us, and let's just make our own path. Let's be stronger than that. Let's find our identity in Christ, and not in just trying to be like someone else, or better than someone else. Then, and only then, will we find joy and contentment. And I am desperately going to try and teach my daughters this, before they become another hurting woman in the world's system of self-loathing.
#3. Let's stop limiting ourselves.
There is a mentality, particularly prevalent in the conservative culture that I grew up in, that women just aren't interested in certain things. Things like numbers and business and finance and sports and higher education. Things like having a career, honing a skill, publishing a book, excelling at sports. The common opinion seems to assume we all just want to find a man willing to marry us and produce babies. And while some of you would argue back to me, "Well, isn't that exactly what you're doing?" I would reply, Yes, it's what I'm choosing to do. At this time, and at this season. But it certainly doesn't mean I don't have other interests and dreams and aspirations. I have so many, many things I'd like to do. But I also wanted to be a mother. I CHOSE that. No one forced me to do so, I wanted to do that. And I hope to be able to accomplish some other things one day too, but I am also trying to have the wisdom to realize that there is a time and a season for things, and this is the season I am in right now. But all that being said, there is a difference between the mentality of "I am a woman and so this is all I can do" and "I am a woman and there are many, MANY things I can do, and this is what I am choosing out of all of them to do. I am choosing to raise my babies."
The mental shift may seem subtle, but it is huge. And we are the only ones that stop limiting ourselves to predisposed ideas of who we are supposed to be.
#4. Let's stop assuming that choices don't have consequences.
An influential make up artist and Instagrammer with over 83,000 followers posted a picture today with a caption that read:
"It's that election cycle year again. Where it seems everything we care about gets dwindled down to two teams that vehemently argue over every point as if it's all a big game and there can only be one winner. I often find myself on neither side of the polarizing arguments but there is one that I keep seeing that pains me more than most. On the subject of abortion I often have to hear the argument that it would be better that we abort these babies than for them to be born unwanted and grow up in the foster system.
I can't tell you how much this untrue statement breaks my heart.
It breaks my heart for the many couples I know struggling with infertility who would absolutely love to adopt but have been waiting for years to do so because, contrary to popular belief, those babies aren't the leas bit unwanted, there are actually less babies placed at birth in this country than couples praying to take them home and care for them.
It breaks my heart for all of the young girls and women who believe if they cannot care for their sweet baby no one else will. They feel they have no choice because of the misinformation proclaimed (ironically) by some pro-choice advocates.
But most of all, very most, it breaks my heart for the perfect little big eyed baby boy I'm snuggling as we speak who is currently "in the foster system" who I love with all my heart and you know what? I think he matters. I think the world is a better place because he's still in it. And I DO NOT think his life is any less valuable or important or beautiful than any one else's."
And of course her post received backlash and hateful comments, but I just loved her so much for her courage and bravery in saying something she knew wouldn't be well received. I hope to teach my daughters that yes, THEY DO HAVE A CHOICE. They have the most powerful choice in the world. They have the choice to save their beautiful bodies and sexual intimacies for the man they also choose to marry and spend their entire lives with. They have the choice to guard themselves until the moment they decide with their husband to create a life together. And the beauty and freedom and blessing of that choice cannot be over-emphasized. Think of the power of that kind of a choice.
"Pro-choice" people would try and have us believe that killing your baby is a "choice" women should be allowed to make. Well what about all of the choices that come before that? Where was our power of choice then? And who are you to say that the choice of killing your little one is better than the choice of saving yourself for marriage, or the choice of giving birth and experiencing the miracle of life growing inside of you, and living outside of you, changing you forever and bringing a beauty and purpose to your life you couldn't possibly know existed?
But regardless of your side of the arguments, I think if daughters were raised to know that ALL of our choices, regardless of when they take place, have definite consequences, I think a lot of this whole mess could be avoided. We don't rectify a bad choice with another, devastating one. We don't make the consequences of one decision disappear by making another equally-life changing one. The consequences remain. The question when getting pregnant is NOT "What now?" Because the choice has already been made. You had countless choices leading up to that moment, but not the time for making decisions is done. There is a consequence, and it's time to face it. And LUCKY for you, that consequence is not a terminal illness, or cancer, or an STD. That "consequence" is a perfect, beautiful, miraculous little baby, who only wants the same freedom of life you've been able to have.
Well I feel like this could go on forever, but I really need to wrap this up and get my day started. Raising daughters in our world today is definitely one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I think it can also be one of the most beautiful. What are some things you want to teach your daughters? Leave me a comment or send me an email, I'd love to hear.
, by Shelley Smucker