“You should be ashamed of yourself for being a stay at home wife.”
These are the words that have haunted me for years. Every now and then they resurface, nudging the corners of my vision.
I had been at a dinner party with my husband when these words were fired at me by none other than another woman. I didn’t know this woman, and she didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t bother to inquire of the reasons why I might be a “stay at home wife,” yet she felt she had the right and authority to make an assumption and opinion about my life.
It was a low attempt to seemingly shame me in front of an entire table of people I barely knew.
For years after that event, even the mention of feminism used to fill me with angst and frustration. I felt that this term was often misunderstood. Wasn’t feminism meant to be for equality? Wasn’t feminism meant to be for choice? Wasn’t feminism meant to be for women lifting each other up, and when did feminism become about pit-bulling everyone into one conforming ideal?
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual based on the idea of “Collective Individualism.” What does this mean?
It means every woman is a part of a whole. Each of our individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mindsets can affect our society. It is illustrating that we are all different, but that TOGETHER we can make real change. And yes, it is about smashing through glass ceilings. All of them, not only in boardrooms.
Before we can make any real, lasting difference for women in the workplace; for girls in countries that are not allowed an education and where women have no rights; to gain equal pay for both men and women in the workforce; for equal treatment and respect for all genders and identities – we need to be universally in agreement that women need to be FOR women.
‘A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself’ – Lena Dunham
If a woman wants to work full-time and have children, that’s fine. If she doesn’t want children, that’s fine. If a woman wants to stay home with her children, that’s fine. If she wants to work part-time that’s fine. If she decides she wants to have her own company so she can remain at home to look after the children, that’s fine.
Women shaming women is not and will never be fine.
This way of thinking must start in the playground. It brings me such sadness that we have to have conversations with 5-year-old girls about self-worth and self-love because of playground bullying from other girls. How can we expect the next generation to be better than us if this is what is happening in the playground (in the first years of school no less)?
I want to raise my daughters to believe they can be anything they want to be. Astronaut, artist, anything. I want my daughters to have the backs of the women around them and to raise them up, not tear them down. I want them to know that they don’t have to like everyone, but that kindness costs nothing. Women come in all different shapes and sizes, but it is what is inside that matters.
The older I grow, the more I look to and for women that inspire me.
The women that build other women up. The women that lift the tired mother up and tell her she is doing a great job. Women that encourage each other’s business ventures. Women that don’t see competition but sisterhood and that push one another to be the best version of ourselves.
We can ALL be these women.
They aren’t a threat – they are a chorus of power. They are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and saying, “We can do better together.” We were absolutely born to stand side by side with men. But first, we need to stand side by side with our own sex, in unison as ‘Collective Individuals’ moving forward. Together.
‘As women, we must stand up for ourselves. As women, we must stand up for each other. As women, we must stand up for justice for all.’ – Michelle Obama