Happy International Women’s Day! If you didn’t know this was the day to celebrate women around the world, then you obviously haven’t been online or watched any TV because it is everywhere. I’m here to celebrate women right along with the masses, but exactly who and what are we celebrating?
Are we celebrating the fact that in the U.S. women have more rights and privileges than many other worldwide and that we are pretty doggone blessed?
Are we celebrating the #metoo movement and the fact that the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are behind bars?
Are we celebrating all those women before us who paved the way and succeeded on levels many of us only dream about?
Are we celebrating unborn women?
Are we celebrating single moms?
And, are we going to make today a day of true celebrating or are we going to whine about not the good, but the bad and the ugly?
I’m choosing the former.
I posted the above pic on Instagram earlier today as my weekly “Sunday gram” and was shocked to learn later that it is IWD. Divine intervention? I think so.
So let’s talk briefly about Mary and women in the Bible since this blog is running on a Sunday and since…well, just because. As the mother of Jesus, Mary saw it all. She believed, she obeyed, she rejoiced, and she suffered greatly. She is in a way, all moms. But she wasn’t alone in the Bible. Ruth was notoriously faithful and loyal while Esther was known for her bold spirit. Jesus himself included many women in his teachings and preachings, allowed many a female in his inner circle, and even forgave an adulterer. And, let’s not forget that the first witnesses to the Resurrection were women. Yes, as a Catholic I’m fully aware of the criticism that women can’t be priests, but it’s something I can’t control and something I just accept with a faithful heart.
What defines a true strong woman is endlessly debated and actually quite personal. Is it someone who is career driven and speaks her mind? Could be. Is it a stay-at-home mom who relishes her role as keeper of the fam? Could be too. Is it a woman who loves motorcycles but happens to wear a helmet made of mirror sequence? You bet! In short, it’s really a woman who makes sound choices based on her beliefs and morals and lives a respectable life that benefits both her and those she comes in contact with.
I can’t write this blog without bringing up a few controversial topics though so here goes. First is the term “feminist.” For me, it has such a one-sided and almost confrontational connotation that I don’t and can’t attach it to what benefits women as a whole. Next, the #metoo movement. Yes, I’m all for women not having to put up with any harassment in the workplace but I also question all those women who for years stayed silent (as many of their careers boomed I might add) about the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner. Why would such a supposed strong woman like Huma Abedin stay with Weiner for years despite his obvious flaws? Perhaps we need look no further than her former boss, Hillary Clinton, who was similarly repeatedly and publicly humiliated but did the exact same thing. I don’t get it and never will. And before you call the equal sides police, I also don’t appreciate many of President Trump’s past comments about women or anyone who thinks the right female should not ever be president.
Along these same lines and something that might make some of you stop reading right here, is the fact that I admire and respect the strong and accomplished Ivanka Trump. I’ve liked her for years and long before her dad was president. I liked that she, despite being born into the family she was, was never in the tabloids partying with the likes of her age contemporaries like Paris Hilton. Instead, she was graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s in economics from none other than The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and creating a business of her own. I’ll never forget reading that during a major international leadership conference, a highly accomplished attendee was asked who impressed him the most and he said Ivanka, in that he had never witnessed such impressive negotiating skills. Hate her politics and hate her dad, but c’mon ladies, admit she’s one smart and strong cookie. And not that it matters, but how stylish is she too? As they say, you can’t argue with good kids.
Which brings me to Taylor Swift, who is not a Trump fan and probably not a fan of his daughter either but who IMHO is a strong and talented woman. I’m not a fan of everything she says or does, but I am a fan of her musical talents and the fact that she famously writes songs about her weaknesses and brokenness. I especially liked an interview I saw with her on “CBS Sunday Morning” during which she commented on the different social expectations of men and women. “When men think something out, it’s called being strategic but when women think something out, it’s called calculating. Men are said to react but women are often considered overreacting.” Bingo Ms. Swift. Nicely said.
Sports are another arena where strong women often prevail. I love sports and I love a good competitor but I don’t like or respect any athlete or team member that bashes the very country they play for or insult anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I love that females are today found on football sidelines, press boxes, and officiating crews, but I don’t respect two legit and talented singers literally going low and performing a virtual soft-porn show during the biggest football game’s halftime show. If you want to be treated like a lady or respected, don’t cry when you go down a disrespectful road and discover that you are merely a sex object. And don’t even get me started about Hollywood.
Instead, maybe be less tease and more Tylene Wilson. Who, you ask? Tylene was a woman in 1940’s Texas who, in spite of extreme opposition, broke tradition and became a successful female football coach during the war. She’s the subject of Marjorie Herrera Lewis’ fabulous book “When The Men Were Gone” and I highly recommend it. (Herrera Lewis herself is a strong and impressive woman who has covered sports her whole professional life, even before it was a commonplace and has also coached.) Another book about a strong woman I highly recommend is “In Order to Live” by Yeonmi Park. Maybe read it before you go out and march to complain about how bad you think we have it in America. Hashtag eye opening.
I’ve always loved that quote and it will forever remind me of one of the strongest women I know, my long-time friend Rosie. We vowed to follow the quote’s advice as we raised our daughters and I’m proud to say we both can pat ourselves on the back for doing so. My name is Carla and I’m the proud mom of a strong girl. From day one she was resilient and formidable, and I remember reading the book “The Strong Willed Child” cover-to-cover and over and over. I read with eyes wide open in that I didn’t want to suppress her strength and stubbornness because I knew they would serve her well down the road, but I also knew I needed to direct them in a healthy way. Yes, be strong, but be smart and a be a lady too. If you don’t act like a lady, please don’t expect any man to treat you as one, right? Respect is earned, not a given. Thankfully today she is flourishing in a male-dominated world and loves football but she’s also a lover of all things fashion and feminine. It’s a balance we might all strive to perfect.
Strong women can indeed be frilly and feminine and like all things glittery and glam as they make their way to boardrooms, job sites, or kitchens. Wear that sparkle if you want ladies and wear it with confidence.
One shining example of this is none other than Deshauna Barber who is a former Army Reservist and Miss USA 2016. Talk about balance and the best of both worlds! Some women despise beauty pageants and consider them demeaning, but please don’t tell that to the thousands of young women who have earned scholarship money through them and thousands of others who just like them. Let them like them.
And, hold onto your boot straps, but today’s Barbies are also examples of everything a woman can be. Yes, they were originally thin and so unrealistic, but have you walked down a Barbie store aisle lately? These girls now come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and are everything from chefs to a scientists. If you want a small glimpse of the progress of women, check out Barbies. She’s morped into a real doll!
We as women need to respect all sides of womanhood and build each other up, not judge, try to change each other, or tear each other down. We should also stop trying to be so perfect. No one is perfect. I for one can have the mouth of a sailor and be a bit critical…especially of myself. We also need to maybe not take ourselves so seriously and laugh more. I for one admire a woman with a sense of humor as much as I do a woman with a big bank account or powerful job. Even one of the most powerful women in the world, Queen Elizabeth, is said to possess quite the wit, and with the pressure she’s lived under for nearly 70 years, that is one crowning achievement!
Laugh away ladies, but never forget that it’s also okay to cry. Strong women can be sad and there’s nothing sad about that. Sometimes it’s the challenges in life that make it interesting and the overcoming of them that makes it meaningful. In the end, all those tears and frustrations hopefully also make us wiser, more grateful, and stronger.
So as we celebrate women today, let’s consider what we’re celebrating and what we want to work toward. Yes, we all want to succeed but maybe we need to stop screaming along the way. News flash ladies: none of us are entitled to anything so work away but maybe let that success of yours be the noise others hear. Let’s also today tip our hats and tip our crowns to all the women out there who are living their lives to the fullest in a true and tasteful way as they build and improve themselves, help and nurture others, and both laugh and cry while they do it.