A love letter to my fellow humans on International Women’s Day, two weeks late.
Here’s the thing with International Women’s Day, I love it and I struggle with it – mostly because it’s just one day. One day is not enough. The other 364 days a year, it’s not International Women’s Day. My challenge to myself and you, what are you still doing to make a difference in the lives of women two weeks later? It’s only been two weeks and advocating for women’s rights and celebrating women feels like old news.
Major companies and entire industries work their hardest every other day of the year to make sure women don’t feel as good as they could. They don’t want to make us feel totally worthless, that would drive us to in-action which means we stop buying things. They want to make women feel inadequate enough to purchase whatever they are selling. Every other day of the year, the diet and fitness industry, the vitamin and supplement industry, the fashion industry, the hair, makeup and cosmetic industry, the cosmetic surgery industry (and others) are focused on making sure women don’t feel great about themselves – unless they buy their product. These are multi-billion-dollar industries that “celebrate” International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8th. Every other day of the year they benefit and profit from you not feeling as good as you could.
Here’s the unfortunate reality, companies and industries benefitting from making women feel like shit isn’t the worst-case scenario. At best our insecurities are monetized – at worst, we’re on the receiving end of patriarchal systems that ensure that there is a power imbalance between men and women. Not only are companies and industries benefitting from women, entire systems, communities, governments, religions, and organizations are benefiting from women staying small with less resources and ultimately power.
If you didn’t know, International Women’s Day is not just about celebrating women, it’s actually about advocating for women’s rights. It brings attention to power differentials across the globe. AND – we are not immune to it here in the US. Every single day women in our communities deal with gender inequality, pay differentials, threats to reproductive rights, threats to our healthcare, threats to our access to education, and violence and abuse. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. More so than ever before, women’s rights that we have benefitted from in the past are at risk. Don’t think I don’t see you Florida trying to take women’s sexual education out of your public curriculum (you should be ashamed of yourself). I used to think that Handmaid’s Tale was a figment of Margaret Atwood’s imagination. Florida is working hard to bring that nightmare to life.
On days like International Women’s Day, I wonder what would be the most revolutionary thing women could do to celebrate and empower each other? What would be a difference maker? The list is long. It can feel overwhelming. But there is something that costs no money that we can all do. It’s really quite simple but not easy. It isn’t the only thing we should do. But it’s something that we all have within our control and influence.
What if on international women’s day we made a commitment to start a journey to sincerely love ourselves? Full Stop. What if we believed we were totally worthy of love and equity? What if we weren’t distracted by all the thoughts of what and who we aren’t and we were focused on all that we are and all we’re deserving of. What if we as women encouraged and challenged each other and ourselves to engage in totally reckless self-love?
Not a commitment to love myself only when conditions are met…
when I’m skinny
when I get promoted
when I deliver value
when I’m respected by someone with more “power”
when I achieve a certain balance in my bank account
when I meet my soul mate
when I control myself, my spending, my eating…(pick your poison)
when I’m more committed to self-care
when I’m accepted by my parents, community, church, system
when I stop drinking
when I deal with my trauma
when I look younger
when I feel worthy enough
No! You are worthy right now. You are worthy if none of those things ever happen. You are worthy of love. Can you imagine if women loved themselves completely and sincerely? Just think about that for a few minutes. Where would the world be if women were encouraged to love themselves exactly for who we were created to be. The economy would be shaken, that’s for sure. It has become the norm in our society for women to constantly berate themselves. Sometimes we do that in public, sometimes in the privacy of our own thoughts. How can we not, we literally get thousands of those messages every single day.
I know this is true because I am a product of that environment. I’ve had to take so much time and energy to re-train myself to think thoughts about my self that are positive. I knew it was a problem when I realized that I wasn’t even aware that I had negative self-talk on autopilot going on behind the scenes. I’ve talked to many, many women who’ve never even considered it was possible to truly love themselves – let alone actually loving themselves. It never even occurred to them to love themselves.
There is no earning self-love. You were created exactly by design. There is only one you. Your body, mind, soul/spirit should not have to perform to deserve love. If no one else loves you, know that the God that created you loves you exactly by design and that you are worthy of self-love.
Why does self-love matter? Because if you’re worthy of love, you also know you’re worthy of basic rights. You’re worthy of equity. You’re worthy of safety. You’re worthy of equality. You’re worthy of equal pay. When you feel like crap all the time, when you don’t love yourself, you stop fighting for what you’re worthy of.
For my male friends and colleagues, I also often wonder, what would be the most revolutionary thing you could do with the power you have to make a difference in the lives of your wife, your daughters, your sisters, or your female colleagues on International Women’s Day? The list is also long. What could you do that would make a difference – even just on this one day or week?
If you’re a man reading this and you’re feeling threatened, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to do anything because you don’t think there’s anything to do. You might even be wondering “what is she talking about? Why do we even have International Women’s Day? We don’t celebrate International Men’s Day???” This message may not be for you. It definitely isn’t if you aren’t willing to sacrifice your personal power to even explore someone else’s access to it. Also, don’t bother privately messaging me as to why this “line of thinking is problematic.” You believe that all of humanity is flourishing because you are flourishing. My perspective is that humanity will never flourish when a huge part of the population doesn’t get to participate in the flourishing.
There is also a small group of you (men and women) that will want to remind me (or at least will think about reminding me) of the “natural order of family, according to biblical principles” as some sort of reasoning for men having more access, platform, voice, and power (of course you won’t phrase it that way). If your religion is consistently in the center of trauma, abuse, and predatory sexual behavior towards women, you may want to explore why that power imbalance originated and continues to be perpetuated. You may actually be interpreting the bible in a very problematic way that is perpetuating abuse. My experience has shown me that organizations that propagate those beliefs systems seem to be coincidentally attached to sexual, verbal and physical abuse of women. This is shocking, I know. We also know that trauma, abuse, and predatory sexual behavior towards women ran rampant in biblical times (I’m talking to you King David). When we know better, we must do better. We must also realize that the bible was written during times when women literally had zero rights. It seems like common sense to me that we would understand that and interpret accordingly.
Rather, this post is for the men who feel hope and excitement for a future where their daughters, sisters, wife, mother, female colleagues, and friends are celebrated and empowered equally. What would it look like if just the men who weren’t threatened by loss of power did one more thing to empower the rights of more women in their sphere of influence? What could happen to impact the lives of your daughters or nieces?
For you amazing men out there excited about this cause, what would happen if you recklessly loved yourself? That’s what I want for my sons who will some day be grown up men. I want them to love themselves so much that they aren’t threatened by women who are seeking equality and rights. They are inspired by women who feel that way. They know that what makes people different from them is what makes them uniquely human. I want to raise sons that want to see all of humanity flourish. I want my sons to feel confident to celebrate people who are different from them because they are so secure in exactly who they are as amazing men. I want to raise sons that understand their power is only manipulation if it holds back another human being.
If you are threatened by this message, my hope for you is that you love yourself a little more too. If you felt sincere love, compassion and contentment for who you are, maybe you realize how much you want that for other people.
On this International Women’s Day, two weeks old, let’s actually do something. Let’s make a difference in the lives of women. Let’s not feel threatened by equality. Let’s not fear losing power. Let’s love ourselves…recklessly. I believe when we do that, we love others as well.
Two weeks have gone by, what are you doing as a result of International Women’s Day?
I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!
Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott, Red Bird Hills Photography