Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

My favorite outfit in third grade was pairing my turquoise denim overall shorts with my elementary school t-shirt, which was gray with a turquoise coyote. I wore the overalls with one strap up, one strap down, in solidarity with 90s Will Smith. I was so fierce when I wore this. I even rocked it for my school pictures, so luckily it’s been preserved in yearbooks for eternity.

Looking back, this is all kinds of horrifying. But it’s an example of how your identity, standards and story will evolve over time.  The essence of what you know to be right and true one day might completely change when you’re prompted to see things differently

I’m 35 now and my fashion sense, while still questionable, has changed. My thoughts and ideas about lots of other things have changed, too. Age makes a difference, and becoming a parent creates some wild mind shifts.

These days, I spend a lot of time considering the type of example my choices and identity are setting for my girls. I often wonder how to teach them what really matters, and how to know their worth. I want to help them discover what they should accept in life and what I hope they’ll challenge. It’s easy to have convictions about all of these things, but when faced with modeling them in real-time, it gets harder.

Life can be messy and mean, and society creates terrible pressures. Women face this in uniquely challenging ways.

Maybe it’s impossible to spare my kiddos from any of the madness, considering how pervasive it is, but if I can’t do that, I’d at least like to equip them with the tools to navigate through it. If they can’t be immune to something, I hope they can they be thoughtful about it.

This thought process has prompted me to rethink how the subtle things they see me do each day might impact how they perceive themselves.

For example, I wonder what they think when they see me put makeup on before work: is it a rite of passage they’ll partake in one day, or something they need to do to be more appealing to the world? Is it a perk of growing up, or a massive industry telling them they’re not enough? Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

What do they see when I straighten my hair? A chance to show up differently, or pressure to conform and take up less space?

What do little girls think if they see their mom do these things – make efforts to appear differently to go out into the world – and their dad doesn’t?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I genuinely don’t know how I feel about them. There are contingencies and nuances in every direction, but this gets to the crux of what I’m sitting with.

I don’t think wearing makeup or styling your hair any way you choose is wrong – I still do these things. But lately I do them less, and I think about them more. I’m trying to find the balance between feeling worthy on the inside, and demonstrating that on the outside, in a way that feels authentic and right.

 

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