Lately I have been pondering the number 50 and what this number means in the lifetime of a woman. I had an Epiphany: women age in retrospectively and introspectively. Big words that mean the more we live and understand our context and ourselves, the closer we become to understanding our potential.
Women tend to be thinkers, nurturers, relationship builders and connectors. We can and do multitask. We are intuitive, intelligent and insightful. Women tend to be downplayed in society and have since the beginning of time. We have always had to fight for the right to be equal, to be considered, to be at the table. The Women's movement helped in some way, but probably put us back in other ways, because it forced a definition of what it means to be a woman.
I remember when I studied "Women in Politics" in university under Judy Rebick, the former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. The class was dominated by women, and 4 men. When she asked us if we defined ourselves as feminists, I put up my hand and said no. You can imagine the throng of "what the . . . didn't you know that was a right of passage to this class?"
I told Judy then that I do not accept titles like feminism, or another other title as a woman. I do not like boxes, and titles are just an attempt to put up walls. Titles reduce a person to a single thought, and that's ridiculous.
As a woman who is living and therefore increasing experience and time on this earth, my commitment to rejecting generalizations and titles of women strengthens. In fact, the more I live, the more I see that "they" wish "we" would just . . . submit.
Women are not one thing. In fact, women are people. We are complex human beings with talents that many chose to ignore. But we are not as far along the path as we think we are.
The other day, someone posted a comment on "Linkedin" a business networking site that read: "Are you using the full potential of women in your workforce?" The gist of the comment was to maximize the "gifts" that women bring to the resource mix, especially given these times of efficiency.
I did not comment, although I wanted to. I wanted to say, do you hear yourself? Do you see how demeaning this comment is to a woman? But the fact is, there is a reality in his comment that continues to exist for women in work and in society as a whole.
Workopolis posted an article about how it was beneficial to wear a skirt to interviews. I was mortified. I joked that men should think about shaving their legs for this new fashion forward thinking in the workplace.
The book, Win like a man, play like a woman, written by Gail Evans, an executive vice president of the CNN news group explores the difference in the way men and women approach work. She says the work-ground is built on the principles of the play-ground, where boys "compete" and girls "play", where boys "win or lose" and girls "coordinate".
Since it is impossible to change the world and the history of man, it is possible for women to take their place and stand their ground, the way women do. I do not want to be a man. The thought of hair growing in strange places creeps me out. As women, we need to remember that we have the intellect and strength of 10 men, we just need to manage that way.
I look to my family tree for inspiration at times like this.
My great grandmother Benjamin, a wee woman from across the ocean found herself planted in the middle of the prairie, married to my great grandfather, a sheriff. He was a tall, strapping kind of cocky man, I am told. As the story goes, he and his friends were taunting her from outside the little house on the prairie and she fired a bullet through the door just clearing his head. I think he got the point.
My grandmother Ann Larson was a pioneer of women in her own right. She was one of the first women in Saskatchewan to enter politics back in the day when my dad was a little boy. Anna was fiery all her life, and she was the epitome of style and grace. She was a published writer, poet, and a painter. And she was stylish; her dress was inspired by Coco Chanel's 2 piece suit and pearls. At her funeral, I delivered her eulogy, using a story of a fire fly that she had written herself. She was a consummate traveller, and freedom seeker.
When I think of strength, I think of my grandmother Kate, another prairie woman who worked the farm, raised children, put up with a man, and somehow in her busy life, found time to be the kind of grandmother that still brings a smile to my heart. She had an infectious laugh that I can still hear, and a smile that still lives in my memory.
My mother is also a woman who can hold her own. When I was growing up, I always knew she was intelligent and proud. She is compassionate, and a giver. Sometimes misunderstood, but as a mother, that comes with the job. I can always count on my mother to tell the truth and call a spade a spade. She is the salt of the earth, a natural born accountant, and gives of herself and her heart.
My sister is also a natural born accountant, salt of the earth kind of person. She sees it and says it like it is. She is diligent, intelligent, precise and trustworthy, like our mother and grandmother's before us.
The women in my family are the kind of people who come up against the odds and beat them to submission. I see these qualities in my daughters, Caitlyn and Sara. They are strong, beautiful and tenacious. They follow a drumbeat of trustworthiness, integrity, honesty and loyalty. They are freedom seekers. They reject bad authority ("You are not the boss of me") and they are creative, focused and driven to succeed at whatever they do.
As women, we are all leaders. We are the CEOs of our lives and of society. We are what we are. We should not edit ourselves because others cannot possibly appreciate this (gesture hands up and down body). We should celebrate ourselves and take our place in our own lives, and not move over, but instead expect those around us to move up.