Growing up, I never felt limited to what I could do and who I was allowed to be. I wasn’t really all that entertained by dolls and dresses. I remember my childhood being that I played with my best friend and our older brothers in the backyard playing baseball. I remember once showing up at my front door and my mom pointing me in the direction of the hose in the backyard, because there was no way she was letting me come into the house covered in mud. I distinctly remember that being the day the boys in my neighborhood telling me that “girls didn’t like to get dirty” and then I proceeded to start a mud fight with the neighborhood boys. I remember being the ultimate tomboy growing up and my stepmom often recalls how I would tell her quite frequently that she would catch me in a dress over my dead body. My parents never thought anything of it, and to this day I am really proud of my tomboy tendencies. I’m thankful I was blessed to grow up in a home where I wasn’t raised any different than my brother, simply because I was a girl.
I remember when I got a little older, I was always very strong in my opinions. I have always been incredibly observant of the world around me, and I ended up with strong opinions about the way it all made me feel. I remember being frustrated when I got called bossy for taking initiative. I couldn’t tell you how old I was at the time, but I remember someone who was of vital importance telling me one time that, “you better marry a pushover,” because my husband wouldn’t know what to make of a girl with such “strong beliefs.” I’ll be honest at first I really didn’t know what to make of this, and years later, I am still breaking down what it means that I have “strong beliefs.”
I know this comment was never meant to effect me the way it did. I know it was never meant to set fire into a part of who I am. However, I think too often, we say things without thinking about the power of our words.
As a young woman, these words stayed with me. They slipped into my being and made themselves at home. I think it goes without saying when you’re growing up it becomes really easy to try hard to be desirable. The human impulse to fit in takes over and sometimes we slip into versions of ourselves we don’t recognize. I tried to be less intense in my beliefs and quieter about my ideas for fear of being “too much.” I held my tongue more and kept my thoughts to myself more often than I should’ve. I became a doormat.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I decided that the way I was behaving was not who I was. I imagine it was somewhere around the time that I decided that I was worthy of being heard just as much as anyone else. If being firm in my beliefs and having a sense of confidence that something I could bring to the table might be of value made me less desirable, so be it. The point is, we need to raise the new generation of girls to be se strong.
Before you panic and stop reading this-- this is not a post about why girls are bigger and badder than men. I would absolutely not be the woman I am today without the men in my life. We need both men and women to have an equal playing field. We need a generation of men who are allowed to show emotion without being “weak.” We need to start a conversation about the fact that men are affected by domestic abuse, mental illness, and sexual assault, as well as women. We need to stop saying things like “man up” or the all too famous, “be a man.” We need to allow men to be human and show vulnerability. The men in my life who have made the most impact are the ones who have showed emotion, opened up, and been vulnerable. The men who have not doubted my ability because I happen to have a different set of anatomy.
Now more than ever, we need to allow young women to speak up without the fear of being “overbearing.” We need to encourage a generation of young girls that what they have to share, and the gifts they have to offer are just as important as their male counterparts. We need to raise up a generation of young girls who are raised with the unshakeable knowledge that they are just as important in the fields like math, science and politics. We need to empower the new generation of women. We need a world where women are allowed to be leaders without being “bossy.” We need a world where women can be passionate about something without being labeled “too emotional.” We need to allow women to be strong without it being some kind of threat to masculinity, because it isn't. I think the culture we live in has somehow morphed female empowerment and feminism with man-hating and it simply isn't. I want to be an equal to my male counterparts economically, socially, and politically, and if that makes me outrageous, then I am more than comfortable with that. Strong men raise strong women too, and I truly believe this is an issue that we should all be able to agree with. When we are strengthening the next generation, everybody wins.
Over the past few years I have realized several things. The first is that I lied to my stepmom, because I can rock a dress with combat boots like nobody's business. The next is that I don't have to be one thing or another; I can be vulnerable and still be tough. I can be kind without being a doormat. I can be feminine and still be strong. I am not defined by one of my traits, and my differences are what make me who I am. I have learned you will attract the right people simply by owning who you are, what you believe, and what you want out of this life.
Frankly, if my convictions are too strong to be considered attractive, oh well.