"You cannot be what you cannot see." My very good and brilliant friend, Kassidy Brown, always says this when we speak about women and the importance of having powerful, strong women role models in our lives to pave the way for us to understand what it is like to be a respected, empowered business woman. If you think of media and the way women are portrayed, it is sometimes difficult to understand how to be a woman in the business world. When women act powerful, they are told they are acting like a bitch; when women act with passion, they are told they are acting crazy; when women cry, they are told they are acting like a baby. It is a difficult balance to maintain in the work place, to stay in control and stay focused, but still maintain your femininity.
I was mainly empowered to write this because of the fact that it is Mother's Day this Sunday, and I wanted to write an article dedicated to the women in my life that have paved the way for me. Mother's Day doesn't necessarily have to be about mothers specifically; it can be as simple as just saying thank you to the women in your life that have shaped you and made you the person that you are. Even more so, I think it is important to let other women know how their strength has helped you in your life. It is also equally as important to understand that it is okay to feel frustrated at times, to cry when you are angry, to still stay feminine, and at the same time understand that when you know what you are doing, and you know you are doing something right (in the work place or in general), to not be afraid, to stand up for yourself -- because that does not make you crazy, it makes you strong.
My mother and grandmother are wonderful examples of this feminine strength. My mother raised me to always let me know that I can do whatever I wanted to do, and that I cannot be afraid to speak up for myself. My 86-year-old little grandmother still walks everywhere and stands up to anyone and everyone in her path; even if she is only five feet tall, she is the tallest woman in the room. I feel lucky to have grown up with these examples and to always to be reminded and pushed to be the best woman that I can be and an example to others.
When I was teaching first grade, I would watch the interactions the little girls would have with each other, the celebrities they looked up to, and the relationships they had with the boys in the class. These little girls were so clicky; the boys would pick on certain girls and work them against each other, and the women that the girls were looking up to were not necessarily the most powerful role models. It made me realize how important it was to realize that I had the power to set an example to these little girls (and boys). I think we all need to recognize ourselves as teachers in our day to day lives, and to realize that we all have an audience of people around us who are listening and learning from us, and how important it is to harness this power for good. In this sense, these little girls were learning from me, and it was so important to teach them how to treat each other, how to not be afraid to dream big, and to support and respect each other along the way.
That being said, I absolutely understand that there are hardships along the way as well. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life in regards to love and life and again felt lucky to have these women role models in my life to guide me correctly. I also understand that others may not be so lucky to have strong women to support them, and that a lot of women tend to bring each other down. I think Lana Del Ray warns us in her song, "This is what makes us girls" when she says "We don't stick together 'cause we put our love first/ Don't cry about him, don't cry about him/ It's all gonna happen." Even in first grade, it is easy to see that girls end up fighting and working against each other instead of working with each other. Chris Rock also has a great joke that draws attention to this problem when he says "women would rule the world if they didn't hate each other so much." I would not consider myself an extreme feminist, but I do recognize the value of surrounding yourself with powerful, smart women that understand what you have been through and who you can support and who will bring you up. I also understand the value of changing the way you treat the women around you and building other women up, rather than putting them down because you are threatened or insecure. I was really blown away recently by Tavi Gevinson's, TED talk about the new feminist, and what she is doing to be able to change the way her generation (yes, she is 15) looks at feminism, and who they should be looking up to as role models. She is a young woman who wants to be a role model for her peers, and show them that they can pave the way for future generations and each other.
If there is one thing I would recommend doing, (starting with this Mother's Day and continuing into your future), I would say to thank the women in your life. The women you work with, your female friends, your sister, your mother, or even your arch enemy. I can promise you that the 'thank you' will go a long way, and while I very much believe, "we cannot be what we cannot see," there is the potential that we can work towards being the best that we can be only when we change the way see each other.