Let’s start with full disclosure on how this article came to life. I didn’t know if was International Women’s Day yesterday until I saw the hash tag on Instagram and even then my only thought was, oh great, we get a day on social media…….so does fro-yo (a sensitive subject with me at the moment). As is the basic design of Instagram, I consumed it and forgot it seconds later. Hash tag something about being bold.
Then I went on a 5 hour coffee and beer tasting tour in New Zealand because as a woman not under the oppression of a government, religion, or institution, I could do pretty much whatever I wanted yesterday. At the last stop on the tour, the bartender told me there was a sign around the corner with my name on it. “I’m not in Danger, I am the Danger.” No doubt a gimmick she pulls on all the customers, but it was still great for so many reasons, and it pulled me back into thinking about International Women’s Day.
Not being enough as a woman hasn’t played a big role in my life because men and women alike have always told me that I’m “too much”. A few other words I hear a lot are “crazy, bold, on another level, assertive, aggressive, confrontational……” you see how these words are devolving. It’s because #bebold isn’t the finish line, it’s the starting point. People can turn #bebold around on you and do.
The positives of what the world has been telling you to be and do can easily get twisted into negatives once you start to use them. And you know what? That’s unfortunate not to mention confusing, but to quote Elizabeth Gilbert (whose magic lessons podcast I have on repeat at the moment), “when you compare THAT to what it would feel like to be whispering in a corner….it’s on a whole different see saw”.
Some of you may be hesitant to stand up for women because you feel like the type of woman represented is too narrow or the issues are not specific enough and you don’t want to get lumped into something you’re not sure you understand. I get that.
But if that’s you, let’s take a step back for perspective. First, being able to voice the fact that you don’t agree or being able to ask a question makes you more lucky than it does misrepresented (myself included). Second, if you do have a voice, don’t use it to discredit another woman’s voice who is just at the starting line because I promise you, the women who need this day on social media are the ones who think that the hash tag #bebold does not now and never will apply to them.
Women’s empowerment? That’s for western women, that’s for crazy women, that’s for angry women, no one will ever marry those women. YES! And NOOOO! This isn’t a movement to tell you to #bebold like me. I know I’m crazy. It’s meant to give you permission to #bebold like YOU whatever that may look like in your life today.
As I’m writing this I keep thinking back to a beautiful example of what this looks like in real life. A couple years ago some high school girls in Thailand were helping me run an Instagram shop fundraiser for my non-profit Make Our Day. We ran out of clothes and they said I’d have to go to Bangkok to find what I needed. To them, this instantly meant the project was over but I said, Bangkok? Let’s go! They laughed hysterically at how crazy my idea was and said not only that they couldn’t, but I couldn’t. I said, I understand why you can’t go…….but I can. (full story here)
Everything about this trip blew their minds; from the fact that I went alone, down to the bus I took and the clothes I wore. They watched it happen through selfie updates and got to pick clothes from the pictures I sent them. By the time trip was over, it was still completely crazy to them, but it was done. It was no longer up for debate whether it was or wasn’t possible, because I had just done it for all of us.
So as I sat at the bar yesterday under that sign, I felt a tug of responsibility from the knowledge that there were girls and women who wanted to post something yesterday but didn’t. For them, that would have been too bold.
Maybe you’re not afraid to post but you didn’t because you are just tired of arguing about what women’s empowerment means, or you’re tired of arguing about why, as a woman of privilege, you should even be allowed to argue, or you think you can’t write, or that no one is listening, or because of all the #bebold things you were willing to do yesterday, putting yourself out there for internet backlash wasn’t one of them.
If that’s you, I understand it. All of it. And still, none of it matters if using your voice will get even one teenage girl to the starting line. So Happy Belated International Women’s Day. #bebold and go have some Fro-Yo…….just don’t invite me until you’ve read my rules.