I will not fit your definition of a classy lady if your expectation is that a classy lady be quiet, cooperative, and polite. I will disrupt your expectation of class every time I tell a story that serves as hard proof that I am a real woman (also: person) and I am very often a mess. (God forbid I admit I am a woman who does not have myself held together or is not striving for perfection). I won't be pressured into waiting my turn when the men at the table don't feel the same silent pressure to do so. I won't go with the flow if the flow doesn't suit me. I will challenge where I can. If I were a man I could be an out-of-the-box thinker but I'm a woman so I'm often considered uncooperative. I am intolerant of many things that we are taught are wrong but that an ideal polite woman should leave for someone else to handle. “Don’t cause a fuss”. Well, I will stand in the face of these things and these people and I will shout them down. I will cause a fuss instead of leaving it for some other person (man) to handle. I am constantly resolving to make myself the woman for that job. Spoiler alert: it isn’t always perceived well, because we just aren’t “there” yet in society.
My presence will be known when I walk into a room. It may be because I often bare more than my shoulders (in this lost, sick world where even the great Michelle Obama gets torn apart for baring only that much) and it may be because it only takes a couple of footsteps and a few moments before I’m greeting the first person I recognize loudly. (Why wait until you’re a foot away from someone to let them know you’re happy to see them?). Volume control is often lost on me. I must’ve been busy talking about things that I believed to be more important during that lesson in school. Maybe I looked around at the men in my life and learned from experience that the loudest person heard is the one that commands attention. I remember I was taught that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” but then why is it that the squeaky wheel is just overbearing and annoying when it’s a woman?
I can’t say I don’t understand why I shouldn’t present myself as a perfect role model for the young women out there, as it’s not always fun to be the woman that sticks out for all of the things that are “of course” okay because “men and women are equal” but if we’re being real, are really not commonly endeared traits in a woman. If my mom were here I may follow up this piece with an interview where I’d have her answer questions like “What was one time that you really wished your daughter was a quiet and polite rule-follower?” and “How would that have made your life as her parent much easier?” and “What do you recommend parents of strong-willed boss-lady children say in parent-teacher conferences?”. I unfortunately do not have that testimony but I have faith in this generation of feminists and the way they will lead and at times be led by their little women warriors. I have faith that the world is growing more accustomed to the idea that the line of respect can be well observed while the notion that women be “this” or “that” or any of the damn things they simply do not feel like aligning themselves with is challenged and reasoned with.
Why is it that a fire burning in me passionately is admirable on a professional level, but that same fire is expected not to ever follow me to happy hour discussions and political conversations? Why, as a woman, am I expected to be ruthless where appropriate and mind my place when it’s just not the right time for a new RBG? Can you even believe there’s a time that isn’t the right time to be an RBG? Is there a wrong time to be a woman of history? How do you think the women we admire for the bulldozing passions that broke through walls for women in history would feel if they knew we still were having conversations about how not to be overbearing with our strong female personality traits? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m sure dinner with Princess Di would’ve been just lovely. I love a woman with manners and I admire a woman with poise and class; I just don’t love a woman who behaves well and cooperatively for the sole reason that she’s pressured to do so. I don’t ever want to be at a table with beautiful, strong, unwavering female personality that is stifled and made silent and uneventful by expectations of female modesty.
I want to be at a table with you, woman reader. I want our table to be the loud table in the cafeteria, where no one is even the slightest bit intimidated by the lunch lady to remain quiet and in their seat. If you have something to say with conviction, dammit, get up and shout it! Let us hear it! Tell us about your ideas and successes and let us lift you up. Tell us about your flaws and failures and let us share laughter, collectively, that never feels judgmental and only reminds you of the blessing the real woman community is. Share with us your heartbreak, show us you are not holding it together, and let us love you. We are here for each other and we’re here for you and yours. Let’s also not forget to turn around and wave to the table of young girls at the table across from us. They’re watching intently, so we need to take the opportunity to tell them how excited we are for them to join us and have all of this fun with us.
Here’s to the women like me, because it’s the only way we know how to be. I find that it’s pretty easy to let others make you feel like you should settle down, let your feelings simmer, lay low and try to blend in. It hurts when you’re taken the wrong way and you can’t gauge what the reaction is to your words and behaviors and if it’s positive or damaging. Pushing the boundaries of being open and real and passionate even at “inappropriate times” is almost never the comfortable route, but I’m so grateful for the women who have led the way with their examples that I can’t kid myself and say the struggle isn’t purposeful. I can’t have a full heart watching the woman next to me bare her heart and soul to her community and then cave under the pressure to be real about my own self and my own life. Don’t compare yourself to the woman in the perfectly styled Instagram squares who you have convinced yourself is never a real mess of a person just because she doesn’t air it all out in her captions the way you wish she would. Don’t dim your light by concealing the real shit you have to share! Your truest version of you is all I want to read and learn from. Your truest you is what could really strengthen the community of women around you, and we need that. We need you to help us fill up so high that we spill over and suddenly we will live in a world where all there is about being an authentic woman is embraced and championed.
Whether you’re sitting at your laptop swinging your head around saying “yas, yas, YAAASSS” to all of this or you’re observing from a different perspective, the idea is valuable to all. There is no right way to be a good woman. Sure, there are rules for being a good person, but not a good woman. A good woman is a woman who is true in an effort to embrace womanhood for herself and all who live any different form of womanhood. How you do you is what’s beautiful because it’s your call and we are just here to watch and learn.
Women, it’s all or none for us and somedays in this present time I’m tempted to be crushed by the way we ALL have been belittled and disrespected and undermined and then I look outside and I see pink hats and women marching and a tiny toddler with “Womans Rights are Human Rights” on his shirt and I switch from anger and hurt to hope and conviction and I am resolved and honored and truly joyful to fight with all of you, for all of us, in small ways (with blog posts) and in big ways (by marching all around the world). Happy Women’s Day to all.