Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My goals for women in 2015

There are a lot of things I want from the world. Hopefully 2015 will be the year of a better judicial system, the cure to cancer, the end of malaria, world peace, and ice cream without calories. I have high hopes.

I want a lot from this imperfect world – we all do – but while I will sadly mostly likely still be stuck with caloric strawberry ice cream, I have something better in mind for this year. Women. Success, happiness, and equality for women.

In 2014, women did a lot. In Afghanistan, women voted for the first time, even when faced with death threats from the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize, let alone the youngest woman. Emma Sulkowicz dragged a mattress around Columbia’s campus with her until her rapist was expelled (and who said women aren’t strong?). The notorious R.B.G. notoriously dissented, and one hundred women were elected to the 114th congress during the United States’ midterms, setting a record for female representation.

If these things don’t make you smile then nothing can save you, but I’m sitting here grinning from ear to ear. Women are being recognized for the amazing things they do.

But we still have a long way to go, and the R.B.Gs, Emma Watsons, Malala Yousafzais, and Beyonces of the world are not the only ones who can help us put an end to sexism and gender inequality. We may not all be natural born Nobel Prize winners or UN representatives, but we can all play a role in advancing women in our society and turning 2015 into an even bigger, bad-er, better year for women.

Here are my totally reasonable and everyday goals that I think all of us women should be setting in 2015. (Spoiler alert: none of them have to do with getting bikini ready)

Let’s stop comparing ourselves. I have a theory on where this one comes from. As little girls, most of us grow older while looking upwards, only to see a sky full of men studded with only a handful of shining females. From day one, we’re brought into a world that shows us that the space available for successful women is limited, that only a few of us can occupy those spaces, and that any woman who makes it to the top must do so at the expense of other women. And this is not just about professional success. Beauty, happiness, intelligence… you name it. So many women feel as though their value is zero sum with the value of other women and it’s about time we remove that poisonous idea from girls’ minds. I’m a horrible offender of this one. I can’t watch a woman walk by me at the gym without comparing my body to hers. When other women in my math classes do better than me, I feel like I am horribly unintelligent. This has got to stop. There is nothing zero sum about our beauty, intelligence, happiness, or success. Comparing ourselves is pointless. Instead of feeling like we need to be better than other women to deserve a space in this world, let’s start making more spaces for ourselves to celebrate the beauty, intelligence, and success of all women instead of trying to cram other women out of theirs.

Along those lines, lets also stop putting other women down. We all do it, usually without thinking about it, and often only in our minds. Even when we’re not openly condemning other women’s appearances or choices, we are often doing it to ourselves. No wonder so many young girls deal with self-esteem issues; how could anyone expect to accept themselves if they dedicate substantial amounts of energy to criticizing others? This year I want to spend less time judging other women and more time appreciating all the incredible things they do and how awesome it is that we have the autonomy to make choices that others may disagree with. We still have a lot of progress to make and it’s easier to do it when we’re lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. This year I want to be more open towards and accepting of everyone, but women often face stricter scrutiny, so ladies, let’s lead the way!

May 2015 be the year of treating or bodies like bodies, not objects. I was at a friend’s house the other day when she emerged from her mother’s bathroom crying in a state of complete disarray. My size two best friend, who had gone into college clinically underweight, had emerged from her first semester of college as the freshman fifteen’s newest victim. And she was in tears because she discovered cellulite on her body. God. Forbid. If my most beautiful friend, a supermodel shaped and sized women with features to kill for isn’t free from the horrors of body shame, then god help us all. Speaking as someone who has been to eating disorder hell and back, I am so ready for the end of all this body-hatred. I don’t care if you are shaped like a watermelon or a praying mantis, bodies are for more than looking at. They can do incredible things like run marathons, birth children, win gold medals, stand at voting booths, and carry us towards our goals. There are many people in the world who don’t have the privilege of living with fully-abled bodies, yet so many women sit around worrying about having patches of cellulite, not remembering what a blessing it is to have a body that is free of pain and fully functional. All bodies are valuable, from the ones with cellulite, to the ones that can’t walk, to the ones that we see on magazines. But women are not bodies, and bodies are not objects. They are just bodies. In 2015 I want to feed my body well, exercise it well, and show it the proper affection it deserves. No more of this skipping meals and standing in front of the mirror pinching different parts of my upper body crap. Women aren’t just for looking at, so let’s stop letting what we look like occupy so much of our mental energy. Let’s be good to our bodies and love them. They’re pretty amazing no matter how pretty others think they are.

Most importantly, let’s start being proud of what we’ve done and let’s demand more. As implemented by both of the last two men I’ve dated, there is a ban on my use of the word “sorry.” Whether this is a testament to the quality of my taste in men or to the still overwhelming reservation with which I approach the world, my use of the word sorry like it is punctuation is a problem, and one that others have had to point out to me. And it’s going to end this year – hopefully for all of us. Women need to stop being ashamed of what we’ve achieved and to stop being afraid of asking for more. No more starting sentences with “sorry.” No more apologizing for doing well. No more pretending we’re not as smart as we are. Let’s start celebrating ourselves and everything we have done, as individuals and as a collective. Call me an optimist, but I think good things are coming. In this crazy, messed up world where women still earn seventy-seven cents for every dollar men make and where reproductive freedom might as well be a damn unicorn, every day women are achieving, striving, and making changes to society. Let’s stop just taking in five hundred channels and four hundred articles a day about what men are doing in Washington, in the NFL, and in every place we turn to. Let’s start celebrating what women have been doing, and let’s start demanding we hear about those things. I’m done apologizing for wanting to be heard and wanting to be valued, and I’m done with thinking that just that simple idea is too much to ask for. Let’s start thinking of ourselves as equals so that we can start treating each other that way and getting men to treat us that way.

2015, the women of the world are coming for you, and frankly… we don’t really care if you’re ready.

Happy New Year. It’s going to be a good one. 

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