by Anne O'Connor
I laughed wryly when I heard one friend’s definition of women’s reality: In order to gain respect, a woman has to do more than a man and better. And sometimes, with blood gushing down her leg.
It’s tempting to define women by biology: our biology is so present and obvious. We have breasts that form visibly. We bleed every four weeks. Some get pregnant, we become round and we build new life. We bring forth that life into the world. And we sustain that life through our breasts, sometimes exclusively, for months.
We may repeat these cycles—one or the other—multiple times. And then another hormonal hurricane stops the bleeding as we move into the crone years.
There’s not a developmental stage that isn’t filled with profound biological changes in the female body. Being in a woman’s body takes a lot of time and attention and work.
But our biology is just one part of our reality. And sometimes, while we’re living with profound biological changes, we’re also running countries and households and boardrooms and courtrooms and classrooms. We’re writing new ideas and bringing them to life. We’re building communities with intention. We’re learning new ways to maneuver and navigate. We’re wiping butts and kicking butt—often in the same day.
On top of all of it—we often have to contend with men who seek to undermine our work or mock us. Who ask us about our sexual preferences—even when they’re our bosses. Who struggle to see our humanity, let alone our capacity.
We navigate however we do: with a smile on our face, with a foot in someone’s groin, with a public announcement or with a quiet boundary. We keep going; there’s work to do.
At our best, we bring brilliance and comfort and lead the way to a more connective and just world. We make life work better—for ourselves and one another. Together, we keep creating the reality that we want for ourselves and our daughters, our mothers, and our sisters.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I commend all women doing it for themselves together—making life work however they can in the face of these incredible challenges. I commend all the women who keep their heads about them, who get the support they need and give it back fully.
To create the reality of women with lives of joy and fulfillment, of contribution and advancement. A reality of women relaxed and beautiful in their power and in their rightful place on the planet.
Also, to the women who are falling apart and not keeping up and needing a hand—I see you. Please keep reaching until one of us can hear you and help. May we all commit to listening more carefully and finding our way to you, as so many have found their way to me at one point or another.
And finally, my deep gratitude for all the women who have stood beside me, walked with me, taught me how to navigate, and create and love and make life better so that I know how to pass these skills to others.
Here’s to continuing to shape our reality with every bit of our various smarts, our beauty, our fierceness, our passion, and whatever else works. Here’s to the women.
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