Meghan Markle v #meangirls

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I didn’t mean to watch the Royal Wedding. I was in a hotel room in Florida and woke up before my alarm clock. I laid there, wishing myself back to sleep, but Instagram called. I followed the arrival of the guests and then finally sighed and clicked on the TV, I can’t be the only one awake who isn’t watching it.

I didn’t get caught up like others. I didn’t cry. I don’t know them. I’m always happy to see people in love, but my interest wasn’t seated in their romance.

No, I was more aware of the tone of the ceremony. It was one of marked diversity and inclusion. It asked the world to move from lines to love. It was purposeful and resolute. There was deep symbolism and meaning. Every moment was perfectly orchestrated. I saw two people who not only love one another, but who also recognize they are offered a global platform.

They said the things they needed to say without saying a word.

I was coming off a bit of a the world is changing kind of high. I had just watched Prince Charles reach out to Meghan’s mother, escorting her away from the alter as they supported their children by witnessing their marriage. This man, who will become King, also honored their family by walking Meghan down the aisle toward his son.

In those moments they were simply parents. Nothing more. Nothing less.

These are the moments that make me believe in people again. That make me fully aware that there is more good than bad, more hope than fear, more love than hate.

Until a bunch of women began posting comparisons of Meghan, a woman who just did what would have been considered impossible even a decade ago, to both Kate and Diana. Her dress was torn apart, her hair discussed in great detail and concerns over her minimal makeup were shared. Shared so that other women would join the discussion in a group-hating circle that would then be made socially acceptable by their complicity. Especially when toxicity begins with a compliment, “Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing, but…”

They call this the Oreo Effect. Start with the good, say something terrible, and end with the good, so that the person eating your particular trans fat (or what they call constructive criticism in Corporate America) feel better about something negative.

If you ever start a sentence, “Let me start by saying…” or “I don’t mean to be a bitch, but…” check yourself.

Women have been programmed to take each other out. We are asked to compete with one another for jobs, security, mates, survival. We compare ourselves and others to feel better about what we consider our own shortcomings. At some point in time we believed we were unworthy in all matter of ways. I could go on for at least three more paragraphs about misogyny, the patriarchy, advertising and social influence, but you get the picture. This unworthiness, this competition, has become a hum in our veins, a social and cultural bias that has been coded into our DNA, and we don’t even know when we are doing it.

Start recognizing when you are doing it. Consciously monitor your internal talk. Do you judge others? How does seeing another achieve make you feel? If you aren’t happy for them, why? If you have to find something wrong, why? Recognize you’ve been triggered, send them a blessing, good for them, and dig in to why you are having a hard time saying something kind. I guarantee it has to do with you, your internal talk, your insecurities, and what you subconsciously consider failure or unworthiness.

Check your influence. Do you feel the need to share your negative thoughts with others so they agree with you or find you flip or funny? To feel right in your opinions? Justified? That’s you, girl. You need their approval. Why? Unless you are truly trying to build a band of #meangirls to yes you to death and tell you you’re pretty, recognize that negativity begets negativity. You don’t need it and you don’t need to attract it. You want good people in your life? Be good people.

I have such hope for women. I know in my bones that the world I’m leaving my daughter will be so much better and because of women I personally know or am reading about in the news. Women who are alive during my child’s adolescence. Women who are using their voices, their influence and their intelligence to change conversations.

Women like Meghan Markle who just told the entire world that she is here to make change and has the Royals in tow.

She wasn’t wearing a wedding dress, loves.

It was a cape.

This Woman Is Tired: Female Competition and Her Role In The Patriarchy

 

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There are times when issues are swirling around me, leaving me disquieted, confused, and I can’t quite put my finger on the source. I find myself tucking words, sentences and articles in the Notes function of my phone, hoping it will all make sense at some point.

But, some things don’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense that women are using their voices to out their abusers, marching in solidarity, hash tagging our support and love, and then finding ways to also hate or shame one another. I revel in all of this stripping away of silence, adore the cultural move from one of shame to one of insolence and action. I hoped it would bring us closer to one another, but was smacked by the reminder we don’t all feel the same. This week I have been, over and over again, reminded of how far we have to go.

I walked into a meeting and another powerful woman refused to look at me when I spoke. Over the course of the following four hours we spent in one another’s company she refused to acknowledge me, and then belittled me to another when I was in earshot.

I introduced myself to a woman who then gave me the once over, head to toe and back up again, shaming me for wearing a dress that shows, God forbid, I have a body. A body that was fully covered, neck to knee. I felt my shoulders collapse into one another, becoming insecure. My only sin was that I had a dress altered to fit me.

Another woman called me a curse word because she didn’t like the way I showed up in conversation.

My daughter’s step mom showed me a group text in which she was completely obliterated by a long-term friend, called unfortunate descriptors, and reminded that everyone has had a baby so she’s not that special.

None of this makes sense and for a very good reason. It is much harder to unravel cultural and social bias than it is to play along, continuing the story that sits within our bones. This is about power and the unconscious bias against women, and more specifically, powerful women. We hate women. All of us. Even those of us who believe we are die-hard feminists. We have been programmed to compete with one another for jobs, men and security and, my loves, we have to get this part right. It is easy to say you want women to succeed, but then hate the woman next to you who is vying for the same job, man or social status. It is a static within us, deeply enmeshed into the folklore of our lives. It’s time to untangle ourselves from it.

Another very large issue that has come to light is the way women choose to dress with all these claims of sexual harassment and abuse. Both men and women have asked, “If she doesn’t want to be harassed, why is she trying to be seen?”

First, and most importantly, we all want to be seen. But, what does “seen” mean to each of us in a world rife with competition? Competition led by cultural and social belief systems and served up in a neat (and devastatingly cutting) advertising bow. This hits very close to home for me and I have remained quiet while I’ve tried to wrap my head around my thoughts.

Growing up I was taught that my body was shameful. That it made men do things. So I hid it. I am a curvy woman and have been since I was sixteen. I have worn extremely loose clothes to make sure I didn’t bring about unwanted attention. As I got older and wanted a partner, I was told that I had to look sexier, wear more makeup, never let my roots show, flaunt those curves so they knew what was under those “rags.” I found a way to hint at a body, while still remaining covered up. Then I began to rise up the ranks of Corporate America. I learned that the men at the table have their own opinions of women in the room. If you are too sexy they don’t take you seriously. If you are simply attractive they don’t take you seriously. If you are anything other than a big old bookish nerd covered from head to toe, they don’t take you seriously. Then you are just brainy, but, girl, you will never get a man, you need to try harder.

What man has ever walked around with such bullshit in his head about who he has to be and how he shows up in every aspect of his life?

Dear Men, here is a little known secret: Women have to figure out who we are going to be for you every single day.

We have been told that we have to figure out how to dress so as not to get raped, sexually harassed or be considered “dumb” and unworthy of your attention. But, we also have to figure out how to be beautiful to get or keep our partner’s attention, feel confident and seen. But, not be too seen, because then we are “extra.” We’ve been told that if we don’t keep up the maintenance there is another woman in the wings waiting to take our place. We have to figure out how to express our opinions without being considered bitchy. We have to figure out how to be heard without coming across as arrogant, full of ourselves or bossy.

Men can be assertive and aggressive, bless.

Women have to be chameleons to survive.

Unraveling patriarchal and unconscious bias will not happen easily. It was created by men, but ladies we are complicit in its toxicity. It will require us to be more aware of our internal talk as we find ourselves put off by one another. It will require self awareness of not only how we view other women, but how we raise our daughters to believe they have to show up for men and for one another. Big idea? Let’s start by refusing to call one another “bitch” and talking to our girls about their power, healthy friendships and their voices.

I will not be a mean girl. I will not raise a mean girl. Say it with me.

We have so much work to do, but I have such hope. I see the glimmers of change, the conversation shifting. I just ask that we don’t let it end in the headlines and instead do the internal work to unwind the patriarchal belief that we are in competition with one another.

This woman is tired.

Xo,

J

Gossip Girls (and Boys)

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Words are powerful. They are often divine and filled with love and depth. Your eyes become soft as they are delivered from the lips of a friend, a lover, your child or they’re printed on pages you can’t stop turning while your heart soars, what’s next? There are other times, however, when the sentences have been restrung and these simple syllables have become laced with a far darker intent. There are times when words cut you like glass and the shards sometimes remain.

Gossip.

I often wonder why people ask about my personal life. Are they interested because they want to know me better, love me harder, or are they asking out of curiosity? Should I get over guardedness to open up to those walking beside me or are they asking so that one night when they’ve had a drink too many my foibles and insecurities may be shared over a sticky table with those that want to be entertained?

When it has happened that I’ve become the subject of someone’s conversation I have typically ignored the eventuality of it. I don’t set a record straight or wonder why, I simply allow my silence to answer the questions that are outstanding. Not everyone has this luxury because sometimes the gossip is damaging. While things said about me have hurt my feelings deeply I also know who I am and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lovely group of supportive friends. They remind me that on most days I’m pretty awesome.

But, I’m also the mother of a little girl who is growing up in a time when gossip is pop culture. It is Twitter, Facebook, every magazine on every shelf and we all know that gossip is the meanest when we’re in school. It causes girls to cut themselves, develop eating disorders and worse – take their own lives before they have even begun. I may know that a friend who talks about me is not my friend, my life is long and people will come and go, thank you for showing me yourself, bless, but when a girl is learning who she is in a bubble her bubble is her entire world. To lose a friend that she has to see at school every day where we rove in packs and take sides is catastrophic.

We lead our girls by our example so I would like to invite everyone that trips upon this post to join me on a 30 day No Gossip Diet and encourage the girls in your life to do the same. Just think of all the good we could collectively put out in the world if we only said words to uplift for an entire month.

Talk about it. Talk about what gossip looks like and how it can hurt. Talk about it as if it is a trans fat.

I’ve done a little research and while we all get caught up in our friendships and such, the true determinate of gossip’s harm is intent. Is the intent to lift another up or to privately share a concern with someone close so that you may help a friend together? I have had friends going through crises where these conversations were necessary and held so close it was as if we’d be indicted for sharing secrets that were not ours. There are times when talking about another is only because you are coming together to support them. Your intent is to show them love.

There are times when the intent is to solve for jealousy, insecurity or pure entertainment value. You know the difference. You feel it in your gut when the words slip from your mouth or as they are delivered to you on a plate. People lean in, grab another drink, settling in to a conversation that is exploiting the stories wrapped around someone that is not present.

Are your words wrapped in love? Or does the person receiving the information look like a viper snacking on your words, delicious? When someone tells you something do you recognize that this is not yours? When someone opens up and tells you something personal do you thank them for trusting you? Do you honor that trust? Their vulnerability was a gift. Carry it as such and understand the words attached are not yours. The secret attached is not yours.

Well, unless they’re like a criminal or a killer or something. Then Godspeed and bless, because your life just got complicated for a minute.

Let’s not just talk to our own daughters, but her group of friends as well. Ask them to trust that feeling they have in their stomach, learn what it is. Girls fear their friends will think they’re not cool if they don’t participate in the group, but what I’ve found is that by not engaging she is setting herself up for deeper, more meaningful friendships. The first girl to have her own crisis will seek the one that did not talk.

After all, while they may be sitting around getting drunk on other’s problems they also know their own failings make the rounds when they aren’t present. There is a tiny voice they ignore, “what do they say about me when I’m not here?” The act of gossip is the surest way to diminish trust in a group setting. People are complicated, their lives delicate. Who are any of us to speculate as to how or why?

Let your words be light.

Who’s in?

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