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

Co-Parenting: My Daughter’s Two Mom(s)

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These are Olivia’s moms. Plural. I’m on the right. Jess is on the left. She met my ex-husband two years after our divorce and now they have a little boy named Luke that my daughter loves more than me. She told me so and I adore her for it. Nothing makes me happier than to hear her voice become nurturing and sweet when she talks to her brother. As moms of siblings, Jess and I are nailing this co-parenting thing. Olivia has recently tried to order another brother or sister and Jess announced that it was my turn, “You’re up, Sister Wife.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

Jess has a killer sense of humor and we spend every Christmas morning together making our weird little family work.

She also loves my daughter which makes me love her. She sent me a text several months ago to let me know she was concerned about some of Olivia’s comments surrounding body image and beauty, “She said no one cares about smarts. Not ok.” She immediately changed messaging in their home and asked for advice, “Liv is gorgeous, but she’s also brilliant and hilarious. We need to talk about how smart, clever and funny she is and dad is on board. No more telling her how pretty she is…”

Jess was there for Liv’s school orientation, she’s there for school plays and once she was there dealing with a bully when I was on a business trip. She picked Liv up that day, handled the fallout and was ready to go toe to toe with the parents if needed. The best thing I could have ever hoped for was that my daughter would be surrounded and raised by strong women who want the absolute best for her in life.

This is unusual, I know. It shouldn’t be.

Mutual friends give each of us the heads up when we may run into one another, concerned for a scene or an awkward encounter and we both laugh. Sunday night we ended up in the same suite at TMobile Arena to see the wonder that is NKOTB. Jess immediately gave me a hug when we saw each other, “They warned me you were going to be here and I was like, ‘I like Jeanette! We’re cool!'” Other mutual friends have called me before big events to warn me I’ll run into her and my ex-husband and I immediately announce, “I love Jess.”

When people respond with confusion or say, “I couldn’t do that,” I argue that you can, but you have to get out of your own way. I often remember the advice I was given in the required parenting class I had to take when I filed for divorce, “You have to die to the relationship you had and create a new one. You are in the business of raising a child together. No more who did what.”

You have to forgive the past, shed the hurt and there is no room for jealousy. You also pray the woman on the other side is secure, mature and willing to recognize your role as a parent. She has to be willing to meet you in the same place. Before Jess there were girlfriends who were uncomfortable with my frequent conversations with my ex-husband, our Christmas morning tradition that was created both out of divorce and a joint promise to our child, the photos we would text one another as milestones or memories were achieved. Those who have never had kids don’t realize that the ex doesn’t want your man anymore. She doesn’t show up to insert herself in your relationship or remain on his mind. She just wants him to be a good dad to their child and it takes a secure woman to understand the difference.

There is also a hell of a lot of respect. Jessica makes it clear that I’m mom and what I say always goes. She will always defer to me. I also back her up when Liv is in trouble with her and we both recognize that we need breaks. We all know that we are healthier parents when we have vacations, time to work on our own relationships and interests. It brings us back to the most important person in the equation with a much stronger, healthier mindset.

I always prayed that the woman that would end up in Olivia’s life would love her (almost) as much as I do. It would be the best thing for all of us.

We lucked out.

And Liv lucked out. She has an(other) amazing woman in her life and a baby brother that looks at her as if she herself hangs the stars.

And, if I’m honest… another thing I didn’t expect, but which has been a pleasant surprise?

I love Olivia’s brother too.

Life can be beautiful in all it’s weirdness… as long as you let it.

A Letter To My Daughter by Sara Lindberg

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I recently stumbled across the article The World Our Girls Live In posted on Role Reboot and immediately reached out to the writer, Sara Lindberg, this is good stuff. Sara gracefully connected the worry that sits within a mom as we watch our daughters play, bellies still baby-rotund, boogies be damned, knowing she soon will look down at her pre-teen thighs and think they’re fat.

Sara has already written a love letter to her daughter, which was most recently posted on Scary Mommy, and gave us permission to repost it. I have a feeling we’re going to see some great content from this new friend.

She gets girls. She gets moms. She’s a woman.

The trifecta.

What more could we ask for?

Please join me in welcoming Sara Lindberg.

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The house is quiet while I write this. It reminds me of eight years ago when I was trying desperately to control my breathing, working on everything I learned in class, staying calm and focused.

Things were so different then. I was different. Looking back now, I’m not so sure I really liked who I was or the journey I was on. I wasn’t ready. It was three weeks too soon. I should have known in that moment, that you would always do things on your terms. You live by your word. You are independent, brave and tough.

When you finally came, I discovered that you were also sweet, lovely and wonderful. You were everything I hoped you would be.

Over the years, you have taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined.

1. Your patience, compassion, empathy and kindness have taught me how to be a mom. You are teaching me how to be a better human being.

2. You stand by me even when I am making colossal mistakes. You always look at me with kindness and understanding. No matter how many mistakes I make, you always love me.

3. You have taught me about forgiveness and selflessness. You handle setbacks and disappointments with grace—a grace that was not passed down from me. This is something you have developed on your own, a true depiction of your character.

4. Your intelligence and beauty do not define you. Your heart does. You have an endless ability to give and an even greater gift of acceptance. I watch you do that. I watch you extend your hand when no one else will. I hear the kind words you speak that seem to always ease the pain of others.

5. Your quiet nature gives you a unique presence. People respect and listen to you when you have something to say. You have developed an ability to speak words that need to be heard.

6. You love your brother with a sense of devotion and passion that is rarely seen in siblings. I continue to learn so much about unconditional love from watching you with him. You have helped shape his beautiful character. Your actions are the reason he has so much tenderness and love in his heart.

7. I truly admire the love you have for your dad. It reminds me of how I was with my dad. It makes me so happy to watch your relationship with him grow stronger every day. I feel a sense of comfort knowing that the bond you are creating with your dad is unbreakable. He will always be the most important man in your life.

8. Thank you for loving me when I am not very lovable. In those moments when I am less than kind, you always tell me, “I love you, Mom, no matter what.”

9. You have taught me about humility. Your continued ability to put others first is demonstrated in every intentional step you take—every act of kindness you display.

I love you in so many ways. I can’t ever imagine my life without you. There is so much I want to tell you, but for today, I will just stick with “thank you.”

You have truly changed my life and continue to inspire me to be a better version of myself. I am forever grateful and so thankful that I have been given this amazing opportunity to be your mom.

Originally posted on Scary Mommy

Sara Lindberg is a 41-year old wife, mother and full-time secondary school counselor. Combining her 20 plus years experience in the fitness and counseling fields, she has found her passion for inspiring women to be the best version of themselves. She she is not running, working with teenagers or driving her own kids crazy, she manages a Facebook page called Fitmom. She has a B.S. in Exercise Science and a M.ED. in Counseling. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6 year old son Cooper, and her 8 year old daughter, Hanna.

You can follow Sara on Facebook at Fitmom and on Twitter @fitmomway.