I don’t stand out. I never really did – and when I actually did stand out, I would have prefered to stay in the comforting safety of my usual shadows. It’s quite telling that when I passed on a message to a former teacher through his wife years after I left high-school, he simply told her ‘she was a very reserved student’.
I’ve had trouble finding my place for a long time. My teenage years were mostly spent hiding being oversized men’s shirts while trying to survive school. My early twenties were a – in hindsight – desperate and in the end very futile tentative to fit in, while always feeling on the sidelines somehow. I felt like being a woman was overly complicated. I felt too feminine or not enough. I struggled with makeup (I gave up) and body image and the way I should act or not as a woman.
We receive many contradictory messages about womanhood. We feel trapped between the never ending expectations of a society who still pressures us to act and dress a certain way, and the strict requirements of a certain brand of feminism that makes little sense to many of us.
Where is our place? As human beings? As women? Do we have a different place, a different role? Are we different? What is innate, what is acquired in our behaviours?
I must say, as cliché as it is, that motherhood helped me to find my place. The fact that my body – that I hadn’t always loved like I should have – was able to grow a miniature human being, and then to feed it, was kind of a revelation. Being a woman was suddenly an amazing gift. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier and it helped me realize that I could find my place as a woman, without either denying myself or yielding to others’ expectations, both in my professional and personal life.
I get the impression that we often see womanhood either exclusively through men’s eyes, or through a distorted feminist’s perspective that only views women as victims. We don’t talk about womanhood in a really positive way that often. We talk about women achieving things that are deemed ‘for men’ or about women being oppressed by society (I’m of course not denying that many women are indeed oppressed in many parts of the world, to be clear). We don’t talk about womanhood as a thing to be celebrated, respected, praised. We don’t value ‘feminine’ attributes or qualities, that we associate to being weak, inferior, a bit ridiculous – and I am deeply aware that those attributes are debatable, and that we’re all different, but there’s no denying that men and women are different.
I still don’t stand out. I still prefer shadows. But I feel comfortable and confident enough as a woman. There’s strength, grace, warmth as much as there’s fragility and emotions in womanhood and I wholly embrace it. I don’t envy men anymore – I don’t think it’s any easier to be a man. I hope to show my daughters that there is a way for us to be who we are, and not who others want us to be, whatever ideology they are pushing. I might be the quite stereotypical nurturing kind, but I’m the one drinking beer while my husband sticks to fruit juices, and that’s ok too.
As always, be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time.