With patriarchy ingrained so deeply in our culture, we need strong women setting examples.
In present day culture women are constantly bombarded with degrading advertisements in the media, teaching us from a young age to be submissive and competitive in nature. This shows up in the white, unrealistically skinny Barbie dolls we played with as girls to feminine product ads making us feel shameful and dirty for the very function that makes us women.
How to be a strong and empowering female:
1. Listen to each others’s the needs.
We must silence this notion that we are an individualistic culture and begin to embrace collectivism.
Individualism is a human construct that has created competition and is aggressive in nature.
When we teach collectivism we will allow women the opportunity to feel like they can speak up in a time of need. Women are constantly hushed—our expressions of need are often deemed “overemotional” or “hormonal.” These words have silenced women and separated us among ourselves.
Genuinely listening to what a another woman needs to say is crucial and breaks the detrimental cycle of individualism and narcissism. Listening creates a bond between girls and women that cannot be easily broken.
Listening for each other’s sake will benefit everyone.
When offering advice, make sure it isn’t judgmental, only constructive. Notice the difference in comments: “You should be grateful, you are fortunate compared to other people” versus, “Look, the sun is shining and I’m grateful to be able to be here talking with you. We are so fortunate.”
2. Instill confidence and self-worth in girls at a young age.
We are teachers of future generations.
Little girls pick up on social cues from their mothers and other female role models—they shape their own understanding of the world from what they see. Girls need role models who are self-assured—we need to teach them that they are smart, beautiful and strong.
Confidence must be emphasized prior to adolescence. We must be confident in ourselves. We must not pick out faults in our daughters, sisters, nieces or neighbors and we must not feed them with our own insecurities. Let us heal our own insecurities while nurturing and creating a generation of strong and secure girls.
When spending time with little girls remember they are sponges and every opportunity can be a teaching moment. Compliment them on things that aren’t physical, “You are an incredibly smart girl, and you have gotten much better at the piano since I last saw you!”
3. Take time to create a loving and healing environment for yourself.
There will be times when you feel weak. This is normal.
Recognize when you need time to heal, when you need to be alone, when you want to cry, when you are tired. Recognizing the need to heal and nurture ourselves allows us to create a healing and nurturing environment for others.
Here’s a tip for how to create a loving and healing environment for yourself: do what feels right. If you are having an emotional day, don’t discredit that. Take the time to do things for yourself that make you feel good. Take a bath and listen to your favorite music, allow yourself time to cry or laugh. Know that you are a work in progress and remember to be patient with yourself.
“Nothing in nature blooms all year. Be patient with yourself.” ~ Unknown
4. Celebrate the unique and sacred relationship between yourself and the Earth.
Our female bodies are innately connected, through reproduction, to our Earth and to all living things.
Prior to monotheistic religion the Earth was viewed as feminine—our creation story. Women and the Earth shared a sacred bond between all living things. Let us bring back this sacred and joyous connection. Feeling connected to the Earth can help prevent environmental degradation and the further exploitation of our valuable resources. The female body is exploited and over sexualized just like the Earth.
When women acknowledge their connection with the Earth, we will become stewards and teach environmental responsibility to future generations. Soon all women will begin to see that any attempt to exploit the Earth for its resources is a direct reflection of our own dignity—a threat to the matriarchy as a whole.
It is important for women of all ages to have experience outdoors. Whether you are an experienced outdoors-woman or not is okay. Find activities you are comfortable with that allow you notice a sacred connection. I recommend gardening. Plant flowers or grow tomatoes, it’s a great way to cultivate life and experience nurturing the environment.
5. Focus on building up rather than breaking down.
During adolescence girls feeling threatened by one another, learning to say things like, “I get along better with guys.” is a valid excuse for mistreating other girls. When we say things like, “I get along better with guys,” while this may be true, we are missing the fact that it’s degrading to women. Most of us never think of it that way because this thought pattern is deeply engrained in our society.
When we stop competing with other women we realize it’s not threatening to watch each other succeed, but something to be proud of. Pride in sisterhood allows us to build each other up. Ending gossip that hurts others is a crucial part of empowerment.
A great way to empower each other is participate in inclusive activities. While all women may not be interested in sports, physical activities are still a great building block for empowerment. I recommend getting outside and give everyone a chance to make their strengths shine. And when these girls do shine, remember to acknowledge it.
6. End the perpetuation of rape culture.
Rape culture is real and it’s a threat to everyone, men and women alike. Rape culture is not one specific thing. It’s the cultural norms that what a woman wears makes her more or less likely to be raped, it’s parents telling their daughters not to wear short skirts because they’re getting negative attention rather than telling their daughters and sons that it’s never okay to assume things based on image.
Rape culture is the lyrics in popular music that degrade women and teach young boys this is cool. It’s calling a woman a liar when she finally speaks up about a sexual assault.
Rape culture is sexual education programs telling young women how to prevent being raped rather than teaching young men about consent.
Rape culture is the media—the idea that rape is something that only happens to women, it’s my former high school not allowing the girls cross country team to run in sports bras because it “distracts the football players,” it’s cat calls to a woman walking by herself on the street.
In an attempt to stop rape culture as a society we must first acknowledge the presence of things that perpetuate it. Gender norms perpetuate rape culture because they are based on normative expectations of how people should act and in turn erases queer or transgendered situations that are outside our limited gender vocabulary. Gender norms are largely based in language, which is another major player in perpetuating rape culture.
The idea that men need to be strong and unemotional, an idea largely fueled by gender norms and language, doesn’t match with the statistics that one in six men is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and that one in 33 men is a survivor of rape. As a culture we must acknowledge our language and its impact and stop perpetuating gender norms, we need a wholistic soulution to this cultural issue.
Author: Mia Piccolotti
Apprentice Editor: Alicia Wozniak/Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: flickr/Matteo Bagnoli