Climbing her Everest

“I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Currie in Pierre Currie (1936), 167

Like everyone else, I take on issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m a women who has experienced unfair practices at work because of my gender. I don’t think there’s a woman alive that hasn’t felt the sting of discrimination. We’ve been made to feel less than, or out of place and uncomfortable in certain situations. If there is a woman that has been unscathed by aspects of discrimination, I’d like to talk to her and find out what her secret is. We all feel it. We either let it bounce off or take it to heart and let it spur a call to action within ourselves. I have done both. It’s important to pick our battles. I can’t fight every cause out there, although I feel very strongly about many of them. I can only speak about my own experiences and of those whom I’ve witnessed enduring frustrating accepted practices while trying to break down barriers. Some of us are killing it, some of us are coasting, and some of us are barely making it. The fact that women still face discrimination in the work force is common knowledge. Women facing discrimination in STEM fields is not as commonly discussed. These are areas that have been, and still are, dominated my men. These are very competitive fields that require a significant commitment to years of education, time, and research. My daughter is a women of science, educated in medicinal chemistry; a second year PhD candidate in the very competitive field of pharmacology. She’s more than half way up that mountain. This is her Everest. She’s planned each moment down to every last detail.

For clarification purposes, pharmacology is not the same as pharmacy. Pharmacy briefly defined is: a profession in which a licensed Pharmacist dispenses, monitors, administers, and counsels about prescription drugs and overall well-being.

Pharmacology briefly defined is: the science of drugs; including their origin, composition, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic use, and toxicology.

My daughter first experienced discrimination when she was in high school. As a top honours student, she took education very seriously. She knew the goals she had in mind and focused like a lion bearing down on it’s prey. Suddenly she was struggling. She was having a hard time in a relatively easy class. It was a male teacher. She felt creeped out by him. This teacher was very flirty and had leering eyes. My daughter’s friend had no issue being that “teacher’s pet.” My daughter had a huge issue. This teacher had the perfect set up for having complete power and control over whomever he wanted. There were no tests. There were no exams. There were no definitive ways to demonstrate knowledge learned. My daughter had to rely on a man she felt uncomfortable around, in a course that she needed, with a marking scheme over which she had no control. When she finally told me, I approached the school like a mother bear protecting her cub. The administration did a great job at two things; keeping it quiet and doing as little as possible to help my daughter. Long story short, the teacher was very calculating and raised her marks just enough to give her a 94.4% final average. Great mark! Not good enough for the biggest scholarship prizes. She still received decent scholarships, enough that she had very little to no debt throughout her undergrad years. An interesting point about this is; the teacher’s pet who won the huge scholarships, dropped out of sciences in university. My daughter pressed on with nothing but her end goal in mind.

While she was an undergrad she did a biophysical chemistry internship at an Ivy league school. This is where she found herself in a position of having to endure discrimination yet again in order to get ahead. All the men at this world class research facility were allowed to wear shorts; not women. Men could wear sandals; not women. Women couldn’t show any leg or ankle in the lab but for men it was tolerated. The last issue for my daughter was dealing with her own feelings about how women feel they need to portray themselves to get ahead or to be taken seriously. When she applied for grad school she had a series of Skype interviews that determined, in part, whether or not she would be accepted into this very prestigious, very competitive program. When I saw her right before her interview, I noticed how dressed down she was, and how she wore no make up. I questioned her about this. Her reply was, “I don’t want to look too pretty.” A little part of me died inside hearing this. Not just because she felt that way, but because society still puts such huge pressure on women to look one way or another for certain roles. One thing is for certain; forging ahead facing unique challenges in life is certain to test the will and strength of any woman. I’m happy to say that my daughter, who sacrificed so much to be where she is today, is settled and knows where she is going. The rigid demands of applying for funding, doing research, getting published, and going to classes are offset by intermittent visits home and letting loose with friends; sporting the confidence of an educated, worldly, young woman.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I can not accept.” ~ Angela Davis

Allow Yourself To Have Fun

My daughter has subscribed to the high performance pressure that has been put on the women in our family for a long time. Her accomplishments are great and I’m obviously fiercely proud. What makes me happier lately is knowing that she has learned to let her hair down and have fun. This is very important for somebody who has tunnel vision with an unyielding dedication to her education. Shes learning that it’s not just about reaching the summit. It’s the climb.

Walking Through Fire Together

Being a feminist is by times admittedly exhausting. Like any other perspective or point of view it’s open to interpretation. Just like every other situation in life, I can’t please everybody. I can only focus on how I perceive things, and how I break down and analyze all sources of information. I draw on my own personal experiences and the barriers I’ve faced, the roadblocks I’ve barrelled through and setbacks I’ve endured. I’ve experienced the seemingly benign but insidious means an organization can use to discourage females from not only applying for, but feeling welcomed and supported in a traditionally male-dominated profession. I’ve worked for a major organization and later found out my male counterparts got paid more than I did for doing the exact same job. This organization has had to be taken to court and was forced to pay women that were affected retroactively. I sill hear to this day, “women don’t want to work on road construction. It’s dirty and hot.” My immediate thoughts go to our service women that give up their life, or the life they know, engaging in combat roles for our country. Comments like this keep me pressing forward. Just the other day I was looking up the definitions of strength for a blog I was writing. Just for kicks I looked up the definition of woman. The very first definition I came across on my phone defined women as being the “weaker/fairer sex.” When I still see accepted practices of discrimination against women I am going to push back. I’m going to push back hard. Whomever is on the other end of this metaphorical push is going to feel it. They are going to feel the intensity and insistence of my passion. I am undeterred, despite the criticism I’ve received from feminists that hold a more extreme view than I do. I’m not feminist “enough” according to some. The basis for this claim is because I am open to discussing women’s issues with men. I’m in search of equality. I don’t believe that alienating the gender that holds most of the power, wealth, and political representation the world over is a good idea. I think non-confrontational dialogue is essential to understanding the issues that women are trying to bring to light. Men are not our enemy. They are certainly not mine. I feel fortunate to have the women I do in my life, but I’m equally grateful for my male allies as well. Then there’s the flip-side of the coin. To others, I’m too feminist. I bring up women’s issues too often. I hear the laughs and notice the barely-restrained eye-rolls when I bring an issue to the table. I’ve felt the frustration directed towards me for bringing women’s unacknowledged contributions to attention. I look at it like this: if we all embraced apathy, willful ignorance, or leaving the job to someone else, women would never have gotten anywhere. It’s not like the rights that we’ve fought hard to win, were going to be relinquished to us without serious and sustained effort on our part. I acknowledge that we have come a long way, and I’m encouraged by that, but it certainly seems as if some people are tired of hearing about women’s issues, or are feeling threatened by the #metoo movement. The way I see that is, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. If you are raising boys, they have nothing to fear. Teach them respect and boundaries. Educate them about personal space, and the fact that no means no. Teach them that without a doubt a girl that is passed out drunk, or unable to walk without assistance, is not able to give consent. She is off-limits. I’ve raised a son and I’ve taught him these very things. I shared with him the pain of my experiences. I have no worries that anything will ever come back to him because he was taught to be respectful. He’s raising a toddler on his own. A single father of a little girl. Not only a girl, but a Maliseet girl of the Wolastoqiyik First Nation. A girl of colour. If anything, women’s issue are at heart of him raising my granddaughter. He’s surrounded by feminists in our family, of both the male and female persuasion.

If anyone ever felt the searing flames of the fire, it’s the late, great Carrie Fisher. She sizzled in her iconic bikini for her role on the 1983 Stars Wars film, “Return of the Jedi”. For me, Fisher brings different things to mind; such as her views on feminism and her openness about mental health struggles. One of my favourite quotes from Carrie Fisher is a excerpt from an interview she gave to Elizabeth Johnson from the Herald Tribune in 1993. “Stay afraid, but do it anyways. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I believe this to my very core. I have to do this all the time.

The following is a vlog I posted to my Facebook page, Jen Smith The WordSmith, where I discuss a range of issues about feminism, #metoo, and mental health awareness.

#metoo #mentalhealthawareness #survivor #womensupportingwomen

What Is A Strong Woman?

What constitutes a strong woman? According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of strength varies according to the context in which it’s used. One can be physically strong, have mental fortitude, or even an unwavering conviction in a belief system. It can’t be narrowed down to just one singular definition, applicable only in a specific situation. Context is crucial. The same can be said for strong women.

Some mothers work 40 hours a week, only to return home and provide the care-taking responsibilities that have been assigned to them because of gender since birth; making supper, washing dishes, folding laundry, driving kids around to extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, recycling, and play dates. The list goes on and on. Plenty of women work 60 hours a week, serve on committees, play competitive sports, go to the gym and maybe volunteer at a youth camp. Then there are the women who suffer through emotional and/or physical abuse because they are not financially independent, and have likely driven people they love away in order to conceal the abuse. They walk on eggshells, trying to do the right thing so that they won’t get beat down, only to inevitably fail. They don’t fail themselves, they fail to meet the impossible expectations of the individual who wields complete physical and emotional control over them. These women often use themselves as a shield between the abuser and any children involved. There are so many women, in all walks of life, that are silently accepting their perceived fate in life. All of the women mentioned above possess a super human strength that only another woman would understand. On top of work and family responsibilities, women are most often the ones compelled to look after aging parents. I see this strength in every woman I know. We all have different circumstances in life, from income to belief systems, but we all share one thing in common; keeping it all together. Keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. We have to work harder to prove our worth, yet we are very often overlooked, despite the values we uphold and the skills we contribute. I am one of those strong women. I have been told this by many, but it is not something I need to be told. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but I know it. I feel it whenever something for which I feel very passionate about is raised or brought to my attention. Most frequently I feel my strength when no matter what life throws at me, I bounce back. I fall down every now and then, but I always stand up, brush off my knees, and challenge whatever is ahead of me. Life has been throwing me some curveballs lately. Most of these things I have no control over, which doesn’t help. One of the most difficult situations in life for me is when I can not be of any help to my kids. They are adults, and are accomplished in their own ways. My son’s neurological condition is a constant worry, ever present in the back of my mind. I am always mentally prepared to get a call about him having a seizure. Thankfully, it’s been a few years, and my mind has relaxed a bit, but a small part of me is reserved, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, to find that mental resiliency to be strong for my son. My daughter is away at school, shes very capable and healthy; fortunately, I don’t have to worry about her much. We only see each other a few times a year but we talk on the phone every day. When situations arise with her, I feel the powerlessness of the physical distance between us, and my inability to do anything to help her. The only thing I can do is listen and advise. The rest is up to her. This is a hard thing to do; to let go of your kids and let them live their lives. They make mistakes and learn from them. They celebrate when they’re triumphant. I can only observe and console or congratulate.

That Little Black Cloud

Besides unexpectedly losing a job a few weeks ago, I was recently in a motor vehicle accident. I relive the moments after impact often. I remember looking over at my dog, shaking like a leaf, sitting on the seat, realizing he must have made impact with the airbag, now billowing with smoke throughout the car. Thankfully nobody involved was seriously hurt but I think it’s fair to say we are all still feeling some pain from that collision.

I am optimistic by nature, so I tell myself “things can only look up from here.” The tip of the iceberg for me recently, is being told that my oldest brother, going through dialysis three times a week, may at some point need a kidney to survive. His best chances of finding a match is through an immediate family member. Health issues and age will make some unviable options. The weight of having to potentially make this decision at some point down the line is bearing down on me considerably. It’s not on the table yet but it’s up in the air. Somehow I keep finding the resiliency to stay in the fight, to be there for the people that need me, and honour the commitments I have made. I just keep going, relying on the strength and support of those around me. Most importantly, I find the strength within; to speak up, to speak out, and to follow up with action. I am no different than any other woman. Women are the glue that holds society together, of this there is no doubt.

Reclaim Your Power

I have no idea how I came about having “resting bitch face”, but I have it in spades. Apparently some of us “appear” to be more unapproachable than others.

It seems that I am one of those people. I have a critical, sceptical mind. My basic approach to life is to question everything: who, what, when, where, and why. Becoming knowledgeable and having the capacity to analyze and question things are second nature to me. I can be soft but I can be hard if I have to be.

I’ve had to make decisions that might seem ruthless to some people. Given the unfortunate circumstances that were thrust upon me at different times in my life, the fact that I am able to trust anyone and expose vulnerabilities is as surprising to me as it is to those that know me personally. Ever since that moment when I was first victimized as a child, a barrier of distrust was erected in me and it has embed certain personality traits in my brain that will probably be with me until the day I die. I have been in self-protection mode since I was about 8 years of age. That moment when innocence, wonder, curiosity, security, and safety were robbed from me, I was changed irrevocably in specific ways. As if being abused by my relative wasn’t enough, I had the added trauma of being further victimized by the crown prosecutor assigned to prosecute my grandfather. Even though he didn’t touch me physically, he did and said things that were way beyond wildly inappropriate from a grown man in a position of authority, to a victim of sexual abuse about to face her abuser in court. His actions cemented my feelings of distrust and low self-worth. These two men, both in positions of power, fostered my understandably unhealthy view of that gender for over half of my life. I was approached by law enforcement a few years after I had testified against my grandfather. They wanted to talk about that crown prosecutor. He had violated other girls as well. This is an example of one of those life tests I feel like I failed, as I wrote about in my previous blog post, “Walking through Fire.” I had so many difficulties in the years following the trial. I lost half of my family. I struggled with normal teenage issues, but with the added weight of guilt and shame. It led me down some scary roads. By the time these detectives came to see me about that crown prosecutor, I did not have the strength or fight in me to go through the horror of having to testify again or face further public scrutiny. I feel like I failed my younger self by not having the courage to hold this man accountable. A man who had disturbingly used his position of authority and power to abuse girls that had already been a victim of another. I told the detectives nothing happened and that he was nice to me. I just couldn’t go through it again. I just couldn’t, so I lied. Then I buried it. For years. I told no one for 30 years. I understand so intimately why women like Dr. Ford, who so bravely put herself out there years later to expose the truth about another man in a position of power, don’t report assaults to police. There are a staggering number of women who have experienced these violations that never report it. I get it. I lived it. #metoo

It’s been 30 years since I went through trial. Somehow along way I have ended up in a good place. This is in large part due to the work I have put into healing myself over the years. The tragedies I’ve been though and survived have made me stronger with each experience. I couldn’t have made it without support, from different people at different times. The people I go to first now for support are most often my children. They are both adults and successful in different ways.

My parents are also very much part of my support system. Besides my family, I have been fortunate enough to have female friends, at different periods of my life that have helped me heal my soul.

Without these people, I would not be as healed as I am. The very first female friend that I told about being abused gave me strength; strength to tell her and her mother. They were the first people that I confided in about the abuse I was suffering from at the hands of my grandfather. They encouraged me to report it. Without their initial support for me, I may not have taken the steps necessary to hold my abuser accountable. My friend came with me to court and supported me through what was one of the most difficult days in my life. Another of my close female friends supported me in the after math of that traumatic event. These two friends am I forever indebted to. Numerous women throughout my life have provided me with different measures of support. For these friendships, I am eternally grateful. They helped me find my worth. They supported me in my endeavours. Most importantly, they listened. They weren’t self absorbed. I learned so much from these women. I’ve even learned from the women that I thought were my good friends, but didn’t share the same values in friendship that I did. They couldn’t offer the same level of loyalty and respect. These are areas that I need reciprocated. I sill care about these women but I had to walk away because they were not as concerned about me, as much as they were concerned about themselves, and what men thought of them. It’s very sad for me as a woman, to see such low self-esteem in other women that rely on the attention of men to feel worthy. I am so thankful that I overcame similar feelings towards myself when I was much younger. There are numerous reasons I credit for this:

  1. My family believed and supported me.
  2. I have had a lot of professional counselling throughout the years.
  3. I shared my pain with other women who had experienced abuse.
  4. I focused on education and learning.

The last reason is crucial. Education provided me with a feeling of accomplishment as well as critical thinking skills. I’ve come to appreciate my abilities and knowledge more than anything else.

I became involved in politics about four years ago. I started out volunteering on a local Federal campaign. I was immediately bitten by the political bug. Women’s rights and equality were a large part of my involvement and remains so today. It was always an interest and a concern for me, but it became my passion. I knew grassroots efforts were needed in order for women to find their power in this world. I’ve worked and volunteered relentlessly. I knew I could help effect change. Giving up my time to volunteer has given me back more than I could ever ask for. It feels good to know that my efforts are helping to make a difference in my community, my province, and my country. It took me years to reclaim my power through many different avenues. Now that I have it, I will never relinquish it. I keep it by sharing my experiences with other women and drawing strength from each other.

Walking Through Fire

Life is tough sometimes. It’s tough for everyone. Nobody has it really easy. I know people like to pretend that they have the best, most perfect and positive life, but we know that usually isn’t the case. We all have struggles and they are as varied and vast as individuals themselves. That isn’t to say that some don’t have it easier than others. Some of our friends and family post these fantastic life stories on social media that would make any one a little jealous. The reality is most people aren’t posting their pain, their shame, and their embarrassments. Who wants to expose those vulnerabilities? Me, that’s who. I have found strength in sharing my weaknesses and troubles with others that have had similar experiences. So many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but we’ve been shamed as a society to admit it.

I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with than others. When I was younger I felt more powerless against it. As I’ve aged I’ve learned how to cope and how to recognize the signs that I’m indulging in the insecurities that come with being anxious. A couple of different times in my life I have “gone off the deep end.” My mental resiliency has been tested on numerous occasions. I feel like I failed some of these life tests, mainly because I’m so hard on myself and have such high expectations of not only me, but everyone around me. My first serious test came after reporting my maternal grandfather for sexually abusing me when I was a child. The subsequent court cases that followed demanded a strength I didn’t know I had; to face the man that wounded me so deeply and irrevocably for the rest of my life. Even though he was found guilty, sent to prison, and lost an appeal, I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow it was my fault. Even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not having the courage to stop it sooner. The ripple effect of that trial was losing contact with the maternal half of my family. We were ostracized by that part of the family for years, because my mother and father believed and supported me. My mother chose her daughter over her father, mother, siblings, and extended family. That’s the best mother anyone could ever ask for. It took me years to fully appreciate the loss she must have felt, and the sacrifice she made to support me. She is a remarkably strong woman that has probably never been properly acknowledged for her tenacity and unyielding love and support for her kids.

I staggered around in a shame-filled state for many years. I had a hard time dealing with the incredibly overpowering mental anguish I was suffering from. Despite being young and inexperienced at life, I could not allow myself any forgiveness for the serious character flaws that I thought I saw in myself during my youth. Now that I understand just how traumatic this event was, I am kinder to the memory my younger self. All the choices I made in the years after the abuse were normal, and typical of those that have been so seriously victimized. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, but more importantly, I have learned not to give any thought to those that refuse to see how I’ve grown or acknowledge the changes that I’ve made throughout the course of my life. I wasted far too much time in my life worrying about what people thought of me. In my head I was already rejected before I could give anyone a proper chance to get to know me. I just assumed people weren’t going to like me. I was loud, hyper, outspoken, boisterous, adventurous, and tough. Very tough. I come from a predominantly religious family, I felt like I was most likely viewed as something akin to the devil himself. The long and short of it is; life is way to short to worry about what people think. There will always be people that don’t like you, for whatever reason. That’s ok. We are survivors. We always have each other.

My life has not been the easiest of journeys. Some things were thrown at me over which I had no control. My children’s serious health issues tested my resiliency. As is typical of me, I kept things together during the crisis, and then fell apart after the threat was gone. The latest and greatest test of my will and strength as a women, was when my developmentally challenged aunt died of brain cancer. I sat with her in the hospital every day, until the moment she took her last breath. The lessons she taught me about enjoying the simple things in life are still with me.

I have made colossal mistakes throughout my life. I was challenged by low self-esteem, and a lack of pride in the skills and talents that I had. I didn’t see myself as having any talents. Getting an education and having the support of my family and friends have contributed to me having a greater sense of self. I have pride in my accomplishments. Like a lot of parents, I feel my two greatest accomplishments were raising well-adjusted kids, despite my struggles being a young mother. I was a thrill-seeking hothead for most of my life. I had no fear. I lived for daring adventure and brought my kids along with me on that ride. There was never a dull moment. If I were a parent of young children now, my common sense as a middle-aged person would have surely kicked in. Instead, I raised two young kids when I was in my early 20’s. As is typical of the youthful mind, I thought nothing would ever happen to me. It would happen to somebody else. I felt invincible. It was this fearlessness that enabled me to let my kids follow me jumping off a local bridge into the river below. It took us swimming through rapids so strong that it would suck you down, twirl you around, and spit you back out again metres away. It led us to jumping a fence to pet a bear caged behind a steel fence. Crazy things to do, but I, nor my now fully grown children, have any regrets.

I have walked though the fire, but I did not come out the other side unscathed. Some scars never fully heal. Somehow I managed to raise university educated kids. My son has full custody of his young daughter. A girl born into a family of strong, dominant, confidant women. My daughter, a PhD candidate, is a scientist, blazing a trail for girls coming behind her from our small community in rural New Brunswick.

Life is tough sometimes, but like Dolly Parton said so eloquently, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

Surviving or Thriving?

People that preach constant positivity bug me. I wish I lived in that fairytale land where everything comes up roses. I don’t. I live in reality. Life is great, and then it isn’t. Attitude is important and it will carry us through the tough times if we embrace a positive outlook, but let’s face it; it’s ok to acknowledge sadness or deep disappointment. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to not be on all the time. My late grandmother was our family matriarch. She was a teacher. She was a lady. She was a hard worker at a time when when women didn’t go out to work often, especially in farmland communities in rural New Brunswick, where she ended up settling with my grandfather.

She grew up poor but lived in the city so unlike many women of her generation, she was educated. She was also a very devout Christian. This is where we butted heads. I have so much to thank her for though; primarily for my love of English and the gift of good communication skills that she bestowed upon me. The thing is, she placed crazy high expectations on the women in our family; sometimes unintentionally, but the end result was the same for each of us. We put immense pressure on ourselves to perform at a very high standard. When we fail to meet these impossible standards 100% of the time, anxiety issues arise. Questions and self-doubt creep in. Mental illness found its way into our family psyche and embedded itself into our brains. It proved to be too much for my grandmother’s daughter, and ended with her suicide a number of years ago. My aunt was a beautiful, accomplished nurse and mother. She had every reason to be proud of herself and her life. A classic example of someone that appeared to have it all, only to have it end so tragically. It seems to be a common theme. “She was always laughing,” is the thing I hear most often.

I never wanted to show any vulnerability in my life. My natural instinct is to show no weakness. My age and experience have taught me to see the beauty in being vulnerable and the magic that happens when that vulnerability is shared. The women that have reached out to me to share their own traumatic experiences have helped me grow through mine. I’ve been learning to let go of my own ridiculously high expectations and be easier on myself.

There have been some key incidents in my life that have defined me. I’m a child sexual abuse survivor. This changed how I saw myself from the moment my innocence was stolen, as well as acutely changing my view of the world around me and the people in it. I keenly understand why women hold onto their pain and don’t confront their abusers. Things don’t work our well either way. It took me years to get to a place where I’m ok with who I am and what has happened to me. I went through the proper channels of accountability and felt the relief when he was found guilty of abusing me. I was believed. I was vindicated. It didn’t make anything better though. I was a young woman struggling with usual issues of teenage angst compounded by the weight of guilt and shame that I felt.


I became the strongest woman I could be. I would never allow myself to be victimized by a man again. I was a hard ass and I owned it. I still do. The school of hard knocks has hardened me in one hand but softened me in another. It gave me the strength to cope through my young daughter’s heart failure and subsequent surgery in the early 90’s. It led me through the trying times spent by my son’s hospital bed when he was a teenager; his brain being ravaged with seizures. Waiting anxiously while he was on life support, not knowing if he would live or die.

This inner strength allowed me to hold the hands of two of my loved ones as they took their last breaths and death welcomed them. I am a woman. I am a survivor. I am resilient. I handle whatever is thrown at me with a ferocity befitting of a mother lion guarding her cub. Sometimes I get down. Not often and never for long. I aim to thrive but some days I just survive. The world today is not for the feint of heart. As women, we need to work a little harder, a little longer, and be a little stronger to take our place in this world, because power only comes to those who seize it.

Surviving in a world of sharks

Women Haven’t Gained The Rights That We Have By Asking for them – We got them by taking them.

I could say this has been a long time coming for me. It has and it hasn’t. I was a feminist long before I knew I was one. I have my Dad to thank for that. My father, back in the early 70’s, seemed to be a man ahead of his time. Whether it was because I had two older brothers and he knew I had to be tough, or because he was educated and insightful, he had one consistant message for me when I was growing up; anything boys could do I could do better. So off I went helping him with outdoor choors like cleaning the yard, or getting wood ready for winter. I spent more time driving tractors, picking rocks up off the lawn, and feeding the animals than I ever did doing dishes or folding laundry. I have always expected to be treated equally to males. It’s been an assault to my senses when I haven’t been and it happens all too often. I feel like a dolphin swimming in an ocean of sharks. Dolphins have to be cunning and resourceful. They have to outsmart the predator that’s trying to outmaneuver them. So do women. We have to pull the rabbit out of the hat everyday and make the magic happen. Whether it’s being mindful of how we dress, or keeping track of how many drinks are deemed “appropriate”, to being expected to be responsible for a larger share of the workload than a male counterpart; all of us women are dodging sharks everyday. There’s a lesson to be learned from dolphins here ladies; they live in large groups. That’s the key to their very existence and it’s the key to ours. We support each other and stick together to ensure our survival.

Feminism is a vast, very broadly defined movement. Like any cause or ideology that we embrace, we may have different perspectives on how we conceptualize our approach to its application. From a sociological perspective, patriarchal societies are by design, meant to give men a position of dominance. It keeps women in a constant cycle of systematic oppression. This is evidenced by the fact that men still hold most of the power, wealth, and political representation throughout the world. The objective is to understand the origins of gender inequality, and break the bias of these stereotypical roles that we are thrust into, based on these preconceived notions and societal expectations.

I’m brining this up because my key objective is to normalize discussions of the ultimate goal of feminism; gender equality. Women need to dominate the discussions about the inequality we face. We are critical to the changes that need to be brought forth for us to collectively get ahead. We are each other’s strength and support system.

I believe it’s also important that men be a part of some of these discussions. We need them as allies. We need them to acknowledge their sometimes unwitting role in oppression, and be a supporting voice for the equality of women.

It may run against the grain for many men to even consider supporting the idea of feminism. Why would they want to challenge traditional roles that they believe is of a benefit to them? The very system that gives them all the power is also responsible for the additional pressures men feel to be the provider, to always have to be strong, to never show any weakness or emotion, and to always be in control. Men aren’t typically viewed as nurturers and care givers. Without financial resources, this puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody issues.

The scales are very imbalanced. We need to even them out. That means raising women up.

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I am a strong believer in being open-minded and giving weight to all viable theories and sources of information. I acknowledge the few areas that men are the victims of their own patriarchal systems, but this doesn’t supersede the grossly disproportionate number of ways in which men are advantageous over women in every other single aspect of our lives. The reality is, everyone will benefit from having women reach their full potential and from finally getting to experience true equality.


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