10 Minute Read
"It is not our differences that divide us. It is in our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate our differences."
This is personal reflection on some of the ideas I have around what it means and feels like to be a woman today. I am ever-growing and changing, learning and constantly figuring out how to navigate this crazy world. Hell, I may look back one day and completely disagree with everything I've written here, props not though. Either way, I am always looking to spark dialogue and raise questions. It's just what I do.
The other day I walked into a new store in Nashville, called Two Son. Among the beautifully curated home goods and impeccably designed clothing, I saw a perfectly folded stack of crisp white tees with the text, “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE” printed across them. You may have seen these in your feed or a random post somewhere recently, but this was the first materialized version I had come across.
This simple phrase got me thinking all sorts of things and feeling all sorts of feels
—all of which kind of surprised me.
I thought, “Huh, would I wear that? Should I wear that? Should I buy that? Do I buy that?
Why does this sit weird with me?
It feels exclusive.
It feels like a lot of responsibility.
It feels narrow or reactionary.
It feels…. assigned.
It feels like we are declaring ownership and a gender role for our shared future.
There's so much going on these days in politics and pop culture around feminism you'd have to be living under a rock to not see the rising tide of female empowerment streaming into our lives.
From Beyonce and T-Swift with lyrical exclamations of female power, to viral hashtags, actresses calling bullshit on wage gaps, Clinton running for prez, Niki Minaj demanding orgasms, and long time feminist, Gloria Steinem dedicating her new book to the doctor who performed her illegal abortion in 1957,—female power and voice was everywhere in 2016 and is only gaining bandwidth in 2017
We're living in a day and age where women have more avenues to be heard and seen through non-traditional and social media than any other moment in time. For decades we have been objectified and pitted against each other through media pumped out by a patriarchal dogma and still are. But now we can in large part, control the stream of media we give attention to and be purposeful with our voice in our avenues of sharing.
As women we are starting to get in formation and become each other’s allies openly, not just in the comfort of our own squads. In doing so, we're starting to see each other speak out against male chauvinism and misogyny with an on point, on the spot composure and intellect that is undeniable.
However, I also see a line being drawn in the sand both mentally and in social arenas that I feel is going to cost us more than we imagine if we don't wake, the fuck, up.
THE FUTURE IS FEMALE
Does this mean we’re looking to the future through a linear lens? Are we saying dudes had their day, now it’s going to be the ladies’ turn—YAS BITCH!, and then, then we'll start discussing a social order based on human value absent of gender and color lines because now all lives matter, and after that, after we have democratized all humans and have shirts that read “The Future Is Rainbow”, then we can maybe envision a future where the innate value of all living things has a stake in our conduct and decisions?
I call bullshit.
To move forward in a fight for female empowerment I believe we must collectively understand our beef is not with males, it is with the imbalance of masculine and feminine forces in all of us. That should be the endgame we aim for, balance. When we plan, connect and act from a mindset that sees us at odds with males or the masculine —fighting for our day in the sun while assuming men work tirelessly to oppress and control —we’re already losing.
Sorry, but not sorry, we've already spent WAY too long ascribing to the myth of separation between male and female —isolated and powerless.
Hear me out. Yes, there are men who are working day in and day out to oppress and control women and young girls all over the world. From street corners to congressional hallways, there's a battle being waged on our bodies, our rights and our voice. I am well aware of this and think as long as women somewhere, anywhere, are being denied fundamental rights and a voice equal to their male counterparts, we're all missing out and stunted in our potential as a global community.
However, I think it is absolutely crucial we understand and outwardly recognize the d-bags are humans, men AND women, hungry for status and power, and fearful of what they don’t understand. To reach balance and equality for women, our fight isn't with men. We are facing off with a rampant thirst for power and control stemming from a cowardly fear of the unknown. It is an overly engorged ego—pulsing with strategic analysis, devoid of holistic understanding. We are at odds with institutionalized imbalances that have grown partly from misogyny, not at odds with a gender.
Up until a few years ago, I used to walk around tall, proud and confident that I could basically take care of myself and do anything on my own. Starting with a childhood naivety fed by parents who repeated a mantra of self sufficiency, then growing into a young woman rebelling against hair brushes or anything pink —at some point this attitude turned into a “damn the man” mantra. That being said though, I sure as hell wasn't running around calling myself a feminist. My narrow or highjacked understanding of feminism felt too aggressive to identify with.
Ask any one of my friends and they'll probably tell you I am one of the most self-sufficient and capable women they know. This isn’t arrogance, it’s the reality among my circle of friends and coworkers. And for good reason. I have been working on it for over 30 years. Being this type of woman, exuding this kind of powerful character and capability, it has been my mission and has seemed to be built-in from birth. I was fat, err, “big boned” growing up, bossy by nature and loud as fuck. A combination of rampant curiosity and a natural impatience has led me to “just do it my damn-self” for most of my life. I have grown into a woman, 5”10’, thick and curvy. I speak with a low and analytical tone and don't hold back calling bullshit on what I see as unfair. I’ve always been opinionated even if I lacked the confidence to speak up and inquisitive to a fault.
Growing up I never looked like the girls on TV or on the cover of magazines (like 99% of us) so I compensated by putting my focus on being really smart, witty, and hyper-analytical of my surroundings. Because I didn’t naturally fit what my society portrayed as “feminine” at a young age; small, cute, agreeable, polite —because I didn't feel powerful in and recognized for my feminine attributes, I built up the masculine traits I could feel powerful and safe in. I was always figuring out how I could be strong and capable on my own, while solid in my ability to support and protect the other girls around me.
By the time I was 20 something I was countering “the man” around me with an, “I’ll be dammed if I need a man for anything” type of confidence. Feeding and building on what are seen as typically masculine traits while denying prescribed femininity —I had decided that was my flavor of feminine. That was the Claire I felt powerful being.
Developing into this version of myself gave me strength. But, I believe it also gave me an imbalanced and half-understood sense of self. It excluded two very important aspects of the person I was and the woman I internally craved to feel comfortable being.
One, this "damn the man" understanding denied the fact that the strength and confidence I felt in my 20's came largely from the masculine attributes I developed as young adult. I discredited or completely ignored the positive impact men had had on me. I had subconsciously assigned weakness to a woman who got help from a man and considered my ability to do without a man a badge of honor. I was in denial and blind to the positive masculine attributes and the valuable lessons I'd learned from men in my life.
Second- this mindset, wanting to do everything on my own either to prove something or out of habit— it was way less fun, quite exhausting, and often lonely. This mindset lacked the acknowledgment that I could do anything on my own for the most part, but I wanted to do it with someone else. And unfortunately, the backlash to focusing on becoming a strong, confident, independent woman on her own—I often felt guilty or saddened in my want of a man to share it with. I internally craved a "strong enough" dude to share my time with but exuded an energy of "I don't need you". I was strong, independent and lonely as fuck.
You know, the older I get, the more and more I love men. As I grow into a more enlightened and confident women I am able to identify men on the next level of enlightenment and being.
As I become more woke, I meet men more woke—and sheesh, they're amazing humans.
Our differences add depth to our conversations and range to our understanding of the world around us. I have a different kind of fun with them that is no less valuable to their female counterparts. Their help and encouragement have lifted me in ways a girlfriends' can’t. it's not better or worse, just different. A man who has himself balanced and embraced his masculine and feminine attributes, escaped from the prison of masculinity our society demands they live in and looks to a woman as an equal and magnificent creature, shit god damn, yes please.
It wasn't until my late 20’s that I started to embrace the aspects of my personality that are seen as typically feminine. Sexiness, tenderness, nurturing, empathy, relational understanding, my intuition... And it wasn’t until I neared my 30’s that I saw these strengths as equal to the masculine traits within me. Neither has less value in my ability to confidently navigate the world around me. The are complimentary to each other and I believe absolutely necessary in my resolve to have a positive impact on the world.
I am now able to acknowledge that I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to because at a very young age I embraced skills and attributes typically called "masculine". Feeling secure in my want to be in the company of men without seeing it as a need or threat to my capabilities is something I think came only when I started seeing the masculine and feminine traits within me as being equal. Being honest about the confidence and security that has come from a balance of male and female perspectives and guidance—that’s been a game changer in my life and in the understanding I have of my personal power.
If we want the future for all of us to be balanced, equal, different…we have to think differently.
In short, if we want equality, we have to see that as an inclusivity and balance between masculine and feminine, male and female, intuitive wisdom and articulated consciousness.
The way I see it, we are at a crossroad and the path we collectively choose will determine not only the lives of our daughters and youth, it is a decision that will shape how we see ourselves for perhaps the rest of our lives. We have momentum. We are reaching a watershed moment in our collective femininity that I hope we can take a moment to both enjoy, but also be really fucking purposeful about how we proceed. I see one path leading towards Female Power. I see another leading towards Balance. Do we want power for power's sake? Or do we want to strive for balance? I have no doubt in my mind that one day Female Power alone could achieve its agenda. Balance however is an evolving conversation between things, it requires understanding and equity in differences.
Balance is a step beyond power. It's reciprocal power in action.
I understand there is a wave of feminism breaching the shores that has young girls feeling confident in their abilities and has older women feeling stoked to see their hard work and efforts for qual rights and respect gain traction in the mainstream— its importance is not lost on me. At the end of the day though, the more allies we have and the more room we make at the table for those who have been traditionally left out as well as those we have considered guilty by association— the more solid a foundation we will build for an inclusive future. The more we focus and teach balance, the more empowered everyone will feel and the more stoked we'll all be about our future.
The Future is Female, I mean, I get it. And this could be understood and interpreted in as many ways as one could define feminine and masculine. But my gut reaction, my first impression says a slogan like this comes from anger. Fear. Misunderstanding. As women we it's ok be pissed about the cards we've been dealt. But isn't it more valuable and beneficial to work to change the game or create a whole new one versus try to get a new deal. The idea of “The Future is Female” feels like we are promising a different kind of inequality, like we've been duped into playing a shitty game with only one winner.
I have seen the result in my own vibration of a repellant attitude towards men and masculine attributes, whether conscious or not of it. It ends up feeling like I’m ignoring or repelling parts of myself. If I feel it and it’s invoked with a simple t-shirt slogan, I imagine men, or other people who are confident in their masculinity or identify as neither male nor female- they may feel a little left out of our future plans.
Another shirt has popped into my feed lately. I don't know why, but this one feels more like a conversation than a exclamation. It feels mutually beneficial—grateful for the rising tide of strong women and appreciative of the men who look forward to, and already appreciate their power. I would way rather excite men around me, everyone around me— weeding out the small minds and identifying allies vs. exclaim the future is all mine and make non-female identifying peeps feel icky in their belly or left out.
And they, we, all of us should get excited by strong women and feminine energy. When we are hyped on who we’re with and what we are collaborating to create, everyone wins.
So, at the end of the day, the tee shirt “The Future is Female” seems to be only part of the whole I want to see in our shared future. Until someone prints a t-shirt that says “The Future is A Sparkle Layer Cake of Rainbow Yum Yums For All To Enjoy—You, Me, the Critters and Oceans Too”, I gotta go with the second tee. I gotta go with an inclusive ideal for our future, even if it just starts with identifying dudes that are stoked on my strength and not intimidated by my potential, recognizing there are men out there excited by strong women and ready to be a team.