Feeling Called to Action, Ready to Speak Up for Women’s Equality and be a Feminist

Thursday, March 08, 2018 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is the Time is Now.

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Around the world events are being run by women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, political parties and media. In London they are celebrating women in Technology; in Alberta the focus is on influential women. Brisbane is hosting a fun run while Melbourne’s theme is 1000 Women, 1000 Futures. In Vancouver they are presenting Making the Case for Women’s Equality: Reframing a Hyper-Sexualized and Pornographic Culture. In Ontario they are hosting a Shefights amateur Mathai event; in Dubai there is a women’s Art Expo and in Nigeria the main event features Fashion Business. The possibilities to get involved are myriad, with something to inspire everyone.

The Women’s March movement has shown endurance from its inception, with more than 120,000 protestors gathering in New York City advocating for causes from reproductive freedom to immigrant’s rights. According to a statement made in Vox on January 20, 2018, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Movements like #MeToo and #PressforProgress are calls to action to end patriarchy and support gender parity.

The lack of gender parity in education is one of the most important situations that needs to be addressed. It continues to be a significant factor in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, Africa, and Afghanistan, to name a few. In a powerful Ted Talk titled, To Learn is To be Free, Shameem Akhtar advocates for change in opportunities for education in Pakistan. Shameen is a trailblazer for a woman’s right to an education in her community. Posing as a boy to receive her own education, her success planted the seeds of change for other women and girls.

 

Global Sisterhood is a movement of women devoted to transforming themselves and transforming the world together. Their vision is one of a world where women respect, trust, and uplift each other.

You don’t have to join a movement to make a difference though. You can start right now, by making a conscious choice to empower the women in your community. You can notice when you think or speak judging statements and reframe them, choosing to practice compassion and empathy instead.

Currently I’m reading Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara. One of the activities in the work book was to explore female role models in your life with the goal of identifying their qualities that inspire you. My list was long, but my top three were Oprah, Margaret Atwood, and Brene Brown. Oprah for her awareness and commitment to make a difference, Margaret for the power of her voice in the written word, and Brene for her willingness to be vulnerable and address social issues. It is my wish to embody those attributes in my commitment to myself and to making change in the world.

Living as an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed incredible change since my arrival in May of 2015, and progress for women is no exception. In October 2017 King Salman decreed women would be allowed to drive, to be effective in June 2018. Women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study or make complaints. There are more women in the workforce. Recently I read an article where a religious cleric advocated that women should no longer be required to wear abayas; that it should be a choice.

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Choice, freedom, and equality are the central themes of feminism. Unfortunately, the ideology of feminism has been given a bad reputation. Some men who feel threatened by women reclaiming their power would have you believe that all feminists are lesbian man-haters, but these ridiculous statements are merely smokescreens to distract men and women from creating real and honest change. Writer and self-proclaimed feminist, Ngozi Adichie, speaks passionately in her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. She urges us all to be begin to dream about and plan for a better world, where men and women all take a stand for equality and women no longer need to shrink themselves to feed a man’s ego.

 

It isn’t only women who suffer from the restraints of a patriarchal legacy. Men suffer too. They are driven to be hard, macho, insensitive and unfeeling. They are told not to cry and to buck up. Men need to be given the space to embrace their fullness as human beings. They are so much more than the genetic result of the y chromosome.

As for me, I feel called to contribute using the talents and gifts I have been given. I choose to be a positive advocate for change by using my most powerful tool, which is my voice. I choose to speak my truth, to be open and honest in my conversations. I will continue to write my blogs and write my books. I will not tone myself down to make other people more comfortable.

I choose to change the world by changing mine. To quote Maya Angelou, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” I may not be a young girl, but I’ve still got some ass-kicking left in me.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to action, ready to speak up for women’s equality and be a feminist.

Feeling Concerned about Media-influenced Ideas on Women and Beauty

 

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A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I came upon a video that caught my eye. It was posted by OSKARTBRAND.com and was titled, Stay Beautiful: Ugly Truth in Beauty Magazines. Watching this video, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness and concern for the self-image of women and young girls in first world society.

 

 

“85% of beauty magazines’ content is dedicated to making you feel imperfect and inadequate,” was one of the quotes that got me thinking. I’ve never been a huge beauty magazine consumer, but I do pick them up here and again, looking for the newest fashion or styles. I have found the colourful and glossy pages of ultra-thin models and outrageous fashion designs to be more amusing than having anything to do with me and my self-image. At the same time, I know I have felt pressure, especially in my younger days, to look as perfect as the women depicted. In my opinion, magazines aren’t the only culprits. Music videos, television commercials and other forms of media often portray unrealistic and sexist imagery of women.

“70% of women feel guilty, ashamed and depressed after only 3 minutes or reading a fashion magazine,” is another quote from the video. It saddens me to think of women altering their feelings of self based on reading a magazine, and I have to wonder what kind of self-sabotaging behaviour it is to continue to buy and read material that has that effect on you. At the same time, you can’t always escape all of the media pressure to look a certain way. I have talked to so many women, especially young women, who feel inadequate or even disgusted by their bodies.

“In the US and EU 50 million women suffer from eating disorders.” What a mind-boggling statistic! Though horrific, it is not surprising at all. Almost every young woman I know personally struggles on some level with body image and eating. I will leave their stories for them to tell, but I will share my own personal history.

The first time I consciously remember questioning the perfection of my body was in grade one. I was six years old. My teacher casually suggested I sit beside another girl in the class who was “chubby too”. I hadn’t realized I was chubby until she labeled me as so.

I officially started dieting to change my body when I was fourteen. I was five foot four and 110 lbs. Obviously not fat. But I didn’t have the body shape of a long, lean torso with a flat stomach and I thought I could diet my way to achieve that. Of course, I couldn’t, so it failed. Instead of recognizing the futility of dieting, I began a long and self-deprecating journey trying to find the right diet and exercise program that would have me looking good enough.

Over the years I struggled with poor eating behaviours, using food to fill up other voids and then dieting to take off the extra pounds. I’m pretty sure I messed up my body’s natural metabolism. It’s likely why I went from having a full, thick head of hair to hair that is fine and thin. I never achieved the unattainable model-inspired body I hoped for, even at my best.

I’d like to say it was the wisdom that accompanies maturity that changed things for me. And although that certainly contributed, the real change came for me after I had a mental breakdown in my early forties. I made a decision to change my life, and part of my journey toward health included a new attitude towards myself of love and acceptance. It is my belief that my relationship with God and my focus on my spiritual self created the opportunity for a new vision of myself to unfold.

I’m 50 years old now. I don’t weigh the least I’ve ever weighed nor do I weigh the most. Frankly, I’m not all that interested in a number on the scale anymore. I’m more attuned to how I feel. Even though I’m not as fit as I’d like to be currently, I’m gentle with myself. I just finished battling Lyme’s disease for two years. I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes since I was 24. I have Thyroid Disease. And I am a self-proclaimed Foodie and Wine-lover. Instead of focusing on myself and how I look, I cherish every single moment of my life and focus on how I can fulfill a higher purpose of spreading love and light to others.

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my 50th birthday

This seems like a great place to transition into a more positive discussion. After-all, it’s wise to address the issues, not put your head in the sand. Still, there is always a silver lining, even if sometimes you have to look for it. I set out to find examples of changing attitudes and I wasn’t disappointed. What follows are just a few.

At Refinery29.com they are “actively and powerfully spreading the message of body positivity… (stating) stretch mark and scars, rolls of skin, indicate what a body has been through and what it can do.” That had me remembering how hard I cried when I discovered the multitudes of stretch marks covering my stomach after I birthed my first child. Now my vision of those marks has been transformed into a sort of warrior pride. I feel the ropey skin and recall with fondness the birth of my children and experience deep gratitude for my abundant blessings.

The Dove beauty campaign states as it’s vision: “We want women and girls of all ages to see beauty as a source of confidence, not anxiety.” They believe in the power of education and deliver in-school programs to young people to address the growing concern of poor body image in young girls. I can’t help but concur that the solution is education, not just of women and girls, but as a society as whole.

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“We equip women and girls of all ages with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image,” says the About-face.org site mission statement. The site deals with body image, health and weight, mental health, and eating disorders. It provides education and resources with a click of a button, on-line.

The bottom line is that there is a growing awareness of the unhealthy images of women in media and the increase in poor self-esteem and body image in women and young girls. There are people speaking out about it. There are educational campaigns aimed at changing it. So yeah, I’m feeling concerned about media-influenced ideas on women and beauty. I’m also feeling hopeful and optimistic that the future of humanity will evolve into one of greater understanding, equality and liberty for all.