Many of us are acutely aware of the harmful messages our world sends to men and women. These messages put both genders in a box that’s difficult to get out of. For men, the messages center around “manning up.” For women, they center around “sexing up.” This post is for the women.
The world objectifies women on a daily basis, telling us our worth is tied to our looks and male attention. Every ad we look at, magazine we read and TV show we watch sends us messages that we have to be thin, pretty and sexy in order to matter and be valued. The more attention we receive, the greater value we have. We get caught in a trap of wanting to be nice and pretty so others will like us. This trap causes many of us to lose ourselves in service of others.
I’ve bought into these messages many times—both consciously and unconsciously. When I was younger, I was the first one to laugh at a cute guy either putting down another girl because of her body/looks or putting me “up” because of mine. I’m ashamed to admit I bought into these messages hook, line and sinker. In college, I felt utterly unworthy because I didn’t have the guys falling all over me. Intensify this feeling tenfold when I was with my best friend and college roommate, who happened to be beautiful and Swiss (I kid you not). Ugh. I can bring myself right back there just thinking of all the guys who looked past me and drooled over her (whom I still love like a sister). I struggled far too long trying to prove my worth rather than own it. I watched countless other girls do the same thing—while the guys somehow got a free pass. The number of unattractive, overweight, mean guys with beautiful, smart, model-like girls always shocked me—and still does today. Although our world speaks about female equality, the reality does not play out that way—not in the job force, in homes, in politics or in the world. Although we have come a long way from the women who came before us—we still have far to go.
For true change to happen, we have to recognize where these messages affect us without our even knowing it. We have to dare to see when, how and why we collude with these harmful messages. Every time we:
• Fail to report sexual harassment or rape—we collude.
• Stay silent to sexism—we collude.
• Laugh at sexist jokes—we collude.
• Blame rape on the victim—we collude.
• Get angrier at the victim for reporting rape than at the perpetrator—we collude.
• Attack other females about what they’re wearing, what they weigh or how they look—we collude.
• Fail to ask for a raise because we think we have to prove ourselves until our boss can’t miss how great we are and will magically offer it—we collude.
• Tell our sons they throw/run/cry like a girl—we collude.
• Sex ourselves up and/or dummy ourselves down—we collude.
• Minimize the actions of men as “locker room talk” or “boys will be boys”—we collude.
• Fail to believe the woman who says she was sexually assaulted by the powerful movie star or politician or professional athlete—we collude.
Every time we collude, we help these messages thrive. When we collude, it means we have bought into the very messages that keep us down. Colluding makes us complicit in keeping ourselves down. It makes us complicit in keeping all women down.
Every woman in the world is of equal worth to every other human being in the world—regardless of gender, power, money, looks, weight or influence. We are equal. We are worthy. We ALL matter. Until we all learn to own our worth and stop trying to prove it, we will forever be struggling to get equal pay, to be in loving relationships and to speak with clarity and confidence in every arena there is—professional and personal. It’s time we stopped struggling. It’s time we stopped buying into toxic messages about women. It’s time we took our place in the world as equals. It’s time we stopped proving our worth and, instead, simply own our worth every minute of every day with every person, job or situation we encounter.
Challenge: Own your worth. Do not tie your worth to your looks, who you attract, what you have or what you don’t have. Stop colluding with toxic messages that tell you you’re not enough. Speak your truth. Report rape/harassment/assault if it happens to you and support victims when it happens to them. Ask for the raise; don’t wait for it. Fall for the nice guy who treats you well, not the popular one who treats you poorly. And support other women; don’t be threatened by them. We need each other!