On Womanhood and the International Day for Women
As I look back on the decades I’ve lived, I realize I’ve spent so much of that time hiding, making myself more acceptable, curling inward so I don’t stand out.
As a child I spent a lot of time escaping slaps and punches. As a tween, I hunched for a few years to hide the fact that I might have breasts. Teenage I spent concealing my inner fire, my love for the arts, struggling instead with math and science–a decision I had no hand in.
I spent my youth not being too loud, or angry, or assertive. I tucked away my anguish at being discriminated against behind a smile. Of course, as a woman, I needed to smile. To get a job done, I had to coax and persuade, while my male counterparts could just lay it down in bare terms: get this done by this deadline.
‘Just do it’ is not an instruction women can give at work. Or anywhere for that matter, come to think of it. You must be nourishing, courteous, affable at all times, even when someone is clearing abusing you, and their position.
Whether single or in a relationship, you must shape yourself in the containers you’re poured in, bloom where you’re planted. If you don’t, well, you’re a bitch, aren’t you. Too aggressive, mouthy, crazy, hormonal. While I’ve had an extremely supportive marriage, I’ve had to keep quiet about my deliberate decision to remain child-free. Relatives, friends, strangers have tried to tell me I might be making the wrong decision about my life and my body. A man’s business is his own, but a woman’s business is everyone’s business–random strangers feel inspired to give a woman advice she doesn’t need and hasn’t asked for.
In publishing, I’ve been unfailingly courteous to those who’ve been kind to me, and even to those who have been unkind. I’ve taken misogyny and racism on my chin. When someone asks me why I write, I tell them it is because I feel compelled to.
While that is true, it often goes beyond compulsion. On some days I want to write a story because it lets me unfurl–stretch myself to my true size. You can’t write a first draft with diffidence and compromise, you do it from a place of confidence in the face of uncertainty, and power in your own being.
I’ve written before about womanhood on International Women’s Day, but not about my own womanhood. How, in order to exist in today’s world I’ve often had to reduce myself in conscious ways in order to survive, and subconscious ways due to the society and family I’ve grown up in.
In the world of writing, when it is just me and the page, I’m unapologetic in both my power and my vulnerability, with all my angles and my un-shiny bits, in my absolute personhood that doesn’t need permission.
I can’t wait for the day when my everyday life is like the days spent writing first drafts, of boundless space, unfettered freedom, and untrammeled imagination. Can’t wait for a time this is the case for all women, in all countries, in all strata of society. A time when women can be safe, free, and have equal rights to exist and earn, without apology or explanation.
Can’t wait for that time when we won’t need a women’s day or a women’s month to spread awareness, because every day of the year will be a women’s day.
Do you celebrate women’s day or the women’s month? What do you like to do in order to celebrate? Irrespective of whether you’re a woman, where do you feel at your most powerful and free?
My crime novel, The Blue Bar is out this year with Thomas & Mercer. Add it to Goodreads or order it to make my day. Adding the book as a Want to Read, or voting on any of the lists it is on is a free way to support an author.
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