In the past hundred years or so, women have caused and experienced unprecedented social change. Whereas in previous years they were extremely limited in terms of their public power, they now have choices, experiences and opportunities. Many women are now playing multiple ‘roles’ - in addition to being a mother, a wife, and a daughter, they are also career women or running small businesses, writing, engaging in community work, active within politics, studying and many more things.
Steve Pavlina recently wrote a post in which he outlined his concept of what it meant to become a man. At the end he challenged his readers to write the opposing post - how to be a woman. Initially, I felt fairly excluded. What is there to stop any woman from meeting any of the points he makes? The answer is none, except possibly inclination. After some thought, however, I decided that there are some fundamental value decisions that women may have a different perspective on.
1. Take control, accept responsibility
Women tend to be raised to believe that group consensus matters. They will seek approval from their family and friend before major choices. They may give way to people they perceive as having more authority. All of this can be very positive at times - but it’s important to understand that ultimately your life is your responsibility. The choices you make should reflect your values, not those of the people around you. If you want to trek across three continents on your own, then you should. Yes, it will be dangerous, and yes you may face dangers that are overwhelming, but that’s life and that’s how we grow.
To put this in perspective, when I was 18 I traveled to the USA (I’m English) to meet and stay with friends I had only spoken to online. I repeated this when I was 20, but in Europe. That first trip I made was the first time I had ever flown, and I made a transatlantic flight by myself with no guarantee of who I was meeting. It was very scary, but I would never take that experience back. I learned more about myself in those two weeks than I had done in the entire previous year.
2. It’s okay not to do everything
There are women who manage to balance a very successful career with bringing up several children and being a loving wife. Usually they succeed, however, because they love what they do. If you hate kids then don’t have them. If you hate corporate life then don’t try and be a high-powered business woman. There is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on your children and bringing them up well - and your kids will thank you for it.
I once heard a child say to his mother “We are not your children. Your business is your children”. Don’t do two things badly - do the thing you really want to do well.
3. It’s okay to do everything
Long gone are the days when women, once pregnant, were consigned to a house. Now you have incredible opportunities. Most employers should offer flexible working options, so that you can work and raise your children. Equally, men are much more open to the idea that they are equally responsible for bringing up children and doing household chores.
Additional income from a second working adult can spell the difference between no investments and future wealth. Equally, a job means you can maintain independent friends, income and hobbies.
There are also plenty of options for the home business owner. The internet is an incredibly powerful tool - use it wisely.
4. Be honest, not manipulative
Women tend to be better at manipulating people. They are often more aware of social nuance, and can ‘read’ hidden fears and desires much more astutely than some men. Used wisely, this can smooth over potential conflict, and allow people to communicate more effectively. Used badly, this can result in manipulation. Taking advantage of people and their vulnerabilities for your own personal gain is never okay. Sometimes expressing yourself honestly is the best path, even if it does lead to conflict.
5. Speak out
Women were silenced for thousands of years. Their writing was consigned to the literary pulp bin. They were not educated for fear their brains couldn’t take it. But they still managed to produce classic works, they still managed to make significant social changes, and they still managed to get and use power effectively. Right now we are the most educated and the most powerful that we have ever been.
We have also been ruled by a hierarchy of rich, white men for thousands of years. When they act according to their interests it is not in the best interest of everyone else. We finally are starting to see diversity in the people who make decisions that affect us all. The more diverse the experiences that make up a group, the more adaptable that group is. The more varied the skill set, the more varied the knowledge, the more resources a group has. Every group of people has a unique history, a unique perspective, and unique guidance to offer.
If you have something to say, then say it. Ask questions in class. Suggest improvements to your boss. Reveal corruption and crime to other people so that collectively we can deal with it. Be an example to other women - that we matter, that our problems are important, and that our suggestions are valuable.
6. Listen and learn
Part of speaking out involves listening. Dismissing male experience and male problems is as wrong as men dismissing female experience and female problems. Right now we are at a turning point of human social evolution. Everything the individual does impacts the larger social organism. Equally, the larger social organism impacts every individual. If China pollutes the skies, then we all feel the impact. If America declares war on a particular country, then every country has to deal with the aftermath - whether it is the refugees, or the economical downturn.
Therefore, someone else’s problem is our problem too. If we don’t help them create a solution that benefits everyone, then we may end up negatively impacted by their personal solution. On a smaller scale, if someone is abused as a child and does not receive help and attention from the people around them, they are very likely to abuse others when older.
In medical terms, prevention is better than cure.
7. Don’t wait for someone else
Traditionally, it was men who began courting and who proposed, and it was men who made major financial and life changing decisions within the family unit. But do you honestly want to sit around waiting for someone else to make up their mind to ask the question? If you want something, you have to take action to get it. That means popping the question. It means deciding where your money goes. It means working out what is important to you, and taking steps to achieve it.
It all comes back to equal opportunity - and equal responsibility.
8. Be fluid
Women are cyclical. Their hormones change, their moods and focus change. Our cycles are not something we should fight and struggle against, as that is tantamount to struggling against your own body. Equally, our cycles should not be allowed to rule our lives. We have to make the decisions to understand our bodies and what they need. We need to take advantage of the different parts of our cycle.
I am only just starting to understand my own mood and focus changes, but already the difference it has made is amazing. Instead of struggling to complete tasks that I ’should’ do, I do the tasks that are related to my focus. I’ve noticed that during the first half of the cycle I am very sociable, very outward orientated, and very goal focused. During the second half I draw inwards, I become more concerned with myself, my immediate environment, and my health.
Now clearly I can’t quit working for two weeks out of every four, but what I can do is ensure that difficult and time-consuming tasks are completed in the first half of my cycle, and that easier or more personal projects are completed in the second half.
Listen to your body. It knows what it needs.
9. Eat Well
I’ve rarely met a woman who didn’t have some sort of issue with food. From fad diets to binging and detoxing, from hyper-controlled portion sizes to complete chaos. Food is a very fundamental part of our health and our social lives. The media in particular is very fickle when it comes to how it talks about women and their body shapes.
We all know that being undernourished is unhealthy and that being obese is unhealthy. There are a vast range of ideal weights however, and we all have one that is appropriate for us. Far more important than our weight is our happiness, our confidence and our personality.
Food is here to be enjoyed. It is here to be colorful, interesting and to replenish us. Half a celery stick and a piece of lettuce is not enough. It is much better to eat lots of varied foods, and exercise than it is to restrict calorie intake and remain sedentary.
Aim for optimum health, not optimum weight.
10. Accept your sexuality and love your body
You are beautiful. You are a sexual being. Enjoy sex, don’t do anything you don’t want to do, experiment, and don’t be afraid to take control once in a while. Sex is a wonderful thing, but it takes a bit of work and experimentation to understand it. Masturbation is a great way to gain confidence and knowledge before inviting someone else in. It’s okay to have one night stands as long as everyone is honest with each other, and everyone stays safe (use condoms!) It’s okay to wait for the one person you are sure about, even if it takes a while, as long as you are making yourself happy meanwhile. It’s okay to have fantasies. It’s okay to be single. It’s okay to be in relationship as long as you feel loved and safe.
Got comments? Disagree? Every woman is unique, and so is every man. So feel free to share your thoughts - they are all valuable!