From the desk of Crystal Andrus:
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog explaining why women needed “Women Only” organizations. It received many comments from both men and women. Click here to read that blog and feel free to leave a post.
That blog created so much emotion in fact, that I decided to continue the conversation. So let’s explore together what happened to women over the last forty years and where it has left us today . . .
When feminism came along it empowered women to fight for their rights, to stand up for themselves, screaming out that self-love was what mattered most. That the supposed love too many women were living with was without essence and was, in fact, really only oppression. The patriarchal world that had, up until then, dictated their every choice was suddenly denounced as many women ditched their bras, rejected sexual comments, and viewed lipstick and lingerie as frivolous and exploitive. Many also viewed those who dyed their hair blonder or wore their bras tighter as the adversaries. Demanding that their own identities finally be heard, many feminists were angry and tired of being demoralized. They knew what their foremothers had gone through and most simply wanted to change the world for women to come. But the world viewed them as angry men-haters, and many were. It also assumed that those with the loudest voices were lesbians. It left many strong and determined women completely confused about their own beauty, love, and life itself. Nevertheless, they fought on …
At the same time another group of women began to emerge—those who depended all the more upon their looks and sexuality to achieve status and success. While peering over at the strong and mighty advances of the feminists their own anger brewed. Many felt ashamed of the way they’d allowed men to manipulate them, yet they depended upon the attention and fringe benefits that it brought. Deep down most secretly worried about their own future, when their looks would dwindle and their breasts would sag:
Would they still be beautiful?
Would they still be taken care of?
Would they still be loved?
Too fearful to look back and yet even more afraid to look forward, many got caught in the trap of disillusionment as they also felt panicked about their beauty, love, and life itself.
A civil war was looming and the lines were drawn. Those who rejected beauty as their means to advance and those who used it, with the rest of women caught somewhere in the middle. The terrified women, left on the sidelines, were mostly dominated mothers and grandmothers, who were so shocked and nervous over what was happening that they clung to their aprons all the more, figuring that if they just buried their heads in the sand, cooked another meal, darned another sock, and pretended that everything was just fine, that everything would be. So self-deprived, most of their needs whether sexual, emotional, or intellectual, were often overlooked. These were women who had lost their passion. These were women who felt totally powerless. These were many of our mothers …
Nothing like this had ever happened on such
a grand scale to women before. They weren’t just at combat
with men, they had engaged in a battle with each other.
Not realizing that they were all desperate for the same things—respect, love, appreciation, and contentment. To just be and to know that they, alone, were enough!
Through the eighties and nineties the battle intensified and soon everyone was demanding and expecting the same equalities as men, without realizing they were no longer gaining ground. Many women in the corporate world were turning into little replicas of men. Believing that if they talked louder, walked faster, glared harder, and showed less compassion and more force they would finally get the respect they deserved. Not recognizing that true power could never be demanded or enforced and that it only comes from embracing our femininity, sexuality, and intelligence with passion, acceptance, understanding, strength, grace, gentleness, and kindness. It then transcends when we welcome all others with the same honor and dignity.
Instead, many women were convinced that once men were made accountable for their “wrongdoings” that their lives would work out and they would find serenity, peace, and soon … very soon, they would feel beautiful. But that didn’t seem to ensue as women seemed to be even less happy about their looks, bodies, and sexuality.
What was happening?
Well, we watched our mothers fight the fight (or depending on your age, you fought it yourself), yet we intrinsically felt their deep yearning to still nurture and love. They were so confused—trying to be feminists, rejecting the beauty myth, still all the while instinctively knowing that love and companionship was what mattered most. It was no one’s fault but the messages were mixed and the beliefs that most passed down to their daughters were shaky. We were told that men exploited us and that beauty wasn’t important, as they continued to read the magazines, tighten their girdles, and coat their skin with the latest wrinkle cream. They swallowed the “pill,” so to speak, and then got mad that is was provided. We, then, quite literally swallowed a few more, often by the name of Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or Effexor (the total sales world-wide of anti-depressants in 2002 was nearly 27 million prescriptions), in an attempt to numb our scattered emotions and frustrations, all the while angrily comparing ourselves to the 17 year-old model on the cover of the magazine that we’d just bought.
And, yes, although we are much further ahead now than ever before too many women are still in a frustrated, even frantic state, listening to the unrelenting disparagement of their chattering mind, telling them what they should’ve done and still need to do, while pointing out the more perfect outfit, the more perfect home, the more perfect marriage, and the more perfect woman.
We, women, like it or not, have allowed ourselves to play a game we can never win. A game based on conforming and changing. On competing and comparing. On starving and denying. On hurting and hoarding. Sad, it seems that we know more about what celebrities are wearing and who they are romancing than we do about our own needs and desires. We know more about the latest fashion trend than we do about our own purpose and passion. It is sad that we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into it. But I do believe this is changing. Slowly but surely, we are changing …
We are realizing that our magnificent beauty and strength will only transcend when we join together as sisters—as mirror reflections of our own beautiful souls. To breathe each other in! To celebrate our splendor and rejoice in our power, knowing that we are exactly as we should be. Where stock market portfolios and perfume can go hand-in-hand and where we happily regard men as our much needed partners and no longer our oppressors. Where beauty can be celebrated with wild long black hair or seized in a short blonde crop. Where breast size has nothing to do with intelligence or sincerity and where we lovingly respect and honor our femininity, without pressure or expectation. It is time that we stop living with this fear-driven force and begin accessing the unstoppable and limitless source of authentic power that is deep within each of us. Lipstick and lingerie are not the enemy yet neither is detachment and autonomy.
The time has come for women to enter
into a new era where we “claim who we are!”
Where we embrace our differences and accept and revere what makes us so uniquely women. Where we no longer gauge our success and beauty using each other as our barometers, or compete to get the “best man” that will give us the best life.
It is ultimately time to appreciate ourselves and each other—consciously excited that beauty is diverse and more importantly, that nothing, not even time, can steal it away. As I tell my daughters every day, “Love your body and it will love you back!”
The SWAT Institute is dedicated to this very cause: Women empowering women; celebrating our successes while still healing our wounds. We are the next era of the women’s movement and we invite you to join us in strength and spirit!
I encourage you to leave your thoughts below!