truth

I’m a day late but I don’t want to miss my opportunity to highlight International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day is a time to honor women and raise awareness about the unique obstacles they face around the world. This year’s theme is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”

Addressing gender injustice matters on an international level:

  • Two-thirds of the world’s children who receive less than four years of education are girls. This might explain why 70% of the 855 million illiterate adults in the world are female.
  • While women produce nearly 80% of the world’s food, they receive less than 10% of available agricultural assistance.
  • In every country on earth, women are paid less for doing the same work as men. In the U.S., women earn only 77 cents on the dollar paid to men; women of ethnic minorities earn considerably less.
  • After the career years, women are only half as likely as men to receive a pension, which will be half the amount awarded to men. This could explain why 75% of 85-year-old Social Security recipients are female and why women are almost twice as likely as men to spend their later years in poverty.
  • It has only been a little over 100 years since the first nation (New Zealand) granted women full voting rights. In the U.S., it took 70 years for the Suffrage Movement to reach this goal. As unbelievable as it may seem today, a common argument for denying women an equal vote was that a woman could not be expected to comprehend matters of politics and thus choose intelligently. In some countries, women still cannot vote.
  • Despite many international agreements affirming women’s human rights, girls and women are still much more likely than men to be poor, malnourished and illiterate, and to have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
  • Laws and customs often deny women the right to own land, inherit property establish credit, receive training or move up in their field of work.
  • Laws against domestic violence are often not enforced on behalf of women.

And it matters to me.

This is going to sound odd, but I was nearly 25 when I realized that I was a woman.

My natural interests and passions had not yet found a safe place to land.

This had always made me feel like a refugee, with nowhere to call home.

I had no concept of the beautiful sisterhood waiting out there for me.

And I didn’t know that I had a lot to discover about myself.

Where was my voice?

What did it sound like?

Did I even know what I wanted to say?

I took time to figure it out.

Hours and days and months of walking and writing and listening and testing the waters of connecting to–and articulating–my female identity.

And I will never again be silent.

Because I know that I am not the only woman who has ever felt, struggled and celebrated as I have.

And if other women do not yet know how to find their voices, it is clear that I must speak on their behalf.

This incredible beauty, this uniquely female voice must be heard.

We should speak.

I must admit, I sometimes find it useful in my practice to delineate the various typologies of personality as cats and hens and ducks and swans and so forth. If warranted, I might ask my client to assume for a moment that she is a swan who does not realize it. Assume also for a moment that she has been brought up by or is currently surrounded by ducks.

There is nothing wrong with ducks, I assure them, or with swans. But ducks are ducks and swans are swans. I like to use mice. What if you were raised by the mice people? But what if you’re, say, a swan.

But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but instead out came a honk every time? Wouldn’t you be the most miserable creature in the world?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. So why, if this is all so and too true, do women keep trying to bend and fold themselves into shapes that are not theirs? I must say, from years of clinical observation of this problem, that most of the time it is not because of deep-seated masochism or a malignant dedication to self-destruction or anything of that nature. More often it is because the woman simply doesn’t know any better. She is unmothered in this regard.

— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves