Posted by Maya Paley
It’s that time of year again! College students will be returning home for the holidays for some much needed R&R after weeks of exams and term papers that seemed never to end. Nonetheless, for college seniors approaching graduation, like me, this time of the year brings an ominous sense of dread along with the usual holiday cheer. Our impending graduation always seems to become the center of conversation at the holiday table, and we are bombarded with the same question from uncles, aunts, and grandparents: “what are you going to do after graduation?”
This question not only shakes college seniors to their core because many of us feel like we should know what we want to do by the time we graduate and do not, but also because we hear this question with a twinge of accusation. For those of us who are lucky enough to know what we want to do by the time we have graduated college, we fear that our career choice will not live up to our family’s prescripted list of expectations—lawyer, doctor, engineer.
As a Women’s Studies major, I have always felt like my course of study was not valued by family members, strangers, or society, in general. When I proudly announce my major, people are not shy to let their opinion be known. According to Ms. Magazine, Women’s Studies, as a major, has been around for 40 years, is offered at 700 universities, and is among one of the fastest growing majors in the country. Despite its growth, Women’s Studies still does not get the respect it deserves, and I have constantly had to defend my major from people who say it is not needed anymore or who challenge its validity to academia.
Women’s Studies is still needed because half the population is still restricted by their gender. Although Women’s Studies is predicated on feminism, it is not just the study of women but of all marginalized people who have been oppressed because of their sexuality, race, class, and/or disability. Throughout history, the story of these people was denied, rewritten, and made to be invisible; however, Women’s Studies prioritizes their history and viewpoints in looking at the world and enacting real change. Women’s Studies has not been properly recognized for its contributions to academia, because the knowledge of women and other oppressed people is still subordinated, along with their social status. By defending Women’s Studies, I am not just defending the major, but also the unique knowledge of women and other marginalized people, as well as the equal opportunities we are entitled to in the university and beyond.
People still contend that “Women’s Studies is not a real major.” To this I reply that it is the most real major there is: it is grounded in people’s actual lived experiences and makes visible the systems of inequality that have material effects in their lives. It is also a major that makes you think critically about your own life and engages you in an interdisciplinary field of study that you can actually use to change the world. Women’s Studies students are not just students; they are activists who are engaged with the politics in their communities, nation, and world. Throughout my education, I have been active in various social justice oriented organizations, which has allowed me to bring theory into praxis. According to Ms. Magazine, 72% of Women’s Studies students apply their education in organizational settings. This is proof that if there is any major that prepares their students for “real life,” Women’s Studies is it!
As a Women ’s Studies major, I could be a lawyer or a doctor; my choices are not limited. But I would rather work in a legislative, nonprofit, or social services setting and I know my family will be proud of me. After all, it was the Jewish values they taught me at an early age that inspired me to advocate for others and stay true to my convictions no matter what anyone says.
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October 24, 2012 | 2:03 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
We are missing something in the Jewish community of Southern California: women’s programming.
As you can see from my bio, I write this blog through my position as the Program Director of the Jewish Women’s Conference of Southern California. The conference is coming up on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at UCLA, and every Jewish woman in Southern California should be attending this incredible event. I may be tooting my own horn, but it’s really the speakers who are going to make this conference so amazing. Plus, I have yet to pull a shameless plug through this blog, and as we say: If not now, when?
For those of you who did not hear about or attend the conference last year (the first year of this event), it was the brainchild of National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles, NA’AMAT USA/Western Area, and Hadassah Southern California. Leaders of these three prominent and important Jewish women’s organizations got together and decided that it was time we had a serious program dedicated to connecting, educating, empowering, and inspiring the Jewish women of Southern California. The conference was a half-day event with four panels and 200 people were essentially packed into NCJW/LA’s Council House on Fairfax.
Following the conference, it wasn’t hard to figure out that this was something Jewish women had been craving for a while. Based on a recent survey from last year’s Jewish Women’s Conference attendees:
• Almost 90% of them feel that Jewish organizations, centers, and synagogues in Southern California either do not or only sometimes create enough dialogue and conversation on women’s issues.
• Almost 90% of them feel that Jewish organizations, centers, and synagogues in Southern California either do not or only sometimes do a good job of connecting Jewish women to each other and to the greater Jewish community.
I’m not saying there’s nothing going on for women in the Jewish community, but it’s not enough, and much of it involves asking women to donate money rather than empowering them to try something new, to be activists, to learn about and support each other, and to create community. Women want to learn about women’s issues. Jewish women want to learn about women’s issues and women’s issues within Judaism. We want to meet each other. We want to learn, grow, and help each other learn and grow. Not a single one of the 46 speakers at this conference is receiving an honorarium, which truly exemplifies the desire these women have to give back to our community.
What takes place at the Jewish Women’s Conference?
In a nutshell: 350 attendees, 44 panelists, two keynote speakers, 11 workshops, one DJ, bone marrow testing, information tables, live-tweeting, breakfast, lunch, and a networking reception.
The longer version:
We’ll spend the morning learning about feminism, activism, women in Israel, and the recession’s effects on women. In the afternoon, we’ll delve into women in Judaism, professional development, financial literacy, life transitions, and diversity.
Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Bootcamp 2.0, will be delivering the morning keynote speech on “Our Call to Service” and Nina Tassler, President of CBS Entertainment, will cover “Crafting our Jewish Feminist Narrative” during her lunch keynote address. And we won’t let you leave until you’ve had a chance to schmooze, have wine and cheese, and network with other like-minded, inspiring women who want to make a difference.
I wasn’t there last year—I was living in Israel so I have an alibi. But you don’t even take my word for it. I’ll leave you with these quotes from women who attended the conference last year:
“It motivated me in the sense that I am more aware of certain issues and that the help and dedication of just one woman can do so much.”
- Kimberly Kandel
“I have always been an activist on various levels (more so in my youth) and this conference re-motivated me!”
- Joan Wine
“If women don’t speak up for women’s rights, then who will?”
- Gloria Shell Mitchell
“One woman expressed her fears about the next generation being too quiet. That really stood out to me. I need to learn to find my voice on the issues that matter to me.”
Register today at www.jwcsc.org. I hope to see you there!
October 11, 2012 | 11:40 am
Posted by Maya Paley
We have removed ourselves from the struggle, taken a long nap, and created rumors amongst ourselves to make us feel as though things are better. The rumor is that gender discrimination no longer exists in the workplace and in our career growth.
I keep meeting feminists from previous generations who ask me why young women aren’t standing up and protesting for their rights anymore and why there is so much apathy among young women today. I tell them I have no idea what they’re talking about. I work for a women’s organization and have always surrounded myself with activist women who care deeply about women’s rights. I’m probably the naïve one here, although it does feel good to defend my generation.
There were two op-eds worth reading in the LA Times this past Sunday. The first, by Lynn Povich, the first female senior editor of Newsweek, discussed Povich’s historic lawsuit against the publication 40 years ago for gender discrimination. The second op-ed, by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett, dispelled the myth that women now out-earn men.
Equal wages, ending sexism in the workplace, and the de-stigmatization of women with careers: These were hot issues women dealt with in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. At the very least we started to deal with them. We had momentum for a good minute and then we got tired of dealing with our own issues and became obsessed with international women’s rights. International women’s rights is by no means less important than women’s rights at home, but prioritizing it does indicate that we are in denial about how much women have advanced in the United States.
Povich wrote, “Ambition is still stigmatized in women.” She highlighted data indicating that when men are successful, they are better liked, but when women are more successful, they are liked less. The message we’re still sending women today, according to Povich, is “give up if you want to have a family.”
Rivers and Barnett shared how “women’s earnings have not kept up with their gains in educational attainment” and that “women start behind and never catch up” with male earnings for the same jobs. There was a study going around that 1 in 4 women are now out-earning men in America. Rivers and Barnett explained that this statistic only applies to low-income workers. In other words: no, we’re not out-earning anyone.
Povich and her colleagues sued Newsweek in 1970 because of the obvious lack of opportunity to move up in their careers and because of the blatant acts of sexism in the workplace. Nowadays we have laws against these things, but women working at Newsweek today claim to still have similar challenges of not getting promotions as quickly as men do and of being treated inappropriately by male colleagues.
I don’t have that problem because I’m not in a male-dominated field. But my friends do. I have heard countless stories from women friends who are lawyers, consultants, business managers, and journalists that they are not getting promotions as often as male counterparts and that they are worried about being perceived as too demanding (aka bitchy) if they ask for raises or better assignments. They say they are expected to do more work than their male colleagues.
Povich recommends documenting everything and using that to create change in your work environment. That seems like a lot to ask of someone. It is easy to document things, but much harder to actually use that information to confront your supervisor. Even for me, I know that as I have become more confrontational about what I feel I deserve from people in my life, both in and out of the workplace, I have often worried that the person on the other end will no longer like me. When a man is demanding, we may not like him as much, but we usually respect him even more afterward. Obviously I’m generalizing here, but the point is to show that there many of us are still thinking these ways, albeit unconsciously.
I am trying to execute a personal decision to prefer respect to being liked, but I do not know if this mentality will help women either.
As we are reaching a period of complacency and discomfort with the concept of feminism, we are becoming our own enemies. Women see other women getting promoted and gossip about them rather than applaud them. We see women asking for raises and we wish they would shut up so our reputations won’t be tarnished. And we hear rumors that we’re doing better as a whole so we go to sleep content, even though we know that we are not earning what our male colleagues are. We sit around and ask each other how we can have it all and go back and forth with debates about whether or not we can or cannot rather than trying to change the system that makes it so difficult to have it all in the first place.
Have we given up?
September 25, 2012 | 1:03 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
This may sound self-centered, but the main person I need to ask for forgiveness from over this past year is me. Now hold on a minute, allow me to explain.
I have a tendency to be way too hard on myself. I expect to achieve everything right away, to do so well, and to get it all done at the same time. I am angry with myself when I cannot make it all happen. I have guilt about the goals I did not accomplish, the people I did not help, the friends I did not call, and the family I did not spend enough time with. When I’m not feeling guilty about the past, I have anxiety about trying to do it all in the future. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
Over the past year I’ve thought a lot about how much I envy my grandmother. She is 86 years old and she knows she’s had a satisfying life. She traveled all over the world, fell in love, spent her life with her soul mate, had three healthy children and six grandchildren, and she’s still healthy and independent. If I were her, I would feel free.
While driving myself to LAX a month or so ago, “The Logical Song” by Supertramp came on the radio at 4 am. I’ve been obsessively listening to it on repeat every day since then:
“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical.”
I haven’t been living an adult life for all that long, but I’m already exhausted. How did my parents and grandparents do this? Supertramp is so right: Growing up and becoming a responsible human being makes you cynical. At least for me, adulthood has added weight to my responsibility to help other human beings and to be a dependable friend, daughter, sister, employee, activist, etc.
While it’s good to strive to be the best I can be, it’s also burdensome. I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way. The more we learn, the more we know how many appalling things are happening in this world, both internationally and locally, and how our own actions perpetuate and exacerbate many atrocities, like child labor in sweatshops and gruesome regional wars over oil reserves. Yet I’m still buying new clothes and I’m still driving around LA.
Can I live with myself for the rest of my life knowing that I am contributing to a societal structure that abuses, murders, exploits, and excludes innocent people?
I like to glorify my childhood and think of it as a playful, easy time in my life, and I like to glorify getting older and not having to worry about the future anymore. But the truth is that childhood was not easy. Kids made fun of each other, friends dumped each other, and it was impossible to fit in. Old(er) age is not easy either. It’s much harder to maintain your health and your physical capacity wanes. And I imagine you have just as much anxiety about your future as you do when you’re in your early adulthood.
So I’m asking myself for forgiveness. I’m asking myself to take a deep breath, remember that I am doing the best I can, and remind myself that everything is always going to be okay and that it is impossible to fix everything in this world. The most I can do is talk about issues, write about issues, and advocate for change. The bottom line: I may be cynical and have anxiety and guilt issues, but it’s made me a better person and it’s made me grateful for the life and privileges I have. I forgive myself for being the way I am. I hope you can forgive yourselves, too (if that’s what you need to do).
What are your thoughts on atonement and your personal goals for the coming year?
Shana tova, g’mar chatimah tova, and may you have a wonderful, fulfilling, and positive year!
September 13, 2012 | 4:07 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
The question was brought up yesterday at a “Woman to Woman” forum on issues facing lesbians that was hosted by the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles. The unanimous response from the panelists was “yes.” Of course, some of the topics were specific to the lesbian community, but it’s important to recognize that the stereotypes placed on lesbians are those that have been used for years to oppress, belittle, and shame all women.
Lieutenant Yana Horvatich of the Los Angeles Police Department spoke about the challenges she’s faced there during her 24 years as an officer. Horvatich spoke about how back in the ‘80s, there were very few women on police patrol. When they did get those positions, male police officers would complain to their dispatchers that they didn’t want to work with “tunaboat.” Horvatich said she and other women in law enforcement had to overcome male chauvinism and women in general had to constantly prove that they could do the job as well as men. Sound familiar?
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure most straight women don’t deal with stories like this one: Anne-Marie Williams, executive director of the California Lesbian Project, told the story about her visit to a medical doctor in Beverly Hills a few years back to the doctor to discuss her allergies. The doctor, a woman, asked about her sexual practices, and Anne-Marie told her that she didn’t want to answer the question. When the doctor kept probing her about it, Anne-Marie gave in and told her she was a lesbian. At that point the doctor pulled her own skirt down, stepped back, and told Anne-Marie that their session was over and that she should go to a gynecologist for her medical needs.
I was appalled upon hearing this story. How can a female doctor, who should understand the challenges women face just for being women, treat patient this way? Was she really that ignorant that her perception of Anne-Marie changed so drastically when she found out she was gay?
Effects of Shame, Fear, and Low Self-Esteem
Licensed clinical social worker J. Denise Fuller explained how stories like this make many lesbians afraid or ashamed to go to the doctor or to come out of the closet. According to Dr. Allison Diamant of UCLA, research shows that lesbians in the U.S., in comparison to straight women:
• have a higher rate of depression and anxiety
• have a higher rate of substance abuse
• have a higher rate of obesity
• have a higher rate of smoking
On top of it all, the LGBT population has a much higher suicide rate than the non-LGBT population, especially among youth.
Are we harming ourselves?
When we treat each other the way that doctor treated Anne-Marie, we only perpetuate the negative stereotypes about women and lesbians that women have fought against for so many years.
I remember being called a “militant feminist” a few times over the years. The first time, I said to the guy: “What makes me militant? Am I carrying a gun?” If anyone is militant, I’m pretty sure it’s the male politicians in our country who are so obsessed with proving that we have the largest and wealthiest defense in the world. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
At the end of yesterday’s panel, Anne-Marie told how she confronted the doctor, helping her see that she had mistreated her. I’m not sure what the details are, but Anne-Marie said the doctor continued working with her and eventually saved her life. It doesn’t matter if we’re lesbians, queer, straight, old, young, single, divorced, married, teenagers, or whatever--we’re women and we have to work on standing up for ourselves. Nothing changes when we remain quiet or ignore the plight of others in our own communities.
For me, lesbian issues are women’s issues. They are my issues and I take them personally.
I’d love to hear your stories about negative stereotypes you’ve faced and how you’ve dealt with them.
September 5, 2012 | 2:29 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
I’ve been avoiding doing the whole Ann and Michelle comparison thing for as long as possible, but I feel that it’s time I put in my two cents. I’ll be honest: I haven’t had time at all this week to read what others have written about their respective convention speeches. I’m sure that every word they’ve said has already been over-analyzed, discussed, researched, and torn apart. That alone makes me anxious to think about it because, as far as I’m concerned, there’s not too much to analyze here.
Love in Politics
Both women talked a lot about love. I didn’t research past speeches by Hillary, Laura, Eleanor, or anyone else, but did other First Ladies and wives of candidates talk this much about how much they love their husbands? It’s interesting to me that part of the dialogue this election year is that we’re obsessed with people needing to prove their love for one another. Maybe this is because we’ve lost so much faith in our politicians and in their marriages that we just assume they don’t really love each other.
But why does this really matter? Why do we care if their wives love them or if they love their wives or if their love story fits in with our romantic comedy fantasies? Shouldn’t it be enough to know what their opinions are and what their policy agendas would prioritize as presidents?
The other day a friend from France mentioned how strange he thinks it is that Americans are so concerned about the personal lives of our politicians. He said that in France they find it interesting and amusing when their Presidents cheat on their wives, but their heads of state don’t get questioned about their ability to perform as politicians as ours do for infidelity or if their marriages are in flux.
Bringing Women into the Mix
Let’s examine what Michelle and Ann had to say about women in their speeches, since this supposedly gives us insight into what their husbands think about women’s issues.
• Ann Romney addressed the work-life balance for working moms to make the point that our current economy is failing them: “The working moms who love their jobs but would like to work just a little less to spend more time with the kids…but that’s out of the question with this economy.”
• Michelle Obama reminded us that her husband signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to “help women get equal pay for equal work.”
• Ann gave a shout out to American women for being the ones who really put in the hard work in this country: “We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters. You know it’s true, don’t you? You’re the ones who always have to do a little more.”
• Michelle talked about Barack’s single mom and his grandmother who was stuck under the glass ceiling: “Barack’s grandmother started out as a secretary at a community bank…and she moved quickly up the ranks…but like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling. And for years, men no more qualified than she was—men she had actually trained—were promoted up the ladder ahead of her, earning more and more money while Barack’s family continued to scrape by.”
• Ann connected all women with each other, saying that men don’t really understand what women face: “I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don’t think there’s a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy. In our own ways, we all know better!”
• Michelle said that Obama gets that we women know what’s right for us and for our health and bodies: “And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care.”
• Ann reminded us that as a mother, she wants to make sure we don’t “raise our children to be afraid of success.”
• Michelle compared Barack to his grandmother: “He just keeps getting up and moving forward…with patience and wisdom, and courage and grace.”
Obviously, as a liberal Democrat, I almost cried when I heard Michelle speak. I thought she was brilliant, engaging, and spoke to us on a human level. I didn’t quite feel the same about Ann Romney’s speech, but I did feel compassion for her as a woman as well. She is trying really hard to relate to the everyday woman in America by reminding us that she is a mother and that all moms have the same issues in dealing with their children and balancing their lives.
What I didn’t get from Ann Romney, however, was anything other than that. Her focus was mainly on the economy and on how the most important thing in our lives as women is to raise our children well, have time for them, and help them succeed. While I agree with all of those ideals, I also think that her speech excluded a large chunk of the population of women in America—single women, senior women, working women, career women, queer women, etc.
Michelle’s comparison of Barack to his grandmother was unique. I like when a powerful man is comfortable being compared to a woman figure in his life, rather than always being compared to successful men. Michelle addressed some of the issues that still concern all of us—hitting the glass ceiling in our careers, not having the right to choose, and equal wages.
At the end of the day, I respect both women and I imagine that their lives are extremely difficult and stressful as the mates of presidential candidates. I agree with a lot of Ann Romney’s thoughts and I’m sure many women can relate as well to what she said on women working harder to balance more than men do, but I got more substantive answers and opinions from Michelle’s speech about how Barack feels about women’s issues, and that’s by far more important to me than how much they both love their men.
Whose speech resonated with you? And what do you think mattered about what Ann and Michelle had to say?
August 24, 2012 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
IT’S WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY THIS SUNDAY (AUGUST 26): Are we equal yet???
Here’s some groundbreaking information that I think may surprise you: gender equality does not exist in our political system. Are you shocked yet? I’m going to assume you’re not, but allow me to provide you with some statistical evidence of just how bad it really is:
• Only 27 States have yet to elect a woman Governor
• Only 3 States have yet to elect a woman to Congress
• Only 17% of seats in Congress are held by women
• Only 12% of US Governors are women
• Only 23% of State Legislators are women
If that’s not enough for you, how about this one?
The US places 79th in the world in rankings of the number of women political leaders
. We’re behind countries like Sudan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Cambodia, and Bolivia. Rwanda is number one on the list.
At this point, you’re probably either asking why more women are not in public office or why does this even matter? Let’s start with the first: why are we not in public office?
On Tuesday I attended the Women’s Public Leadership Summit hosted by The 2012 Project and the Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics. I learned the aforementioned facts at the Summit, but I also learned what the main barriers are to women getting into political office.
1. We are afraid to run. As Rachel Michelin of California Women Lead succinctly put it, “The biggest obstacle for women in getting politically involved is themselves.” We don’t think we can do it. We don’t think we can raise the money. We don’t think we’re qualified enough. And we don’t run until we’re asked to do so.
2. Incumbency. We all know it’s hard to get elected when running against incumbents. But the good news is that every 20 years, including 2012, we go through redistricting, opening up new seats that women can more easily tap into. The hard part—it’s only every 20 years!
3. We don’t support each other enough. Women are not out there supporting women running for office as much as they should be. Yes, this is my personal opinion, but I think I’m right on this one. One example is young women voters (ages 18-29). According to political strategist Celinda Lake, young women support women candidates, but lately they have not been showing up to vote. Unmarried women’s votes plummeted from 59% in 2008 to 38% in 2010.
So why does all this matter?
Hmm, let’s see…
maybe because an entire half of our nation is not represented under a government in which the elected officials are supposed to represent the needs of ALL THE PEOPLE
The research brought up at the Summit clarified why we need equal representation among elected officials. Women in office consider women’s issues more than men in office do. The Founder of The 2012 Project, Mary Hughes, has said, “research shows that women leaders introduce more bills, bring more resources home to their districts and advocate for new issues on the legislative agenda.” In other words, women create change, and we need it.
At the NCJW/LA event on the Affordable Care Act this past Wednesday, I learned from panelist Susan Berke Fogel, who directs the reproductive health and justice programs at the National Health Law Program, that over 50% of the counties in California do not provide access to abortions.
In a State with two women Senators, how is this possible? It’s because we think we’re doing enough by having two women Senators, but we’re not. We do not have enough women in public office on the local and state levels. 28% of the CA State Legislature is comprised of women. That’s a pretty good number when you compare it to some other states that have much lower percentages, but it’s not equal representation, and it’s time we stopped saying to ourselves that we’ve come so far and we’re doing so well. We did come so far and do so well twenty years ago, but we haven’t increased the numbers of women in a serious way since then. This is not progress in my book.
We can catalyze change for ourselves and for other women throughout this country.
Here’s the positive spin: there are more women running for Congress in 2012 than ever before and possibly more women running for other elected positions than ever before as well (the 2012 project website). I know I’m going to vote and I know you are as well, but let’s make sure to get everyone else we know out there too.
Seems like we’re forgetting how relevant politics is to our lives. We women share everything with each other including what we eat, what we buy, who we like, and what we’re worried about, but we don’t share much about politics. Let’s change that. Let us share how we feel about our reproductive rights, our wages, our healthcare, how we’re treated in the military, at work, in public, in the media, and in our own homes. Let’s share how we feel about the way our bodies are discussed in politics as though they’re not even ours. And let’s publicly and loudly support the women with the courage to run for any elected position, which I’m sure is much harder than they make it look.
Question of the week: What is the biggest predictor for you when voting for elected officials? Do you think it’s important that we focus on getting more women in office or should we just focus on increasing the knowledge base of everyone in office on women’s issues?
Two more things: I’m now accepting submissions from guest bloggers about any issue you think is related to this blog in some way. So if you’re interested, please submit your blog post of no more than 1000 words to email@example.com. Second thing: I love your comments and loved the rules submitted by some of you last week. Keep ‘em coming!
August 15, 2012 | 4:10 pm
Posted by Maya Paley
A colleague at NCJW/LA recently sent me the “10 Rules for Brilliant Women” list written by Tara Sophia Mohr. Mohr writes that she knows “many brilliant women who don’t believe in the brilliance of their own ideas—and as a result, don’t share them boldly.” In response to this, Mohr published her now infamous 10 rules, including things like “get a thick skin,” “question the voice that says ‘I’m not ready yet,” and “filter advice.” What I love most about these rules is number 10—“let other women know they are brilliant.” I’ll tell you why.
You Are Beautiful
I took a class on Female Sexuality my last year of college. The course was peer taught. It basically was intensive group therapy with a bunch of women for four hours a week. I honestly wish I could have continued taking it for the rest of my life. It was that powerful. We discussed issues that affect us, like sexual assault and harassment, power dynamics, sexuality, and self-acceptance. One of my first assignments was to go up to a woman I did not know and tell her she was beautiful. I know this sounds silly and easy to some people, but for me it was a big challenge.
I walked around campus for a week trying to find a woman to say this to. I was not looking for a supermodel. I was looking for someone whose beauty, intelligence, and soul radiated through her. And I was trying to ignore my own personal issues with how awkward it is to just go up to someone and give her a compliment. It’s something many men do all the time to women, but most of the time their intentions are to hit on them. For me, there was nothing to be gained from this encounter.
When I finally did find her, she was sitting on the stairs outside of one of the main humanities buildings and looked like she was having a rough day. I walked up and said “I just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful.” She was surprised and said I had made her day and kept telling me about how nice I was. I felt great!
In retrospect, I think it was such a relief for once to not feel in competition with another woman, which was ingrained in me just by growing up in Los Angeles. Since then, I’ve tried to continue complimenting other women—letting them know how smart, beautiful, capable, strong, and special they are.
Nah, You’re Just Saying That
What doesn’t come easy is the acceptance of such statements. Most of my girlfriends will respond with comments like “I don’t know” or “You’re just saying that because you’re my friend.” Actually, I’m not. I really have no need to say such things if I don’t mean them. I just happen to be lucky to have incredible women in my life and I’m being honest.
So here’s what I’ve come to realize. I think that before we can even take Mohr’s rules into account, which focus on being bold and sharing our brilliant ideas with the world, we need to love and accept ourselves first. Here are some rules I’ve come up with (for myself) on how to do this:
10 Rules for Loving Ourselves (for Women)
1. Know Yourself: Figure out what motivates you, what activities make you happy, and what negatively and positively triggers you.
2. Accept Your Quirks: Accept that you have moods, good days, bad days, strange habits, and random interests that some people will think are awesome and others just won’t. You are unique.
3. Accept Compliments: Stop saying “you’re just saying that” to people complimenting you. If they’re giving you a compliment, they’re doing it because they want to.
4. Ignore Insults: If people say mean things about you or insult you, that’s their problem, not yours. They need to work out their own issues. It’s a symptom of our society; our TV shows and media are largely teaching us to hate and be jealous of each other when we really should be working together and supporting each other. The point is to let these things go in one ear and out the other. I know it sounds hard, but it pays off so just try it.
5. Be Open to Constructive Criticism: Totally different than insults, constructive criticism is useful. And if you’re open to it, it can help you improve yourself, your relationships, your career, and your daily life tremendously. It’s hard (especially for me being the perfectionist I am), but we have to not take things too personally or be overly sensitive when people are giving us advice that is actually coming from a compassionate place. When a friend tells me to calm down or relax when I’m overly stressed about work or about getting everything done, I often want to scream, “If I could relax, I would,” but the truth is that they’re just trying to help and make me see that I really need to calm down (whatever that means) because this non-stop lifestyle is harmful.
6. Always Work on Improving Your Life: Stay focused not on who you want to be or what your flaws are, but on how you want to live your life and take small steps to make that happen. For me, taking a few hours of my week to just do nothing is hard as I think you can infer from my previous rule, but those few hours of nothingness calm me down and make me happier in the longer run. It’s hard, but I’m trying.
7. Accept Yourself Again: Accept that it’s not easy to create the exact life you want, but you are doing the best you can to make it happen.
8. Say You Love Yourself: Practice saying “I love myself” and own it. I started noticing that some of my male friends would tell me that they loved themselves. Yes, it can be said in a really cocky manner, but they were genuinely saying that they respected themselves and were at peace with who they are. I may not personally know you, but I know that every single person has something to offer to themselves, to others, and to the world we live in. You have to recognize your greatness and be proud of yourself for all that is you. Say it out loud.
9. Don’t Hate: Do your best to not gossip negatively about other people, especially about other women and their appearance. As women, we don’t need these kinds of divisions between us anymore. I don’t mean don’t vent about things going on in your life or about challenges you’re facing with other people. I just mean there is no need to say something negative about someone’s looks or what they’re wearing. We all face a lot of judgment by others based on how we look and what we wear and we know that usually the perceptions people have of us are false, so let’s not perpetuate this practice.
10. Spread the Love: Tell other people how great, smart, beautiful, and capable they are, even if it’s awkward.
I want to invite you to submit your most inspiring rules for yourself as comments.
It can be 10 rules, five rules, or just one. I look forward to reading them.