In honor of International Women’s Day, I decided to share a story that I only recently realized was happening my whole life.
Growing up, I called myself a tomboy. I played with G.I. Joes, hated dolls and dresses, loved sports and never really wore any makeup. In grade school I spent many a lunch hour playing “off-the-wall” and milk crate (basket)ball with the guys. Like most people, my circle of friends consisted of guys and girls who shared similar interests and opinions. My friends and I often joked around about how women were so annoying, sensitive and catty. From adolescence into the beginning of adulthood, I prided myself on being a “guy’s girl.” I often hung out with men, drank them under the table and boasted about my “no strings attached” intimate relationships with other men. Even when I finally embraced dresses, makeup and “girly” things in my twenties, I still held onto the idea that I was an atypical woman and often talked to friends about the irritating habits of “most” women.
I never realized how problematic, self-loathing and, ultimately, misogynistic this all was.
I also wasn’t able to see that as a little girl, I wasn’t a tomboy. I was just into what I was into and that didn’t mean anything. I was a little girl who liked playing with the toys that I liked playing with. The word tomboy is so problematic! Other people introduced me to this gendered idea. Other people thought it strange that I liked sports. Other people taught me that a girl should like to wear dresses. Other people taught me to reject my womanhood. On top of this, all of television fed me images of women that aligned with everything I was being told so I created the idea that being a woman was a fault. After my mother committed suicide when I was 11 years old over (what I thought was) a broken-heart, it sealed the deal: I was definitely never going to be a “typical” sensitive, mushy, weak woman.
As an adult, I just assumed I outgrew a lot of this thinking with time and education. Surely, my amazing, progressive and expensive sociology courses during undergrad had undone whatever my tough childhood and the media had helped me create. I assumed that years of being a part of events about women empowerment and a member of a powerful Latin sorority was a testament to how enlightened I now was. Alas, degrees and affiliations prove unworthy matches to society’s impact on your psyche. As an adult, I couldn’t really shake the ideas I’d created about being a woman. Then I went through childbirth.
Labor was CRAZY; by far the hardest sh!t I have ever experienced. BUT… it was also f**king beautiful. And it unleashed a fierce passion for being a woman that I had never felt in my life.
My first delivery was a planned C-section due to a placenta previa (so going into labor would have actually been life-threatening) and while giving birth to my first child was an amazing and life-changing experience, going through a vaginal birth triggered something different in me.
My attitude change began during the pregnancy when I read a lot about the good ol’ days when women gave birth and raised their children together. I read about circles of women that helped each other, taught each other’s children and supported each other throughout life. I even read studies that showed that being surrounded by women during labor actually led to less pain. I had already begun to see the importance of women in my life after having my first child so reading these articles affirmed what I was only starting to feel.
I went into labor 2 days after Christmas and 2 of my closest girl friends dropped everything and came to New York to be by my side– one from Philly and the other from Boston. My doula, another woman, was also there and the 3 of them spent the better part of 2 days massaging my back, feeding me, taking care of my son, cleaning my house, buying groceries, holding my hand, making me laugh, wiping my tears, sitting by my bedside as I slept, and coaching me through the hardest pain I’d ever endured.
What happened in those few days was nothing short of magic.
I cannot quite articulate the supernatural force that was created in that small circle as we came together to welcome life. We were vessels harnessing a power that could only be conjured by us. We became everything and anything that was needed. It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, and I wish I could do it justice here.
Childbirth with my village of women revealed a strength and special responsibility that comes with being a woman. It uncovered a secret superpower that we possess and that I’d only seen glimpses of until now.
Stepping into the all-powerful matriarch role for my family of all boys seems like an ironic full circle. As I finally embrace being a woman, it is now that I actually am a guy’s girl– 4 guys to be exact: 2 sons, 1 nephew and 1 life partner.
It is no mystery to me why women remain so oppressed. Someone must have caught wind of the sheer power women can generate when brought together, so they put in systems to divide and diminish us instead. (I think people of color are oppressed for similar reasons but that’s for another day.) I wonder what my childhood would have been like had I embraced this long ago. What would the world look like if more women did?
l step into my womanhood NOW invigorated and empowered.
I reject the dangerous language and misogynistic culture that governed my psyche for so long and that keeps girls and women insecure, powerless, and silent.
I commit to surrounding myself with women and tapping into our source of magic.
This is my center.
I am excited to bring as many women as I can on this journey with me.
l step into my womanhood NOW invigorated and empowered.
Do you remember how you first tapped into your woman superpower?
How did the world try to stop you?
If you haven’t, what holds you back?
Will you join me on this journey?