What does being a woman mean to you?
Talk about a L.O.A.D.E.D. question - but it's one I challenged all the gals on the team to tackle over the past week. And tackle they did. Like the awesome, fabulous, talented, inspiring women they are, they came back with some pretty bang on answers.
Me, I have been putting off answering this question, telling myself "I'll type mine up straight into The Edit, it makes the most sense, right?". Wrong. Sitting down to write now, I'm stumped. This is a scary question for many of us to face, in the midst of a time where we are trying with all our might to shift some seriously impenetrable, stagnant boundaries, a time where "woman" is so much more than a word. Weighted by hundreds of years of traditions so deeply ingrained they have become near invisible, "woman" has become an action more than it was ever a noun.
I have always modelled who I want to be as a woman on the influential women in my life - my Mum, my Grandmas, my Aunts. All incredibly strong, selfless, gentle and kind women and still some of my biggest inspirations to date. At 25, having grown into myself, I now understand that being a woman is so much more than nurturing and that "motherly instinct" so many of us as young girls came to see as quintessential to womanhood. Instead, she is also a strength, a power, a presence in a room, a hand to hold, a mile to run, a shoulder to cry on, a path to conquer, a fierceness. She is everything she wants to be, and she surrounds herself with women and men alike who support her to do so.
The good housewife, seen but not heard, observed but not valued. She is now gone. In her place are hundreds, thousands, hopefully millions of women who seek to rise above her and do what she was not able to. Let's say a big F*CK YOU to those standards, and to those who still, after all this time, choose to stand behind them.
I encourage you to read on and hear the answers of the beautiful girls and women I am so thankful and humbled to be surrounded by everyday. This International Women's Day (on Sunday March 8th), please take time to embrace and celebrate what being a woman means to you, because after all we've been through, I think we've earned that right, don't you?
When I was growing up I was a major tom boy. Into sports, with 2 brothers, I had to keep up or get left behind and for those of you that know me, I DO NOT LIKE TO GET LEFT BEHIND! Which is definitely why I like to always be one step ahead. Or two if I can manage. I see the world differently, I didn’t realise I did, until I did. Being a woman in the 21st century just allows me to create the world I want to live within, honour the inner stirrings of my creativity, my voice and my perspective surrounded by people I choose to be around, who inspire me, challenge me, trust me and make me laugh out loud.
Being a woman, edging close to 50 I am acutely aware of how empowered and unstoppable I feel and of the privilege I have in being a part of a major girl gang that I have created at TLSE and beyond the walls of the TLSE space.
My girl time for conversation, questioning, and clarity at work and beyond is something that I cannot grasp even a smidge of the right words to give praise to the light these women bring to my life. They say surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be, how you want to feel, energies are contagious. Well I live this every day with the extraordinary women we attract to work with and who fill the seats in the TLSE team. What can I say, It’s a good time to be a woman.
Working with an amazing group of women day in and day out, I feel that being a woman today finds meaning in how we respond to this label. More than ever today women are doing so many amazing things - in business and human rights, creating change all the while dreaming and aspiring to be better than ever, rather than shying to prevailing stereotypes. Being a woman means that we can approach our opportunities in ways men may not have done before - we bring to the table varied ideas, emotions, connections and perspectives. All of this while still playing an integral part of our families, relationships and partnerships (there’s us multitasking…).
I am most inspired by my Mother. You could say that I contradict myself after saying that women are doing amazing things in businesses and the work place, when my Mother has not worked since my elder brother was born. She has taught me that being an amazing woman does not mean you have to be a business woman. Instead this energy, knowledge, care, compassion and drive can be practiced in many ways, and my Mother has, for her whole motherhood, put this time and energy toward my eldest brother, who is disabled. She is the most selfless woman I know and somehow has managed to bring up three beautiful (hopefully level-headed) children despite a few extra obstacles along the way. I hope that this International Women's Day she has one big fat sleep and takes some time to stop and look after herself for once.
I used to think being a woman meant caring for others. When I was younger my Mum was very sick, and as the only girl in the family I thought it was my job to fill in the gaps. I thought being a 'good girl' meant making school lunches, doing the laundry, helping the boys with their homework and cleaning the house. I am slowly learning that it's good to care for people, but it's okay to expect people to care for you too.
I am so inspired by Stephanie Devine, founder of The Very Good Bra. Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer and when she couldn't find a bra she could wear during chemo, decided to create one. She's brave and passionate, and she doesn't take no for an answer.
Being a woman to me is about paving a path. As women we have had huge mountains to climb, rivers to cross and jungles to navigate but together we are smashing through it all. Along the path we find friends, supporters and leaders. We experience good, bad and ugly moments but it is the path that shapes us, makes us realise where our strengths and weaknesses are and who we want to be with, who we don’t and where we need love and support. Women come in all shapes, sizes and forms - there are leaders, there are doers, there are quiet achievers and there are those happy to come along for the ride but it is so important we do it together so that the women of the future can continue the path and walk side by side with men - equally as strong, inspirational and successful.
I’ve never been asked this question before and I feel like this isn’t an easy one for me to answer (does anyone else feel this way?). Taking the time to think about this question, for me, being a woman means being strong and feeling proud. Being a woman is empowering, it’s fun and even sometimes a little bit scary, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
One thing that is easy for me to answer is who is the woman in my life who inspires me – luckily for me I have a few women in my life that inspire me, but I would have to say the person that inspires me the most is my Mum. I know what you’re thinking ‘what a cliché’, but I have honestly never known anyone as strong as her. She is unbelievably understanding, the most hard-working woman I have ever met and completely selfless. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
To all the women out there - this one's for you.
Go forth, conquer, kick-ass, be you.
WORDS | Lucy Francis, TLSE
IMAGES | TLSE