This is an odd post for someone who called herself a “feminist”, but the truth is that we are all complex beings with even more complex relationships with our identities.
One day when I was 10, I had a meeting with my mother. It might sound weird, but go with it. There are a few times in life when you find yourself in a conversation that you know will change your life forever. As you’re standing there, something inside is screaming “This is it! This is a turning point!” So, back to the story.
One day when I was 10, my mother turned to me and said “Now, you are a woman.” Seeing as my whole life prior to then was spent hearing the women in my life talk about how hard Life is as a woman, it was a club I wanted no part in. “You’re a woman.” That’s it? No orientation? No papers to sign? No instruction manual? No. From that point forward, I was often told to act “ladylike”, to sit properly, to leave the books alone for a little bit and hang out in the kitchen.
So, over the years, I’ve internalized the conflicting messages, the ones that called me to ‘be anything i want to be’, the CARE posters that declared “I am powerful” and the societal expectations of what a girl, a lady, a woman should be. I’ve read Proverbs 31 and watched the commercials who subconsciously fed us the ultimate image of beauty: tall, skinny, smily and often white.
I sat in my Women’s Health class today learning about menopause, osteoporosis and reflecting back on lectures on breast cancer, cervical cancer, pregnancy complications, diabetes and heart disease in women. “Know your health history”, our professor repeated, especially about the women in your family. And there I was, again, reminded again of my connection to the long, matrimonial cord that bind all women together.
As we watched the infrared representation of what a ‘hot flash’ looked like, we all gasped a little. That’s what waiting for us? “Ask your mother about her experiences”, the professor said. So, I’m about to have a meeting with my mother. I need to have her stamp my “women’s club” membership card and reassure me once again, that though a woman’s life is hard, it’s do-able and do-able with style, elegance and class. Wait, are those stereotypes, too?