This is the introductory post to the Courageous Conversations post. It’s an answer to the question, “Makafui, why the heck were you asking people about what they think it means to be a girl or a woman today? Child, you’re so random!”
It all started with this.
Maybe, it didn’t. Maybe it started with that commercial. You know, the one from Girls, Inc. with the girls writing a letter to the world on red paper and letting it fly.
Or maybe, it started way earlier than that. Oprah? I just know that at some point, the chatter about women’s issues, especially Body Image, became so loud that I had to listen. If I didn’t, P!nk was going to sing about it.
As the girls in the Girls Inc. PSA concluded the clip with “Sincerely, a girl”, I started wondering what that meant. today. What does it mean to be a girl? What does it mean to be a woman in today’s world? Is Britney Spears as empowering as P!nk? Is Feminism about the number of women we get in CEOs’ leather chairs? Can you ever call yourself a Feminist without ever having held a banner reclaiming women’s rights?
Just as the Internet was the one to bring my attention to the need to recognize the media’s “caricaturization” of women, it also taught me about the concept of Self-Love. Most of us have trouble accepting compliments from others, let alone complimenting ourselves. As the blogosphere increased in size, so did the diversity of people who wrote every day or every week, as a testament to their own reality and encouraging everyone to do the same.
How did it fit with my own reality, I began to ask. Is Self-Love purely a Western concern? Is it something that only makes sense in the American context? As I even thought about the word “Love”, I realized how sparsely it is used in my native language. In the place of “Love”, “To bring Joy to” is often used. You may love Swimming in English, but Swimming brings you Joy in Ewe.
Curious about how this concept of Self-Love translates beyond the American context, I started asking my mother questions about Image and Womanhood and “feminine-hood”. She never once mentioned loving oneself or recognizing what makes one great/brilliant/interesting. Yet, the closer I listened, I started to pick up on this recurring concept in her answers to my questions: Self-Respect.
A great woman, in my mother’s words, respects herself. From the clothes she wears to the words she chooses to use, she makes sure to treat herself (and others) with the utmost respect. In this context, concepts (that are sometimes considered antiquated in Contemporary Western Society) like Modesty, Purity, Humility, Prudence and Kindness are all wrapped up in Self-Respect.
Though they first seemed to me to be miles apart, I realized that that Self-Respect and Self-Love are not that far away from each other. A woman who respects herself is a woman who loves herself. Simply.