Women's History Month
March is Women’s History Month. And I feel like it’s my duty to give a shout out to all of the ladies who have paved the way for me to live in a time period and a society that values women more than most. If I’m being honest, there have been several instances in my life where I have wished that I was born a boy. These were fleeting moments for sure, but there are some real downfalls to being born female, and of course, the grass is always greener on the other side. But when I take time to ponder how far women have come in terms of overcoming gender inequality issues, it’s a bit overwhelming. And while we still have obstacles to tackle, females now have more of a voice than ever before, and I am blessed to be a part of it.
Whenever I watch a pioneer show on television, I am reminded of the fact that I would have succumbed to death had I been born a woman in a different time period. No doubt I would have starved because I’m a picky eater, or I would have frozen because I am always too cold. Don’t even get me started on the clothing requirements. If it’s a dress, count me out. And if you know me at all, you know that I am no Betty Crocker. Cooking, cleaning, sowing, and obeying a man’s orders aren’t what I consider a pleasurable time. If I was lucky, I would have become a lonely spinster teacher. I mean, I can guarantee no one would be knocking down the door for a girl who couldn’t cook, bake, or sow. So I feel it necessary to give props to those women who endured those hardships and fought for the power and freedom that we are able to experience today.
I often take for granted the little things in life that provide me with comfort...like my clothing choices. For me, comfort is key, and fortunately, my job allows me to wear the clothing I most enjoy. This means leggings, tank tops, sweatshirts, and tennis shoes. Rewind a century, and I would be ostracized for even considering wearing these articles of clothing. Even a few decades ago, my family preferred that my cousins and I wear dresses to church...with a slip underneath and nylons. Even then I recall my desires to throw out the mold. To the horror of the women in my life, I inquired as to whether I could simply wear my slip without the dress. Not only was it more my style, it was also more comfortable. And nylons were my enemy. What was their purpose? I was told it was to keep my legs from showing and hide the blemishes...but why? Those nasty tights and nylons caused me more trouble on Sunday mornings and at dance recitals. They would rip or snag, and no matter how high I pulled them up, the crotch would slowly slide down. And don’t even get me started on the seam across the toe. Needless to say, I haven’t owned a pair of nylons in decades. The creator of such an article of clothing undoubtedly was male. So, the fact that I can choose my attire resonates well with me, and I appreciate my predecessors all the more because they had to endure them.
Besides clothing, I feel fortunate that I am not expected to do all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and sewing. Don’t get me wrong, I still do most of the chores, but I have other options. The sole responsibility does not rest entirely upon my shoulders. Being a working mom with three busy children, I don’t always have time to make a home cooked meal. We often eat at my parent’s house and sometimes we eat at a restaurant. But imagine, not having that option. Yikes! And my talents do not include sewing or anything artistic. I was gifted with physical strength, endurance, and balance. These attributes serve me well in some capacities, but they wouldn’t have had I been born in the 1900s. My kids love that I practice sports with them, but that hasn’t always been a quality deemed useful in a mom. I feel like as a pioneer woman, I might have been better suited for outdoor work. So again, I am grateful that I can compensate for my homemaking shortcomings in other ways.
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve complained about having to go to school on a few occasions...I mean, this fall marked my 31st first day of school, but I can’t even begin to imagine living in a world where a girl wasn’t , encouraged, expected or even allowed to become educated. Most of us, me included, take our education for granted. So it’s hard for me to fathom how belittling it must have felt for girls to be told that they couldn’t go to school while they watched their brothers go. As cliche as it is, knowledge is power and I couldn’t begin to imagine relying on someone else to help me read, write, or perform math calculations. Being educated gives you a plethora of options. And I revel in the fact that I don’t have to depend on anyone to take care of my needs. So here’s a shout out to the girls that helped make public education for all a reality.
Sports have always been my jam, so imagine my shock when my dad explained to me that his older sisters didn’t get to play because there were no girls teams when they attended high school. Once the school did begin offering a girls basketball program, the girls were only allowed to play on one end of the gym..either offense or defense. I scoffed as my dad explained that the rule was enforced so that the girls wouldn’t sweat too much. Did they have to play in dresses, too? Was my snide reply. A few years later, when my mom played, the girls had to try out for the boys team and the lucky few who made the team mostly sat on the sidelines.
By the time I was in school, Title VI offered us the same athletic opportunities as the boys and we took advantage of it. But we still felt that the guys received more attention, and let me tell you, we wanted our voices heard. The basketball team I played on was very successful..more so than our football team at the time. We were ranked in the state and beat our school record for wins in a season. So, why did the boys get to have cheerleaders, pep assemblies, spirit busses for away games and news broadcasts on the local television station? The jury was still out on that one. So we banded together and made it happen. We orchestrated the first ever girls basketball pep assembly before a big rivalry game. The cheerleaders came to cheer us on for several games. A spirit bus took students to and from all of our away games, and all our home games were shown on the local television channel. And some of our biggest supporters were the boys on the football team, who loyally came to all our games, faces painted with our school colors, orange and black. In terms of women’s rights, that’s about the extent of my contributions, but at the time, that small step was meaningful to me. And it provided me with just a taste of what some of the women before me must have endured in order to help us gain the rights we have. So, I give a serious shout out to all the sporty girls who fought for equal opportunities on the playing courts and fields.
Now that I am the mom of a daughter and teach a multitude of young ladies, I like to encourage girls to take advantage of the opportunities others before them have created. It is the sacrifices of past generations that has allowed us the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. And as the mom of two boys and teacher of many, I aim to teach them to respect the girls and women. I vividly remember the first time a boy asked if the girls should do “girl push ups.” Maybe it was an innocent question, but it ended up with a lengthy, rather curt explanation. The lecture went a little like this, “I’m a girl. Do I do a push up on my knees? They’re called modified push ups. If a girl or boy can’t do a regular push up, they can modify.” Because here’s the deal, yeah, I’m a girl, but I work hard. Treat me like an equal. I’m not afraid of a challenge. If you want a push up competition, I’ll take you on. Respect me enough to have high expectations for what I can accomplish.
Are there still injustices that occur regarding gender stereotypes? Oh, for sure. When I am made out to be a villain when I post a fitness or swimwear picture on social media, but a guy can post his swimsuit or fitness picture without anyone batting an eye, it does disappoint me. But women are speaking up. We have come so far and won so many battles. And look out world, because we aren’t done yet. We are girls and women of all ages, shapes, and races. We don’t have to fit in any neat little package where we are all identical. Dare to be yourself regardless of the mold others try to put you in. It’s what the ladies who came before us envisioned. And don’t forget to encourage other girls and women. There is strength in unity. So, share your strong woman story with me @fmm_the wolf and @fitmodelmom.