Thoughts on a 2018 International Women's Day

In the modern era, being a woman is at once invigorating, infuriating, empowering and challenging. In the wake of sexual assault allegations pouring in from Hollywood, it is easy to feel disheartened and discouraged as we continue to work to lift up and support the voices of those affected by sexual assault and who have had the courage to speak out– while also standing by those who are not ready to do so.

 

After such a trying and rocky year to be a woman, 2018 was celebrated as the year of the woman by various news outlets before it even began. With the inauguration of the new president last year, we saw as women fought desperately for their legal and reproductive rights– as they faced threats to their personal freedoms in the United States. Soon after, with a wide array of sexual assault allegations, the nation saw how pervasive the issue of sexual assault really is not just for women in Hollywood, but everywhere. In both 2017 and 2018 we have watched the #MeToo campaign take both social media and the nation by storm, giving women who have been affected by sexual assault and harassment a space to feel supported on a topic that has been highly contested and disregarded from national spotlight prior. We have watched women in Hollywood take a stand at the 2018 Golden Globes awards by wearing all black to protest sexual harassment and raise awareness for Time’s Up –– an initiative fighting sexual misconduct in both Hollywood and beyond. We have watched women stand together in women’s marches and protests around the country– supporting and lifting one another up.

 

On International Women’s Day in 2018, I have a lot of feelings about how it feels to be a woman. In the fields of entertainment and the arts, especially in the theatre, I have realized that being a woman is seen as significantly less legitimate than being a man. I have often been in situations where I have felt as though I am being looked down on or deemed inadequate by my male counterparts and colleagues. I have watched as women are talked down to and treated differently than their male equals by men in positions of power in theatrical spaces. It’s a helpless and irritating feeling– but also one that consistently reminds me that we have already come so far as a marginalized community, that it is is 2018 and I do not have to stand for this type of treatment.

 

I think a lot, today, about the strong female role models in my life– who have raised and guided me to remember my worth as a woman and stand up to those who attempt to mistreat me or any woman for simply our gender – with both grace and passion.

 

My mother and grandmother– who are my constant reminders of what a strong woman looks like, have raised me to revel in and celebrate my identity as a woman, despite the challenges that we have already and will in the future face. They are my heroes in a modern world that can be discouraging as a young woman. I have watched them navigate and overcome situations where they themselves felt stifled for their femininity or womanhood. Most importantly, I have watched the way that they consistently continue to forge on, never getting knocked down by crippling misogyny or mistreatment. That is the biggest takeaway I have from these two women–  when we face adversity as women we must continue to fight on, no matter how difficult this can be. As women, we are entitled to be seen as equals in a world that does not see us that way.

 

In the aftermath of making a major change to my lifestyle regarding my personal life (see here) and my body, I have often struggled with comments and opinions of those who don’t really know the implications of my situation, or the justification for my choice. Recently, a friend of mine had a male acquaintance of ours tell her:

 

“I don’t know why she decided to go through with that, her boobs were so huge before.”

 

When she first told me of this comment, I was immediately put down and hurt. I felt the overwhelming need to say something, to clap back, to justify one of the best choices I have ever made in my 19 years– one that was not just a personal and lifestyle choice, but also a medical necessity. I felt stifled as a woman, having made this choice majorly due of the sexualization and harassment I was facing from men prior to the procedure. Now, months later, I am still receiving comments and judgements. Sometimes, I feel as though nothing I do will never be enough. Either I continued to live with the burdens (literally) but was deemed a “whore” and a “slut” by men for something I couldn’t help, or I am looked down upon and criticized by these same men for putting an end to my personal misery. This choice quite literally effected nobody but me. And yet, my male acquaintances and friends still have something to say about it.

 

It took time for me to come to terms with this treatment and these opinions. It’s still something I’m struggling and grappling with. Overall, the justification behind my personal choices, in any capacity, is not for the men criticizing me to have. They are not entitled to these explanations or worth the breath I would spend standing up for myself, when these words would not affect them anyhow.

 

Rather, I take a deep breath, remember my worth and my strong foundation and resilient female mentors– and with the bravery and endurance of all the strong women to come before us I do my best to not let these words effect me. I do my best to continue to lead a life where I celebrate and support other women. I do my best to realize that I do not need a man’s validation for any decision I make. That I do not need a man’s validation at all.

 

And today especially, I remember how far we’ve come as women while looking forward to a future where we continue to take strides toward equal opportunity.