the she series: answers from this average jo

When I read Jo’s comments about being envious of other women on Instagram I had to laugh because at times I have found myself jealous of her account. She always seems to be doing something interesting–vacationing somewhere I haven’t been, taking her kids somewhere fun in the city, meeting with refugees, running in races…

Most of the time I see her photos and wonder if she actually found a way to multiply herself–because how else does she do it all? Plus she writes blog posts I want to share with the world, they’re so perfectly worded.

So basically she has a list of characteristics she’d like, and I just want to be her (although the washboard abs and money for travel she lists I’d accept as well.) Isn’t it amazing how quick we are to love the green grass on the other side?

And with that, on to Jo’s answers!

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Content and Equal

I feel like I’ve lived most of my life perfectly content with the status quo. I’ve been tremendously lucky and blessed to have so many advantages. I’ve had the luxury of being indifferent or even callous to the plight of women and other marginalized populations. So until recently I’ve ignored or been unaware of being unfairly treated. And maybe now my indignation is causing me to see things in a slightly jaded way… The other day I was taking the subway into Manhattan during rush hour to meet a friend who was visiting from out of town. At each stop more people crammed onto the train, and eventually a man lost his cool and told me (by telling someone else) that my stroller was not “helping” the crowded situation. I’m not sure if he would have said that to a man with a stroller, but clearly he thought I had less of a right to be on that train than he did. I hate to sound cynical, but our male dominated world does not like to make accommodations for women, despite all the things it demands of them, and particularly women with children.

Ten years ago, maybe even five years ago if you had asked me if I considered myself a feminist, I would have said, politely and demurely, that “No I am not a man-hater.” Even two years ago I might I have said that I wanted women to be more represented, empowered and appreciated, but I wouldn’t call myself a “feminist.”  But if anyone asks me today, my answer is, “Hell yes!!”

In the last year, as I’ve really allowed myself to acknowledge the ways men in my church, country and world have nearly all the power, I’ve become incredibly impassioned. I’m not a likely feminist candidate. I am a middle-class, white, Christian, stay-at-home mother of five children. I did not grow up feeling less than my male counterparts, I did not ever feel oppressed, I have never felt that my gender prevented me from having what I wanted in this world. But just because this was not my reality, or my perception of reality, does not mean that it hasn’t been the painful reality for millions of women.

There have been many experiences that have changed my point of view, and have motivated me to champion the cause of women. Firstly, I’ve had friends in difficult marriages who have been gaslighted, manipulated and abused by men and have felt powerless to change their circumstances. Secondly, while living in London, I discovered that there were women who had been taught basic beliefs and principles that were SO different from mine that it had truly never occurred to me that another person’s opposing belief could be valid. Lastly, I began to read the words of feminist women, who for whatever reason, saw the world in all its inequality and had the courage to speak up and share it, despite the backlash and hatred that is heaped upon the oppressed when they attempt to rise up over their oppressors.

Men making nearly all the laws in our country. Men run nearly all the companies and organizations. Famous artists, musicians, leaders, historical figures, athletes and religious heroes are nearly always men. I love this quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

Work and Family

I am interested in the impact of families on society, and I am also interested in how society and support and benefit ALL families. I believe in God, and I believe that he created an “ideal” family unit that is in line with the traditional family structure. But I also believe that for various reasons, some I understand and some I do not, God does not expect or allow for all his children to participate in or experience this pattern. I am supportive of the family in all its resulting forms. I believe that men can be nurturing and loving fathers, I believe that women can be successful breadwinners. I recognize that families will form in ways that may not reflect my beliefs, but are consistent with beliefs of others. I extend grace to all parents, and depend on it for myself.

I also value education in all its forms, formal education included. I think getting a college education is extremely valuable for everyone, including women and including women who are not interested in having a professional “career” outside of her role as a housewife or mother.

Learning is always beneficial to making individuals more qualified to do all the things they want to do. My college education taught me things that influenced my view of the world, which therefore influences the way I parent, and the way I participate in my community. I am a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend because of things I learned in college lectures. I have an increased capacity for gratitude because I have an increased understanding of things like my body, my country and my mental health. I am a more well-rounded human because of my education.

Education comes in many ways. It comes from schooling, it comes from experience, it comes from reading and studying and researching. It comes from relationships and it comes from introspection. I think having an appetite for knowledge, and actively seeking it, is profoundly empowering.

Insecurities and Wishes

Oh my insecurities!  I’m insecure about looking young. I’m insecure about having too many children. I’m insecure about not being intellectual. I’m insecure about being too religious. I’m insecure about not being religious enough. I’m insecure about my body. I’m insecure about not being productive. I’m insecure about my clothes.

There are half a dozen women I follow on Instagram who seem to have a really amazing life. They take amazing photographs, they travel, they know all the “it” places to eat, clothes to wear, and slang to use. They are hip to the max, and people adore them. It’s so hard to know if their lives are really a life I would want. And even though logic and reason reassure me that many of the things I want don’t actually ensure contentment, I can conclude from my envy that in spite of myself what I really want is:

  • Money, wealth, fame
  • Mind-blowing photography skills
  • Recognition, praise, shameless adoration from social media consumers
  • Washboard abs and a nice tan
  • Comedic timing and creativity
  • Tech savvy, a drone and video editing qualifications

I think the most difficult part about being a woman is having the courage and the freedom and support to discover who you really are. So often I find myself doing things, liking things, pursuing things because I feel like I’m supposed to, or because I see that those things are “working” for someone else. It’s so hard to feel confident and secure enough to embrace and accept what I really want.

My wish for women is that they could be untethered from expectations and be empowered to make decisions about their life based on what they really want for themselves. I think womanhood would be easier if women could silence all their doubts and insecurities and all the haters and criticism, and forge ahead without judgment. They could work or not work, they could have eight children or none, they could breastfeed or bottle feed, they could be aggressive and ambitious or they could be introverted and minimalist.

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