My biggest strength is also my biggest weakness, as is usually the case. An innate part of my personality that gives me the most joy also zaps me of strength: the ability to see all sides and understand where people are coming from, even when I don’t agree 100%.
As a sensitive person these days, I can’t shake a feeling of sadness. It’s exhausting promoting peace and understanding when people won’t budge or listen. I keep waiting for more people in this heightened, decisive world to practice more empathy towards the other side. Fewer insulting memes about Melania Trump or gloating snide comments about the Obamas.
I feel sad and worried. And, today, a little pissed.
I say this with the greatest respect for my fellow warrior women: ladies, knock it the hell off. From one extreme side to the next, stop bashing each other.
Stop categorizing every woman who marched last Saturday as an angry, man-hating, classless, pro-abortion feminist.
Stop assuming that every woman who opposed the march is a docile, easily-swayed, anti-woman’s-rights, out-of-touch housewife.
I understand concerns about the march. I saw angry, meant-to-shock signs that would rub anyone the wrong way. I also saw heartfelt, conviction-based signs I know came from a place of real experience.
I don’t understand how a woman can mock or judge another woman based on an article she saw a friend share, a picture she sees, or an opinion she reads.
I know many strong, loving, wise women who marched based on personal convictions. For every self-absorbed celebrity, pro-choice rant, or rumors about a global agenda, I believe it started based on real concerns about sexual harassment and bigotry being sanctioned from a position of the highest authority.
I also empathize with those who believe the march become overrun by a political agenda that threatened the real message. Some marched for their own political gain, for reasons she might not be sure about, or to promote an anti-Trump agenda under the guise of an international march for women’s rights.
But I saw the compelling pictures of millions gathered across the country and the world. Every woman I have ever known has a story about being cat-called, worried about being assaulted, overlooked at work, denied a raise, or much worse for being a woman.
I grew up in a loving and supportive family; my parents would never have dreamed of inhibiting their six girls’ dreams just because we were female. I wouldn’t even know what that felt like. I also saw first-hand the hate of women towards other women, specifically my mom.
My mom started a pro-life organization that spoke for babies and women traumatized by abortion. I marched with her at the state capital when I was eight and ten years old; I sat behind the stage at KOMO 4 news when she was interviewed. I watched Planned Parenthood feminists address her with such venomous eyes it took my breath away, even when she spoke for women suffering from PTSD as a by-product of abortion.
I have personal convictions that started back then. I am pro-birth control and pro-life; I am also pro-women’s rights, including equal pay in the work place and laws against sexual assault. I may have grown up in a sheltered environment but I felt fear living in Seattle, worried that men would proposition, follow, or try to grab me (all of which happened). I later worked for the most sexist boss known to man who fired me for being pregnant (an unlawful termination lawsuit which I won).
I also would never call myself a victim for being a woman. I studied feminist studies in graduate school and much of it left a bad taste in my mouth. Anger and hate will never take down hate. Peace and love only will, as MLK so famously said.
I worked hard my whole life to be where I am. It took this people-pleaser a long time, but I learned strength from my own merit. I love men and don’t believe they are all sexist. But the system needs work, as hidden, normalized sexism starts to come out from the woodworks.
I chose not to march last Saturday. I supported it in my own way. I believe in personal convictions over politics, and that every person who voices a true belief deserves respect. Even if I don’t agree with all of my friends and we engage in healthy debate, I hear their voice and make mine heard. Sometimes it’s ignored. But I am not going to defriend someone for it.
I can stand up for the unborn and discuss an overhaul of the abortion industry, try to create a new conversation. At the same time, I can write blog posts about the injustice of the Brock Turners across the country. I can choose to give Trump a chance (we have no choice) but I will also not be silent about things he has said that are harmful, reprehensible and downright dangerous. Critical thinking is alive and well and must not be shut down or silenced. When that happens, we are in serious trouble.
I can be both pro-life and pro-women. There must be a new discussion or else change will never happen and bitterness will continue to rise.
I ask that women remember we are all women. All of us have our own stories, and either have always had or are learning to assert our voice. Mean girl mentalities deserve to be left in high school, where they did enough damage.
If you can’t respect or hear your fellow sister, how can we ever rise above? How can we who are strong help women who aren’t if we can’t stop fighting? How can we make real changes to protect woman from domestic violence if women as well as men perpetuate a “blame the victim” mentality?
I understand sexism coming from a patriarchal system. It’s insidious, under the surface in some cases and spectacularly obvious in others. I have huge hope that it can be talked about and changed. But until women speak for each other and hold each other up, agree to disagree, and respect personal convictions that don’t align with our own, we are facing an even steeper uphill battle.
Women as well as children are impacted by policies that don’t protect them. Speaking up for the unborn should also include lobbying for birth control being covered by insurance, for paid maternity leave so we can give our families the best start. Pro-women means so much more than caricatures permeating Facebook. Pro-family deserves more respect than liberals who mock the Christian values I grew up with or conservatives who turn away from loving gay families.
We can do better than this. I believe there’s a peacemaker as well as a warrior in each of us women, if we can find a way to practice peace and togetherness. Stop bashing. Start respecting. I don’t think Right and Left are as different as they seem from a humanitarian perspective. It is disheartening and, quite frankly, insulting, to continue perpetuating the divide.
The Pollyanna and peacemaker in me believes we can do it. I hope you do too.