Lending a Hand Instead of Closing the Door
Monday March 11, 2013

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“As we light a path for others, we naturally light our own way.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

Last Friday (March 8th) was International Women’s Day. It is interesting to point out that International Men’s Day is celebrated as well, on November 19th. Both sexes designating a day to celebrate, gather and find strength in improving their living conditions, their economic opportunities, their relationships, their health and well-being. You see, while the genders may be different biologically, we are both deserving of equal protection, education, respect and opportunities.

Last week I read an intriguing post and subsequent comments on Keep It Chic (click here to read). The term feminist was brought up and discussed regarding its modern definition inspired by the author having had the opportunity to recently hear Gloria Steinem speak at a recent panel discussion. Followed by reading recent op-eds reviewing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book and a profile in The New Yorker of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I couldn’t help but ponder the concept of how women have and continue to help each other attain greater heights when it comes to equality and success.

It has been my experience to have received help from female mentors and fellow women on my path of education, career and life. However, I have also received unwarranted ignoramus exclusions and manipulative attacks from women as well. With that being said, men have also exhibited both of these behaviors toward me. While there are certainly many cases of women refusing to hold out their hand and assist other women reach the pinnacles they themselves have reached, to categorically state that women are less likely to help fellow women on their rise to equal economic success and top leadership roles than men is to ignore the many women who are and have been trying to inspire, awaken and educate women on how to do what they achieved. The problem, as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, is that often women don’t recognize or ignore the opportunity presented.

With so many misinterpretations and propaganda fueled attacks to scare potential supporters of feminism away, let’s look at the core of its doctrine – advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean one believes women are better than men or that women should have special rights. But it does mean that regardless of sex, the same opportunities should be available and whomever meets the criteria should be able to land the job, buy the house, fight in combat, serve their constituents, etc. Be it a man or a woman.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you have to want to burn your bra or toss your razor. Adore fashion and the self-expression it allows? Fantastic! Wish to go braless and go native? That’s fantastic as well. Being an individual, being yourself, is part of supporting what feminism is all about rather than being expected to play certain roles even if it squashes your potential.

Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to be a democrat or a republican. Ardently believe in being fiscally conservative? Perfectly fine. Fiercely believe in helping those less fortunate? That’s great too. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with other feminists, but it does provide you the voice to exercise your constitutional rights, rather than eliminating your right to serenade should you choose to sing.

Knowing one’s history, women’s history and history in general is vitally important in order to live a life of progress, growth and attainment of the life we want to live. As women, to recognize the rights we never had, but now are inked into our federal and state laws due to determined and strong women who came before is to not take for granted the opportunities that the world now offers and realize that the journey is not complete.

“Always concentrate on how far you have come, rather than how far you have left to go. The difference in how easy it seems will amaze you.” – Heidi Johnson

I often understand the act of women who are hesitant or unwilling to help other women succeed to their levels and perhaps beyond as one of insecurity. An insecurity that is understandable based on the past, but not necessary or productive if the desire is indeed to prompt permanent change. In essence, the fear that there may not be room for more women at the top prompts some to first look out for themselves, not having faith and confidence that simply because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t.

“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” – Erica Jong

I believe that as more women “lean in”, as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, but at the same time also begin to think creatively about how a successful company or business can function and begin to take the risk of speaking up, refusing to go along with structures that are traditional, but limiting, then more women will be more comfortable, more willing and more eager to extend a hand and open a door to those who wish to discover their same levels of opportunity. Once we learn that in helping others, we can’t help but cast that same wonderful gift of assistance upon yourself as well, then progress can occur. And with each additional extension of the hand, more permanent positive progress occurs as well.

“I am willing to put myself through anything, temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process.” – Diana Nyad

Whether a woman chooses to chase her career, build a family, go back to work, remain childless or never marry at all, the gift that allows all of these options to be a choice a woman can make rather than be forced into is supporting equality for women – equality for all. For when a woman stands against equality for any one entity, she is ironically standing against herself as well. And that leads us bound to repeat the atrocities that should only be read in outdated history books, not in the current headlines of the day.

“We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.” – Marianne Williamson

Today, begin to discover ways to open doors for others. In doing so, you will be helping yourself out in ways you may never know were possible.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

5 thoughts on “Lending a Hand Instead of Closing the Door

  1. “take for granted all that the world has to offer…”. The real issue is believing that those opportunites are simple offered. The reality is that many women fought hard for those opportunities, and they shouldn’t be taken for granted. Nice piece!

  2. I think that what most people understand of feminism is essentially the definition of feminism as understood by radical feminism, due to the fact that the media has paid and continues to pay attention to that facet of feminism as the sole definition. But what remains frustrating is that a limited frame is given as the definition, when what the objective of feminism is, is for every woman to define for herself who she is and not be told what she can and can’t be. It is propagating another binary, when we are trying to break free of binaries. I read an article a few months ago(I can’t remember the publication but it may have been ELLE SA) where the author described how it was impossible for contemporary women to deny being feminists, because of an argument similar to the one you give. If one makes use of and appreciates the rights you have gained as a woman citizen, then you are a feminist. If you appreciate the struggle then you are a feminist. But that feminist label is defined by you yourself and does not have to be prescribed. Also one needn’t be ashamed of that ‘label’. We need to realise that if you accept the word as a negative term and as a stamp defining you in a precise term as viewed by someone else then you are giving up some of your power and as a consequence dis-empowering female as well as other voices outside of the perceived ideal power. I think we as women need to be more aware of the fact that we are still in the process of gaining our rights and having them enforced. Watching Sunrise on Sky News, I found out that two thirds of the work worldwide is done by women, but we get paid only ten percent of the wealth and own only one percent of the property. I find this shocking, even though I know there are places in our world where women still can’t even get a driver’s licence or venture out alone unaccompanied by a male family member. Women and girls are still treated as commodities and not citizens with rights in so many communities, and it is imperative that we help look after each other as well as our fellow citizens, no matter what country you belong to, because how can we truly succeed and enjoy life when we can see injustice around us.

  3. Wow, what a great post. There are tooa many women, particularly in the corporate world who don’t support other women (insecurity and having had a hard struggle in the past plays a big part- I believe). Every day, in managing my direct reports, I provide all the support I can to ensure they develop to be the best successors they can be.

  4. As you said, I’m so glad the notion of “feminism” is beginning to open up and include all women. I’m afraid it moved from a notion of celebrating those who did want something different, to excluding those who desired “the norm” of home and family.

    One of my favorite movies is Mona Lisa Smile. I love the line towards the end when Julia Roberts character is disappointed in a promising student for giving up law school to be a wife. Julia Stiles’ character reminds her: “You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0304415/quotes)

    I deeply respect those women who understand that they can have it all — just maybe not at the same time!

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