As Women’s Day approaches, and on the back of a national lockdown which has given me much pause for thought, my thoughts have turned to the question of what it means to be a woman, not only in South Africa but in the world at large.
So much has been written from the perspective of how men, in general, treat women and what needs to change in this regard. While I agree that much work remains to be done, particularly in the area of gender-based violence and in the workplace, not much attention has been given to the way women treat women.
As women, we are often guilty of internalising certain so-called “patriarchal” messages, for example, that we are not as strong, capable or competent as men. This then leads to beliefs about our rightful place in society, which in turn leads to women judging other women about the choices we make. Sometimes, we criticise other women for “minor” transgressions while we forgive men for “major” ones. Or we make excuses for men’s behaviour because “that’s how it is” but somehow can’t do the same for the women in our lives. And so on it goes. Not for all women, but for many of us.
With this in mind, I have described in general terms the kind of woman I aspire to be and hope to challenge others to be as well:
- I want to be a woman of whom it is said that the love of God rises in her and through her.
- I want to be a woman who is sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
- I want to be a woman that celebrates other women.
- I want to be a woman who wrestles with her own story until she owns it completely.
- I want to be a woman who sees possibility and holds onto Hope.
- I want to be a woman who is not distrustful of other women but remains open to finding friendship in unexpected places.
- I want to be a woman who is surrounded by women who know what it is to love, champion and celebrate other women.
- I want to be a woman who is accompanied by spiritual midwives throughout her life – friends, mentors, leaders, mothers – who join hands with her encouraging her to dig deeper and make her more real and more honest — with herself, God and others.
- I want to be a woman who continues to learn and to grow.
- I want to be a woman of faith, who is inspired, influenced and challenged by the stories of other women in Scripture, in history and in her own circles.
- I want to be a woman who calls out and works to dismantle from our world and our own hearts and with her whole life: violence, rape, abuse and torture against all women. Economic injustices, educational inequalities, maternal mortality, forced prostitution, sex trafficking, and the many ways that the image of God in women is abused or broken every day around the world.
- I want to be a woman who remembers the truth of who she is. That she is valuable, that she is loved and that she is worthy. Not because of what she does or what she says or what she accomplishes, and not because of how men perceive her, not because of how she looks or dresses, not because of her income, not because she is or isn’t a mother but because she is made in the image of God.
- I want to be a woman who is a friend to the poor, to the oppressed and to the marginalised.
- I want to be a woman who rises up with her gifts and her words, her passion and her insight, her skill and her brain, her perspective and her history.
- I want to be a woman who runs the race set before her, who flourishes in her own lane while cheering on all those running alongside her.
- This is the kind of woman I want to be and become.
Happy Women’s Day (and Month)!