Today celebrates the anniversary of the day the United States adopted the 19th Amendment in 1920, the amendment that allowed Women to vote in elections. While women have come a long, long way since then, it’s important to know our fight towards equality is not over.
Celebrating today is especially important to me because when I was a little girl growing up in rural China, girls were not valued the way boys were valued. I remember one time when my mother had gotten us a little bit of food since we often went without it, she gave more to my brother because he was seen as the more important one between the both of us. Many girls were abandoned by their families because they were not seen as people would would grow into providers for the family. Of course, China is isn’t the only country that has lower expectations of women compared to men. Many countries all over the world hold women to lower standards, and the United States is certainly not an exception.
Women here in the US on average earn only 94 cents for every dollar a man makes. How does that happen? While I’m certain there are a few employers out there who legitimately believe that women are worth less than men, it seems that we are often the ones stopping our own selves from succeeding at the same rate that men succeed. What are we doing differently?
Imagine you are looking for a job. You scroll through the list on the usual website and click on the ones that catch your eye. How likely are you to click on a job that has the title “manager” or “supervisor” or “lead” in it? Do you believe that you are qualified for these kind of upper management positions? It would seem that more often than not, women will say “no… I’m not qualified enough for that” and not even bother applying for the position at all. Men, on the other hand, have the tendency to believe they are much more qualified than they might actually be (the possible root of mansplaining, perhaps?) for any particular job in their field. While women are often conditioned to be more modest about their skillset, men are conditioned to represent strength and perseverance until they get what they want.
Unfortunately, sometimes the expectations of society are out of our hands. The way other people see us or the environment we grew up in are things we cannot control. Luckily for us, our childhood upbringing and the way things have gone “historically” in society are things that can stay in the past if that’s where we want to keep them. I have a little equation for that: E+R=O
What does that mean? Event + Response = Outcome
An event from the past is not a response in itself. The equation is not Event = Outcome. While the event is something we might not have control over, such as a rainstorm or not being allowed to vote or that we constantly heard “man up!” from the people around us as kids, those events do not create an outcome all on their own. The second part of the equation–the part about “Response”–is the part we do have control over within our own lives.
Rainstorm + Angry About Cancelling Plans = Day Ruined
Rainstorm + Finding Another Fun Thing To Do Inside = Super Fun Day
Of those two equations, which one seems better? Probably the second one. Were you able to magically change the weather to make your day better? No, I’m sorry, you’re not a wizard today, friend. You made the outcome positive because of the response you chose. You might say “okay, Grace, but women’s equality isn’t the same as bad weather.” What about this one…
You Can’t Vote + “That’s Always How It’s Been” = No Movement Towards Equality
You Can’t Vote +” Lets See If I Can Find Another Way to Influence Politics While Striving Towards Women’s Suffrage” = A Move Towards Equality
Not being able to vote is certainly bigger than a little rainstorm. It’s not an event you can really look at differently or find much of a positive in. You can, however, take action towards change for the future. Overcoming obstacles rather than letting them drag us down is something we as women can strive for together and in our own lives, so that maybe future generations won’t need to face the same struggles. An equation that was especially difficult for many women to solve is this one: Breast Cancer Diagnosis + ? = ?
How do you make that event into a better experience? You could sit and think “why me? What did I do to deserve this?” but instead, a reaction to this event could be “how lucky am I to live in a time period with modern medicine to help me overcome this?” and “How lucky am I to be surrounded by so many people that love me?” The outcome of these reactions? You could learn that everyday that you are alive is a gift not to be wasted.
So, for National Women’s Equality Day, I have chosen to dress in pink, the color of the breast cancer ribbon, and wear my medal from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk For the Cure I did earlier this month, to remind women that no matter what happened in the past or how people treat us today, our reactions to these events is what determines the outcome of our future within our own lives. As the old saying goes, “other people’s opinions of me are not my business.” Nothing is stopping you from achieving your dreams except for the limitations you place upon yourself.
That being said, there’s no reason to try to become more “manly” to achieve your goals. Part of what makes you special and the right person for the job you want is how you look at the world through the eyes of a woman. You don’t have to act big and tough and be something you aren’t to get on their level. You have your own strengths to rely on to get you up there. Back in the old school yard days, the bullies would tell other boys “you fight like a girl,” because the worst insult to another boy is to be told he is too feminine or girly. Today, we women wear that saying as a badge of honor. Yes, I do fight like a girl. But am I weak? Heck no! Fighting like a girl is a strength, and it can get me to the top just the same as fighting like a boy.
So, ladies, even though we already earned the right to vote, what are some of your own Event + Response = Outcome equations you have in regards to women’s rights and equality? How are you “fighting like a girl” today?
Photo credit: Grace Liangfirstname.lastname@example.org
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