International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Being the ambitious young woman that I am, you might have supposed that I’d have joined with the UN in some way with its message that we should focus on improving the quality of life for women around the world. The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2013 was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” Somehow, that big goal blows my mind.

WomenThere are a lot of incredibly awful things that happen in this world, and I ignore them much of the time. Not always intentionally, but I’ll admit – yes, sometimes even intentionally. It feels like one’s own life is difficult to manage, and so advocating on behalf of others is even more difficult. Then I get to the matter where as much as I want to stand up for others, I hit my internal walls and I have to stop at those and examine womanhood before I can champion an international cause.

I spent last night talking to two beautiful young women about what it means to be a woman in our world today, and how challenging it is to discern our role in this crazy, mixed up society. We turned part of our conversation to a book called Captivating, written by John & Stasi Eldridge, a rite-of-passage book of sorts that tries to capture the essence of modern womanhood and femininity.

One section of the book pulls at my heart, challenges my mind, and speaks to the truth of something that I think is a common experience for many woman. In it, John is talking about how he was scared to write the book and what it thought process was as he tried to figure out whether he should write it with his wife or not.

What is this thing in me — and in most men — that just doesn’t want to go deep into a woman’s world? You are too much. Too hard. It’s too much work. Men are simpler. Easier. And isn’t that just the message you’ve lived with all your life as a woman? “You’re too much, and not enough. You’re just not worth the effort?” (And why is it such an effort? There must be something wrong with you.

Ouch. Edlridge goes on to explain why he thinks men carry that attitude and why it’s so challenging to step into a woman’s world, but even with his explanation, it’s not very easy to sit on the other side of those thoughts. I walk into a room with an idea of how I’d like things to go. I sit in conversations with men. We chat, and I talk about my hopes and dreams. And I wonder…Am I too much for them? Do they hear me? Do they see my vision? Even more, do they see me?

It’s not easy being a woman, especially one who is trying to fight the good fight to make the world a better place. This week I started a new job working at a rural health clinic about 15 miles away from where I live. I’m sitting in a small office with two guys in their 30’s, and together with them, I’m supposed to provide the training, logistics, and analysis of every aspect of the clinic’s Electronic Health Records and health management systems. I’m excited for the position, but a little nervous about how these two guys are going to deal with my presence.

They’ve never had a woman in their office before, and they clearly have lived their life in a mancave. The office greeted me with a basketball hoop on the back of the door. Rock music playing on speakers, and stories of how awfully messy that room has been. Women told me to keep them in line. Men cracked jokes. I squished in at my desk in the corner of the room and wondered, “How is this going to go?”

I want to encourage women to believe that they’re capable of so much. To believe that they are both worth it, and beautiful. To feel like they have the right to speak up on their own behalf and on the behalf of others. Women have an incredible capacity to love and care for people, and we are desperately needed in all aspects of society. My coworkers don’t know it yet, but I’m going to do great things for their little mancave. I’ll even bake them cookies.

Happy Post-International Women’s Day. May you appreciate the women in your life and share your love with them. Stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves, and remember to take the risk to open up your heart.