What life lessons would you pass on to the generation of women growing up after the #MeToo era? Trish Wylie and Sherri Skanes consider what they would say to the youngest members of their families in the month which celebrates the International Day Of The Girl Child.
Trish Wylie ~ Love Who You Are
Regardless of what life has thrown at me, I still consider myself pretty fortunate. For starters, I'm still here. I have a roof over my head and food in the cupboard and am both physically and mentally capable of taking care of myself. I live in a democratic society, where, theoretically, my vote counts. And for a good portion of my life, my country has been at peace, so people can go about their daily business without worrying a bomb might go off.
Like I said, I'm fortunate. But that doesn't mean there haven't been struggles along the way.
I think the reason the #MeToo movement resonated with women all around the world is because so many of us have been there. A 'playful' grope by some guy in the office. A boyfriend who said you were a 'tease' if you didn't go all the way. To a lot of people that kind of thing might seem pretty harmless or maybe even dated. But it's symptomatic of a much bigger problem. My argument would be this: Allow that one grope to go unchecked and how long before you find yourself cornered in a room with no escape? Date the kind of guys who says things like that to someone they're supposed to care about and how long before you find yourself with a guy who won't take no for an answer? I don't see #MeToo as a women v's men thing or taking a staunchly feminist stance. I view it as drawing a line between right and wrong behaviour. Perpetrators got away with it in the past because their victims remained silent. #MeToo gave those victims a voice.
Most relevant of all to me personally, is that it reminds us silence isn't consent. So, if standing up en-masse, demonstrating solidarity and making perpetrators accountable for their actions is what it takes to make people realize that...
You see, I spent most of my teens feeling lost and alone, unable to confide in anyone when a much older man repeatedly copped a feel during diving lessons or when a family member felt it was appropriate to stick his tongue down my throat when he kissed me goodbye. And there was more to deal with in my twenties. Some of the situations I found myself in pretty damn scary. Each time it happened, I stayed silent and felt guilty, believed it was my fault and I must have done something wrong. Of course, I know better now. But like I said, I'm fortunate. Things could have been much worse.
I'm not defined by my own #MeToo experiences. Yes, my trust in others was frequently broken and yes, it most definitely made me more guarded, particularly when I was younger. But it doesn't define me. It's part of what made me the woman I am today. Not the sum total.
Even so, I still debated writing this article.
I mean, c'mon. I write romance. Some of them with alpha heroes who aren't afraid to reach out and take what they want. Some folks might view that as hypocrisy. How can I stand behind a movement like #MeToo and support the empowerment of women if I write about heroes who ride roughshod over heroines who like being treated that way? The simple answer is, they don't. My heroines stand up for themselves. Call the hero on his shit. And no hero of mine would ever cross the line into rape territory. He has a code of honor and knows right from wrong. I don't think that should be considered a fantasy that's relegated to the pages of a romance novel. It should be something that's passed down, from one generation to the next in the real world. To women and men.
Now there is a new generation of girls in my family, it made me think about what I would say to help nurture their sense of self-worth and empower them. Honestly, I don't think it would be that much different to what I said to the generation that came before them. But I'm older now, have chalked up a few more decades of mileage and firmly believe we have a duty to hand down what we have learned so the mistakes of the past aren't repeated. I hope it's a conversation we can have face to face. That I'm here to watch them grow up in a world which looks back on #MeToo as a turning point. If not, maybe they'll read this one day and it will help them get to know me a little better. So, if you're reading this girls, Auntie Trish loves you gazillions and every word she's about to type comes from the heart, k?
1/ Love Who You Are.
You are the only you in this great big world. Other people may be like you but they're not you. So, be quirky, be kooky and crazy and creative and inquisitive and never, ever apologize for how you feel. Talk about it, yes. Understand why you felt that way, cos that's important. But don't apologize. Unless, y'know, you're being unreasonable or realize you were wrong. In that case, do apologize. It's okay to make mistakes. We all do. And when you've apologized, forgive yourself. Cos that's what you do when you love someone and they've apologized and meant it and do everything possible not to make the same mistake again.
Love yourself and it's easier for other people to love you. Sounds crazy, I know. But its true. Sadly, there will also be times when you'll love a person more than they love you and vice-versa. Love yourself before you look for someone else to love and it will help you realize if that happens, it's not your fault. It might not be their fault, either. Some stuff just happens. But just because it happened once doesn't mean it will happen every time. Because you are amazing. You deserve to be loved. So, be confident in who and what you are, love that person regardless of your 'flaws' or the fact you're 'different' or any of the other things you think might make people hate you. Love the skin you're in. Love your body. If you're not happy with something you can change, then change it. But don't do it because someone else says you should. Do it for you. Cos, y'know what? You are totally worth it.
2/ Share The Love.
You are not alone. Even if there are times you feel that way. It might seem like no-one understands you or ever could, but trust me, someone will. A family member, a friend, someone who might only be in your life for a moment before they move on or someone who will hold your hand and walk beside you for decades. All you gotta do is find them. When you find someone special, don't hide how you feel. Take a deep breath and tell them. They might need to hear it as much as you need to say it. And if they don't love you the same way, refer to point 1.
Do something that makes you happy every single day. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into everything you do and be passionate about the things and people you love. Laugh often and loud, until you're crying and your tummy hurts. Be silly whenever you feel like it so you make someone else do the same thing. Dance, sing, have adventures and never stop believing in magic, cos it is out there. But remember, it's okay to cry when you're sad. And to miss someone. And to love someone or something so much that it hurts. No half-measures. Life is too short for that. If you're hurting, it means you care, which is a good thing. What's more, if someone else is hurting and you hurt simply because they do and not because it directly effects you, that means you have a good heart. Other people will try to break it. Sometimes it will feel like it does. But don't let that stop you. Be a force of nature. Be unstoppable!
3/ Conquer Your Fears.
Take chances. Each new experience will teach you something about yourself. You might discover a hidden talent or find out you're braver or stronger than you thought you were. It could bring you great joy or it may simply provide an opportunity to make new friends. Taking off the training wheels is a big step, you may wobble a bit along the way, but you'll get there. And you will be super proud of yourself when you do!
Meet lots of new people. Different people, diverse people, young and old people. When you do, you should always make time for them, even if it's just to smile and say hello. But it's equally important to listen. Take it all in. Think about what you hear. Put yourself in another person's shoes for a moment and imagine how you would feel if you were them. Their experiences may be different from yours. Their beliefs may differ. But their emotions are the same. People forget that sometimes. Don't be one of those people. And don't live in a bubble. The world is a big place. Get out there. See things, try things, do things, taste things, breathe deep and love life. Explore, learn, grow and question what you thought you knew. Be open to what's out there. Yes, there will be people you meet who you can never agree with or may even dislike. You may have to walk away if they refuse to meet you in the middle or are unable to agree to disagree. But don't let a bad experience close your mind or your heart. Play it safe, never go anywhere or do anything or refuse to open your heart again after its been broken and you may end up making your world so small it can feel like the walls are closing in. If it feels like they are, go outside. Go somewhere new. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can do it. I know you can!
4/ Think Big.
Know what you want? Reach out ad grab it. Got a goal? Work towards it. Unless it's something like sky-diving without a parachute, you should never let anyone or any thing limit your potential. And that especially includes you! Don't be your own harshest critic. There are plenty of folks out there who will be only too quick to volunteer for the position. Ignore them and stay focussed on the things that make you happy. Never give up on your dreams, even if life gets in the way. Be determined. Be ambitious. Be smart. Something gets in your way, figure out to get round it. If a problem seems too big, break it down into smaller pieces. Ask for help when you need it. Offer help when you think someone else needs it. We all do from time to time. And every victory/success, no matter how small, should be celebrated. Spread the joy. Create more joy. Revel in every little bit of joy that comes your way. You are the queen of your world. Never, ever, let anyone steal your crown.
5/ Own It.
That little piece of the planet you're occupying right now? It's yours. Don't let anyone invade your space if you don't want them to be there. Unless it breaks a law or hurts someone, don't let anyone dictate what you can do in your space, either. Material things, even if they have sentimental value, are just things. They will come and go. As will some people. But that space is the most valuable piece of property you'll ever own.
Allowing people into your personal space is a good thing. We all need some human contact from time to time. Hugs are awesome. Be a hugger. But trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Especially when it feels like you don't have a choice. If someone loves you. Really, truly loves you. They will never try to force you to do something you don't want to do, even if they think it's for your own good or that you secretly want it. What they'll do is talk to you, listen to what you have to say, possibly debate it with you a little, but in the end, they'll repect your decision. Respect is a big thing. Anyone who doesn't respect you doesn't deserve your time. Sometimes it will be hard to shut someone out or walk away but if that's what you need to do, then do it. Explain it so there's no confusion but don't feel guilty about it. Own every decision you make, regardless of whether they prove to be right or wrong. Be honest with yourself and other people and there's a greater chance people will be honest with you. Be trustworthy and you will earn people's trust. Have a code you live by, believe in something and stand up for it. Most of all believe in yourself. You are stronger and more resilient than you might think.
Strive to be beautiful, inside and out, and never let anyone make you feel that you aren't. It doesn't matter if you don't look like the people on TV, in the movies or online. If everyone looked the same, the world would be a much duller place. View a zit, a scar, stretch marks, laughter lines, wrinkles etc. as merit badges which prove you have lived. Don't obsess over them. That's wasted time. And we've all got a limited amount of that. Instead, wear them with pride, smile and hold your head up high so everyone can see how amazing you are. The people who can't aren't your problem. Forget about them. The one's who can are worth keeping around. Treasure those people.
Do even half those things and you'll be okay. But if you can't manage half, just do the best that you can. Be the best person that you can. If everyone did that, the world would be a much better place. And you would have helped make it that way. How awesome is that?!
To find out more about Trish and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Sherri Skanes ~ Words Of Empowerment
This month, many will acknowledge October 11th as the International Day Of The Girl Child and the message being promoted is, "EmPOWER girls: Before, during and after conflict". Looking back over my life, I thought about what bits of advice I could impart to our newest generation of girls, as I have a personal investment: Stella, my 16-month-old granddaughter!
I was born at the tail end of the “Baby Boomer” generation; an era where men were in charge, and if you wanted to get anything done you had to con them into thinking it was their idea. The Feminist Movement was in its infancy, and the older I got, the more distanced I felt from it. It was too over-the-top for me, despite the fact I had a working mother. I didn’t want to be like a man. I loved being female. I loved being the opposite of a man. And I loved the male of the species—in general. Equal pay for equal work was something I could and can still support wholeheartedly. But it took me a while to get to that point. First I had to forge my own path and realize my own strength as a woman. The most important one being my mind.
It was probably high school debate class when that awareness occurred. There was something satisfying about pinning a boy into a virtual corner with my argument. On the other hand, I was horrified to learn they feared me because of it, and disappointed if they were easily defeated. From that point on, I had an upper-hand, which became a powerful tool later in life.
You see, I am not—nor will I ever allow myself to be—a victim. I think it’s one of the most potent life lessons to learn as a woman. I’m not saying I haven’t been victimized, because I have, more than once, including a very brutal ordeal. But I’m saying my identity doesn’t contain that element. I don’t define myself, or my self-worth, by what someone did or said to me. I refuse to be defined by something beyond my control. If I encounter a difficulty of any kind, I plow through it, much like Scarlett O’Hara, from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. After all, “tomorrow is another day!”
It won't do my psyche any good to wallow. Being victimized is something you have no control over. It isn’t your fault. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can move forward.
This topic is regularly in the news, most prominently with the #MeToo Movement, which deals with victimhood in away that is problematic for me. I feel that it makes being a victim an identity, arguing that it is empowering to reclaim what happened to you, but I think it is more important to focus on our identity outside the experiences that would make a victim of us. Still, there is one piece of their platform I can support: bringing forth awareness to men!
I have a wonderful son who I hope I raised right. Sometimes he has a bawdy sense of humor (I’d like to blame the Marine Corps for that, but he probably got it from me!). He knows what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s the first to protect a woman, and the last to ever hurt one. He doesn’t play mind games. Instead he communicates honestly. I tried to instill in him all the things women want in a man, though much of it came naturally, and having watched him grow as both a husband and father, I am infinitely proud of the man he has become!
I believe it’s the parents’ obligation to instill good character in both boys and girls. Teaching them personal responsibility and boundaries is essential, serious business. Way back in the Stone Age, when I was in elementary school, they were required to teach the subject of Citizenship. It had nothing
to do with immigration and everything to do with being a good, kind human-being, capable of interacting appropriately with others. It’s long since been eliminated from most curriculums, which I think is a shame. Citizenship studies reinforced what was taught at home and gave an opportunity for children to hone their skills. And if by chance it wasn’t modeled at home, they at least had basic instructions to reference. My parents stressed to me it was the most important school subject and excellence was expected and I truly enjoyed learning the advice-oriented adages and proverbs. I hope future generations of girls are exposed to these treasures.
I plan to share with my granddaughter some of the gems I found especially true. Words of empowerment, if you will:
*Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
*Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
*To err is human, to forgive, divine.
*If at first you don’t succeed—try, try again.
*True beauty lies within.
*The best things in life ARE free.
*Two wrongs don’t make a right.
*Actions speak louder than words.
*Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Sherri Skanes is an aspiring romance writer and assistant editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow her on Twitter.
What advice would you pass on to the generations which come after the #MeToo movement? How do you think we can help empower young women? We'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject either in the comments or on social media using #NextGeneration