My heart sank to read the recent comments made by an American professional regarding Michelle Obama. It became a news piece because after initially losing her job for the derogatory and racist comments that she made on Facebook, the woman has recently been reinstated as a director at the company that fired her.
I am not going to give oxygen to the unkind, untrue things this woman said about the first lady. I am not going to wade in and be rude about anyone else to make an easy point. I am sure you have come across it already and have your own views.
My view is this. As long as women and girls tear each other down, rather than come together and unite as sisters, we are never going to fulfil our potential and harness our power to do good. I have read that back, and I am cringing a bit. It sounds so wholesome and idealistic. But I am going to be brave and leave it be, as I do believe it. We can all have a bitch. I am not going to deny that part of my nature, but I also refuse to give into it. I have a better self than that. Those unpleasant thoughts about someone else that we think from time to time, usually when we are feeling a bit low or insecure ourselves? They should not define us. We can call them out. Why do we do this to each other? Are we not on the same side? Boys and men just don't tear each other down or bear the grudges that we do. I think the ever wise Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie may have summarised it best (forgive me for not being able to bring myself to shorten) when she said:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
We raise girls to see each other as competitors. It is so simple and so heartbreaking. And we do. And for which precious resource? The attention and affirmation of men. Men don't do this to us, we do it to ourselves. This woman in question is vying for the support and agreement of none other than President Elect Trump. Goodness. Just terrifying. And she is willing to tear down an intelligent, inspiring woman to do so. So what can we, as mothers raising the next generation, do? Well I think Michelle has the answer herself. 'When they go low, we go high'.
So, I am teaching my girls certain mantras. It is a longterm job. We talk about being kind, being brave. Standing up for people that are being picked on, even if it makes you unpopular or you are the only one doing it. Even if the person you are trying to defend is saying or doing things that you don't particularly agree with. These are easy things to talk about and philosophise about, and exceptionally hard to put into practice. Every time my daughter tells me she hates something or occasionally someone, I try and take this apart with her, especially when it is about her little sister (again!). It is exhausting and time consuming. But she has a good heart and a kind soul and it deserves the very best education. We have to learn how to be kind, it takes time to be wise. The Dalai Lama has usually already said most things that need to be said and it is certainly the case in this instance - 'Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.'
Whenever I hear the Obamas talk about girls it makes my heart soar. Especially as from what I can see, they are raising decent, intelligent daughters in a time and place where that can be hard, especially under such an intense media spotlight. Whenever I hear the Obamas talk, it makes me feel the exact opposite of this news piece that prompted this blog. I feel their goodness and their light, and it makes me want to follow that example.
Mums, daughters, sisters. Have courage and be kind. Maybe not always, but whenever you can. Kindness is a super power. A hugely underrated one. Sometimes it is even seen by some as a weakness. I think I value kindness and generosity of spirit more than anything in my child, and she has so many appealing qualities. Oh, and sisterhood, I am pretty keen on that too.