How to Support Women, Men and Everyone

Scrolling through my morning Twitter-sphere, I came across this article.

Women’s rights? Check. Really cool, I think; surfing the web, drinking coffee, becoming….more and more befuddled.

Why this isn’t a larger discussion with more couples, therapists, relationships, friends, seems to me, mysterious. I have been thinking about this so much lately; what I would want in a life partner, in a friend, on my way to work or in line at the grocery store, I ponder the important of a man seeing and treating a woman with respect- and it goes both ways!

Someone shared with me recently a theory behind love. That, in order for a relationship to be successful, the man needs to feel respected and the woman wants to feel loved. That’s it. The woman, however, will respect the man less if he doesn’t treat her with love, and the man will treat the woman with less love if he doesn’t feel respected. And so it goes.

This bothers me, for every reason. Reading that a man is instinctly wired to feel respected from a woman, or that a woman is wired to feel love from a man to respect him, seems a little…..antiquated. On my way around the globe, I’ve met couples from all of the world, some of the happiest, I have seen, have equal measures of both respect and love, make time for each other, are caring, and supportive. Those are the best questions to find out, BEFORE crossing the finish line at the altar, “What does love look like to you? What makes you feel respected and love? What sort of time are you looking for from a partner?” and so on.

The most obvious thing about myself, that I hadn’t learned before and was recently educated on, is that it’s so crucial to me that my partner respect my need to feel feminine, to be a woman, to support women’s mental and reproductive health, and what it means to me, and ask questions, not supply answers around how it should feel. For the personal goal of seeing how far I can go in my own life, towards an impassioned career, I gave up a successful career in technology, because I felt so freaking drawn towards women’s maternal and mental health. The ways in which I can see this support from a partner vary, but in general, it looks a lot like everyday love and support, with heightened curiosity and awareness around what it means to be a woman- you deserve that, too!

If this isn’t obvious to a man I am seeing, then he doesn’t deserve to be in my life- simple as that. Equality is not an option to me when it comes to a relationship. Compromise, yes, but neutrality around the ideas of equality and equal rights for women is something I feel so pulled towards, which gravitates me around a case for women worldwide, they couldn’t ever be stamped out by lukewarm feelings towards the cause from a man! Period. Feminism is an effort placed by anyone who supports women’s rights, healthcare for everyone, and sweats for another person beyond themselves.

Seems like many men are befuddled by this, so let me introduce you to one of my favorite pieces of literature, “The Period Poem”, which amazingly describes the rawness of womanhood and so elegantly touches on the everyday inequality between the sexes. These are heart-felt reasons I was put on earth, to alleviate some of the misconceptions around gender equality, to succumb to the demands of the stirrings in my soul to follow my path towards women’s mental, emotional and physical health, and the explain to men what it means to be a woman, worldwide, daily, seeking real clarity. Sensing others’ hesitancy towards opening themselves up to the emotions this may cause is vitally important too. Being a woman is hard; understanding how it feels to be a woman must be quite difficult! I applaud you.

Reading about Rolling Stone’s error in judgement surrounding a rape case on a University campus is another cause for concern; there’s something about this journalistic withdrawal and factual overturning that supports the claim when a man is hurt or injured it remains news, and when a woman is, it definitely isn’t.

Sometimes, it’s aggravating. Reading things about how women are on a ‘Rape Schedule’, in which we intuitively, almost habitually, pull out keys, threading them between fingers while we walk home, keep our cell phones on our hips in case we have to call the police, and generally disguise the fear and aliveness we feel when we are accosted by men, alone, ever. When I meet someone, there’s always something in the back of my head that reminds me where we have come from to get here. Sometimes, it’s a commonality which binds us, but for women, it’s birthright. The right to give birth and the right to have someone recognize the power that resides within us. How is it possible that anyone, man or woman, could view the birthing process as anything less than holy and divine?

Part of me feels so drawn to help other people, after working in Tanzania, in 2009 and 2010, as a teacher. I had many children, all of whom were undereducated, mostly underfed, come to me seeking refuge. I felt strong. I taught a 13 year old girl who was starting her menstruation cycle for the first time how to use a tampon. I learned that many of my students were victims of rape. I put on my detective hat. I brought a girl to the hospital, because her mother was a prostitute and they were all in one room, one bed. I had so many times doubt, fear, and survival instinct kicked in. Seeking refuge and shelter, I turned to therapy, mental health awareness and the internet- I explained to others what I saw and how it affected me.

Fistulas, high mortality rates, succumbing to illness and not going to the hospital for fear of losing their lives on the walk; some of the things I’ve learned are plights of women in third world countries. It’s amazing to me, seems like it was 200 years ago in America things were coming up like this for our country; here and now, it’s improved ten fold.

My life; never been married, single, no children, and seeing the world. When I travel, seeing these things with my eyes the sense that we’re doing great work for women grows. It’s gender inequality in the workplace, it’s raising your voice to a stranger and being called crazy, it’s a boyfriend not asking for permission before touching you. It’s a house cleaned by two people and a child raised by both instead of all done by one. There’s so much where this comes from, there’s so much work to be done.

There’s the importance of loving the ways in which our country provides health care, mental health care and maternal care, starting with pre-conception and moving onward. Needs to spread; working in little hospitals, seeking out places to cultivate strength in women and supporting each other along the way instead of undermining one another. If a man does not understand the human rights revolution that is happening for women everywhere, he does not see the stress and anxiety that being a woman can cause, it’s heartbreaking, and support’s needed.

With grace, we let go- blooming into this world where we were taught to be beautiful, kind, and quiet. It’s not important to be kind and quiet if people in Africa or Hawaii are experiencing rape, domestic violence, and struggle.

Can you try to see how it’s affecting someone close to you today? Own up to your own failings or ignorance, change the story you’ve been told, supportive and healing people like you are sent to change the world.


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