Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Dream,' Part Two


Part One is here.

“Man is a special being, and if left to himself, in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders.” Daniel Webster

The second part of my dream is that women and girls feel connected. There is nothing so challenging, supportive, inspiring, comfortable, or exciting as a community. Ideally, each of us has several overlapping communities in which we can move as members. We have co-workers or schoolmates, family ties, groups of like-minded people who share our interests in hobbies or passions, and each of these people supports and challenges us in different ways.

So often, young girls who see themselves as 'different' are afraid to find community. They are embarrassed or ashamed or simply unsure of themselves and end up isolating themselves to the point where they cannot share their gifts or their difficulties. For many of these girls, this translates into their adult lives and they move through their days without any touchstone of reality except their own, which is often skewed.

In many cases, this makes these women and girls easier to control and manipulate and, whether by conscious effort or not, they are preyed upon by all kinds of people. In the wild, it is the lion pack that picks off the zebra who separates from its group. It is the same with humans.

I would like to see a world where girls are taught that their communities are rich with opportunity for them and encouraged to find their own place in them. I want to see them connect with each other instead of working to alienate those girls who are different from them. It is developmentally normal to want to conform in the teen years, but we need to learn to respect those who don't. I want us as a society to recognize our strength in connection to each other, in learning from each other and sharing ideas without anger or ownership. I want girls and women to feel as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves and use the leverage of these groups to push themselves farther than they thought possible. Often all it takes is one interested person, one mentor, one like-minded party to spark the connection. And the impact that this simple act can have on the self-worth of a young girl or lonely woman is monumental. Validation is a powerful tool and it is through connection and community that we can nurture each other and, in turn, ourselves.

Continue to Part Three

4 comments:

Carrie Link said...

Call me crazy, but I predict it's only a matter of time until you're on staff at your daughter's school.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more with Carrie. They are not going to let go such a great opportunity to hire you!
-Isabelle

Deb Shucka said...

So much wisdom and passion here. You are so inspiring. What would any of us do without the support, love and reflections of our women friends?

Kathryn Grace said...

Once again I feel deep gratitude that you care so much about our girl children. Thank you for bringing these issues ever more into the community discourse.

Reading this, I am thinking of a child I know who is different. Through one of those genetic happenstances, she looks a little different than other children. It is possible her features will make her a great beauty one day, but for now, at only two, she is already aware that other children--and many stupid adults who know better--stare and comment as though she were not standing in front of them.

Her own father speaks of plastic surgery when she is a teenager. He says this in front of the child he adores.

She has no way to articulate these events, but her smile goes away and it takes some doing to bring it back. When her family tells her she is beautiful, she does not smile and preen like other children. Instead, she stares away, serious until they change the subject.

Your writing about the challenges young women face, especially those who feel themselves different in some way--not part of the pack, or on the fringes--is hugely important. Please continue to educate.

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