One Day at a Time, One Woman at Time

I have a challenge for you. Every day for the next week, compliment a woman.

To be sure your wife, your best friend, your mother or daughter–they should be complimented freely and frequently, but for now, go a bit further afield. A co-worker or colleague, perhaps. Maybe the woman who gets your coffee order right every day. Hell, send a tweet to a woman in public office you admire, an artist whose work you love, an activist who inspires you. Say something nice to the small, elderly lady you see going to the shop every day by herself.

Compliment a woman every day for a week.

That’s it.

As far as challenges go, pretty simple right? I mean I’m not asking you to sell Girl Scout cookies or shove two dozen hot dogs down your throat. I’m not even asking you to give up sugar or alcohol. Easy peasy.

Ok, ok, there’s one, small catch. Your compliment can’t rely on a woman’s physical appearance or what she’s wearing.

Did that make it more difficult? After all, appearance is our go-to with women, our fail-safe.

You look nice today. Your hair looks beautiful. You look good. You’re looking well. I love the way that dress looks on you. That color looks great on you.**
Look, look, look.

Look: There are tens of millions of women who are doing hundreds of millions of admirable, compliment-worthy things each and every day. Single moms who are raising amazing kids in difficult circumstances. Women who donate their time to help others. Women who work to cure cancer. Women who teach your kids and care for your elderly mother, who do a million shitty jobs with a smile. Girls who are acing AP chemistry exams and breaking sports records. How often do we actually see these women, the ones who aren’t our wives or daughters or friends? And, when we do see them, how often do we see beyond the shade of their hair or the clothes they’re wearing?

How often do we tell them that we see them, see what they’re doing?

**************

If the patriarchy was set up by men, the mechanisms which keep it running are lubricated by women. And most of the time we aren’t even aware we’re dutifully oiling the cogs.

Some women like the protection and order a hierarchical structure offers them. There are plenty of women who benefit from patriarchy. Think Serena Joy in The Handmaid’s Tale, or the Aunts, clinging to whatever crumb of power over others they are allowed. As long as a human being has power over another, they are going to question dismantling the structure that allows them that power–even if it’s hurting them in other ways. Some women bristle against the idea of inequality-perhaps because they haven’t faced any situation or scenario in which they’ve felt unequal. Others bristle against it because it’s a painful thing to come up against, the idea that there is a structure in place which fundamentally views a category of people as inferior.

So we fight. Not against the power structure itself though. We fight with each other.

Frankly, women are often awful to other women. Instead of working together to form a bridge so we can move forward as a whole, we’re hurling one another off at the closest checkpoint, burning it behind us, in front of us, making sure that no one can get across.

The structure’s already there. It only needs an occasional tweak. And we’re doing most of the maintenance ourselves.

**************

A while ago I made a conscious decision to stop judging other woman on the way they look. I try not to disparage women for the choices they make. I try. It’s not always easy. There are plenty of women in the world who disagree with me, and I them. Forcefully. There are women who believe that the role of women is to be subservient, behind the scenes, best supporting role in a male society category. As much as that makes me go all funny in the head and want to stage a full-scale intervention, if my definition of sisterhood does not have room for their personal choices, then I’m really no better. We don’t have to agree. But neither one of us is ever going to get anywhere if we’re dueling it out in the middle of the bridge while other women dismantle the support struts.

I refuse to support a system which encourages me to view other women as my enemy (except for Ann Coulter. I will make an exception for Ann Coulter). I am not going to keep oiling the gears. If a system of a down is going to keep me down, I’m going to make the fuckers who are benefitting from it work to keep it running.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to do the work for them.

So I stopped. I make a conscious effort every day to support other women. I pay more attention to the way I treat other women. And I, who write about it, who is so focused on it that I miss the forest for the trees at times, I have a long way to go.

So I’m on a mission, to lift one woman at a time, one day at a time. And the easiest way to do that is to actually see other women. To look at them. To listen and support. And to let them know I see them and hear them.

That’s it.

I can’t swoop in and change the world, even though there are times I desperately want to. I can’t beat people over the head, though some times I desperately want to do that too. I can’t control what is out of my hands, but I can control how I react to the world around me. And I can control how I live my life.

And for now, I choose this.

One woman at a time. One day at a time.

I’m not saying it’s going to change the world. But it will change me. And isn’t that a good enough place to start?

 

 

 

**In Darling, You Look Marvelous, I wrote about the importance of women complimenting other women, particulary their physical attributes, as a way to get over viweing other women as competition. Viewing women as ‘other’, as competition, is simply anohter cog in the machine we’re continaully greasing up.

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9 thoughts on “One Day at a Time, One Woman at Time

  1. bubasanneh April 9, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    thank u for accepting me

    Liked by 1 person

  2. teachinglife2016 April 10, 2017 / 4:13 am

    I did it today when I saw a young mother with a beautiful baby, I told her she was beautiful and her baby boy was gorgeous. She was “beaming” when I left her having lunch with her baby boy alone. I thought it would cheer her up.

    Like

    • Dina Honour April 10, 2017 / 1:19 pm

      I think in general we ALL need to be kinder to each other (regardless of sex!)–I think, as a woman though, who wants to support other women, it’s even more important for me personally to be kinder to other women in particular. Keep up the kindness!

      Like

  3. tomc49 April 10, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    Why do you assume all men are sexist pigs?

    Like

    • tomc49 April 10, 2017 / 7:44 pm

      As far as challenges go, pretty simple right? I mean I’m not asking you to sell Girl Scout cookies or shove two dozen hot dogs down your throat. I’m not even asking you to give up sugar or alcohol. Easy peasy.

      Ok, ok, there’s one, small catch. Your compliment can’t rely on a woman’s physical appearance or what she’s wearing.

      Did that make it more difficult? After all, appearance is our go-to with women, our fail-safe.

      I got that from those these comments. Why do you assume that when I look at a women I see only her physical attributes or what she is wearing? “Did that make it more difficult?” Don’t strain your back looking down on other people.

      Like

      • Dina Honour April 10, 2017 / 8:07 pm

        Wow, Tom. I have to say I’m really surprised you read it that way. If the post was addressed to men, or read Dear Men (and you know I do that from time to time), I could understand, but it’s not, and it repeatedly uses the word “our” and “we” (so I include myself in all of these things). If anything, it was directed to other women more so than to men at all, a plea to be kind to women (in fact, I spent an awful lot of time highlighting the fact that women are often not very nice to other women). The assumption that I was speaking soley of men when I spoke of using physical attributes as a fall-back compliment–that comes from you, not me. In fact, women do it just as much if not more so, and there was no gender assumption. Even so, there was no implication it was due to sexism. Instead the implication is that many times, it becomes a way of ‘seeing’ a woman without really seeing her. A random “You look nice” is a bit like “Fine, how are you?”.

        This was a lament primarily about the way women treat other women, and about how all of us–women AND men, would be well served to look beyond and compliment the achievements of women. Should we look beyond and compliment the achievements of men too? Probably, but that’s not the post I wrote.

        Again, really surprised that’s what you got out of this one–but there you go. It’s hard when you write something to know how one’s different experiences are going to influence how they read into something.

        I’m also sorry you think I’m looking down on people. There have been plenty of posts I’ve written where how I could see how one would read that. I wouldn’t have picked this one, but again, there you go.

        Like

  4. marymtf April 11, 2017 / 2:06 am

    My mother is marvelous, so was my father. I didn’t tell him often enough what a good dad he was. I have granddaughters. I’ve taught them that it’s more important to focus on studies than boy friends. That can come later, when they have a profession, rather than a man to lean on. I tell them, often, how gorgeous they are, inside and outside. And that when the outside goes, the inside remains.
    I have sons and grandsons. They have learned from me that it’s their equal right to be respected as much as it is of their female counterparts. No girlfriends, their studies need to come first. I tell them, often, how gorgeous they are, inside and outside. And that when the outside goes, the inside remains.
    🙂

    Like

    • Dina Honour April 11, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      Sounds like you’ve got it covered. It’s funny, I have boys, and I’m constantly telling them not to pay any attention to the idea that ‘ladies’ should go first–I tell them instead to hold the door for whoever is in front or behind them, male OR female. Being a vocal (and currently somewhat angry) feminist raising boys is like being an anthropologist–I always joke its like Gorillas in the Mist–but it’s a nice balance. I advocate for women, but I must also advocate for my children, who happen to be boys. Sometimes it enable me to look at things from a different point of view. Sometimes I fail spectacularly, but sometimes, when the planets are aligned, I succeed.

      Liked by 1 person

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