Today, I celebrate being a woman.
I’m not speaking about someone’s idea of what a woman should be; I have no interest in living up to stereotype-drenched fantasies, which would see me constantly pushing a vacuum and whipping up the perfect meatloaf every night to serve to my husband and smiling, remarkably clean children.
I’m talking about being a woman. I’m talking about possessing a steely strength that’s wrapped so tightly in the flowing fabric of poise and female grace that many are surprised it’s there at all. Smiling through many pains felt deeply, although unseen. High heels stepping smartly over boundaries never crossed before.
Today, I have more career options than my mother and her mother before her. Never has my desire been so strong to push forward in the workplace; I want very much to excel, and I feel the silent strength and encouragement of other women, urging me forward.
I’m also beginning to look more closely at child apparel ads in magazines. ‘My little girl would look so cute in that!’ I muse to myself, projecting my imagination into a time wherein I have become a mother. My parents’ half-serious jokes about wanting grandkids are no longer irritating; I feel my maternal instincts stretching and growing, and a warm feeling glows in my belly when I consider becoming a mommy.
But, there is a nagging, body-less voice from the past, still asking me and young women in Richmond the same, tired question:
Can the modern woman really have it all? Career, family, and complete happiness, too?
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has faced sharp criticism
for her choices about her career and her family life. Although Marissa is leading a turnaround at the previously struggling Yahoo, the detractors are loud. Some people voice strong opinions that Marissa shouldn’t have worked through her pregnancy, right up until she gave birth to her son. Others imply she’s a bad mother for returning to work after only two weeks on maternity leave.I can hear that troublesome, phantom voice laced into some of these opinions, whining like a badly tuned violin.
Marissa Mayer reminds us: there are few things stronger than a determined woman. People who’ve worked with Marissa describe her as very driven, and I like to think she is pushing hard not only to meet her goals, but to achieve her dreams. Despite nay saying, she has worked her way through some impossibly tough circumstances, and come out on the other side of them still a strong woman, still a mother, still smiling. She doesn’t appear to be interested in shaping herself to fit what others think she should be; it’s an example we all can learn from.
I’m encouraged and motivated by women like Marissa. Women able to block things out (that tiny irritating voice, glass ceilings, etc.) in order to see the vastness of their opportunities. Marissa shows me that I can ignore the “Can women have it all?” question, and keep gliding towards whatever future I want to create for myself.
There will always be negative people and conditions, people who want women to fit neatly into certain ideals or standards or labels. But women like Marissa—women like me—will always march on gracefully, right towards their dreams.