Monday, April 08, 2019

10 WAYS TO SUPPORT THE WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE

by Olivia Perez

There was no exact point in time when I felt I had come into my own feminist. There was no ah-ha moment, no specific anecdote that jolted my body into a state of rage against the patriarch. I was genetically bred to be an unruly woman. I was raised in Los Angeles by a Jewish, French Moroccan father and a Serbian mother in a Brady Bunch family of strong female figures - four sisters, two stepmothers, three godmothers, and a mom who dedicated her life to raising fearless women in a town that didn't necessarily breed security. My upbringing was undertaken by women I aspired to become - women who co-existed despite multiple marriages, divorces and backgrounds, supported one another and their children unconditionally, and taught me that being soft-spoken was not an option, especially at our dinner table. 

When I was two, my parents enrolled me in ballet. I studied ballet into my adulthood, practising after school and on weekends, touring every summer, and performing seasonally. Being a ballerina was like living in a state of constant adversity. I would wake up every day and dress myself to physically blend in with my class - pink tights, black leotard, hair in a tight bun - but then dance under the immense pressure to outshine. I would work myself as hard as a professional athlete, and was then expected to appear frail, delicate and feminine. Remember your steps, control your temperament, be feminine here, be masculine there, look pretty, move quickly, stay on the beat, transcend, captivate, all at once. From a young age I was trained to defy the odds, rise above obedience and move people with just my physical presence. I was trained to demand attention. I was trained never to question my place as a woman centre stage. 

My feminism is inherent. It's not a trait, adjective, label or by-line but an orientation towards the world. Today, I'm twenty-four years old and live in New York City where I run my company Friend of a Friend, an editorial community based on telling untold stories and lending a platform for women to find their individuality through expressing everyday experiences. I live with that same demand for the world's attention because there is no space I will ever accept for women other than centre stage. All the opportunities in the world are ours for the taking and ours to be shared. There is no time more important than now, in 2018, for women to show up for each other and push each other towards our own spotlights. There is no better time for us to be loud, strong and unruly. I've made it my mission to be an ally to the women in this generation, to break down misogynistic stereotypes, remove walls that divide them, and create a community grounded in supporting one another. In my experience as a young woman, a female business owner, a daughter, sister and friend, I've learned that being a feminist isn't so much about your own voice, but how you use your stage to encourage and support other women to find theirs. 

1. Show up for women, physically and emotionally. Whether it's sending your girls a daily text to check in, being a shoulder to cry on, calling your mother, supporting female-founded companies, or smiling at a woman on the street, be an advocate for supporting our community in any and every way.

2. Create environments for women to take up space. In my experience of hosting panels, events, talks, interviews or even just a girls' night, there's nothing more gratifying than watching women thrive in an environment where they feel able to be themselves and use their voice.

3. Be transparent with each other. Be open about jobs, salaries, relationships, sex life, hardships, successes, botox, everything. Secrecy breeds jealousy because the unknown makes us insecure. By having these conversations with each other, we empower our experiences, good or bad, and create a foundation of shared experiences that make us feel supported rather than alienated.

4. Don't lift a woman up by tearing another woman down.

5. Collaborate, don't compete. Competition thrives on insecurities. Identify those women you feel you're sitting across the table from and sit next to them. Find a common ground. Wanting women to succeed without jealousy is the definition of grace.

6. Strive to say more than 'You look pretty'. Remind the women in your life that the space they take up in your life and the world is not dependent on physical attributes.

7. Never miss an opportunity to facilitate moments of learning between men and women. It's easy to fall victim to stereotypes by saying a man is 'just being an asshole' or 'men will be men' when helping women to cope with gender issues, whether in the bedroom, the boardroom, or beyond. Be an active ally for both genders by advocating accountability and a level playing field.

8. Hire women, train women, mentor women. Be the vehicle that turns a young woman with big dreams into the badass woman she is destined to be.

9. Carry lipstick, pain relief like Tylenol or aspirin, and tampons, always. Save a sister, make a new friend.

10. Step up to the spotlight. Not just as an example for others but for yourself. Take every opportunity, challenge and risk that comes your way without questioning your worth, ability or place as a woman. And once you find your light, don't be afraid to be a little unruly.

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