“Because I was elected … above all by the women of Ireland, mná na hÉireann, who instead of rocking the cradle rocked the system.”
President Mary Robinson.
Happy International Womens Day Flexers! Every day in Flex in the City is international women’s day as our female owned, female operated business supports and cheers for our strong and more than capable #femaleflexers.
Today want to call out all our every-day heroines, those out giving every last 10 their best and keep their heads high, backs straight and her gaze fixed. Paddling like hell below the surface but keeping it all together for the world. For us, International Women’s Day is not about fancy lunches or events, it’s not about the pink beer or the Oprah everywhere, even though all that’s really great and we are so thrilled to see all the love today (and we worship at the Alter of Oprah as well!). For us, today is about looking at the other 364 days and making them all about women – working, doing, living, supporting, hustling, being.
We see you sister, you are doing the work and it is so important.
It’s the full time job and kids and also caring for elderly parents. It’s the sacrificing almost all of you for others and then feeling bad because you open Instagram and see the world shouting about ‘balance’ and ‘self-care’ and you’re thinking about how to explain the concept of self-care to a 2 year old with no chill.
It’s the feeling of being an imposter, like the reason you are where you are and have what you have is some miracle of luck and any second, everyone is going to find out that you are not qualified to be doing your job and everyone will know you have been ‘faking it’ (when the sad thing is that we really only fake our tan, we usually have far more brains than we let on).
For too long, we have been pitted against each other and we need hashtags #womensupportingwomen #realqueensfixeachotherscrowns to remind us that there is no #mensupportingmen and #realkingsjustgetonwithit because men have always been helping each other.
My hope is that we keep on shaking the foundations, resolving our grit and running head long into any barriers we come up against. I truly hope we retire the ‘hashtaggery’ for the sake of appearance. Instead of typing #womensupportingwomen actually go and cheer one on, be it your best friend or a stranger playing camogie. Give real, unconditional support. If you are a woman with more experience, give guidance.
Shonda Rhimes (she wrote ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’, ‘Private Practice’, ‘How to get away with murder’) gave a speech once about what it felt like to be ‘breaking the glass ceiling’. She said the following:
“I have not broken through any glass ceilings. If I had broken through any glass ceilings, I would know…. I would have felt some cuts, I would have some bruises. There’d be shards of glass in my hair. I’d be bleeding, I’d have wounds. If I’d broken the glass ceiling, that would mean I would have made it through to the other side. Where the air is rare. I would feel the wind on my face. The view from here — way up here where the glass ceiling is broken — would be incredible. Right? So how come I don’t remember the moment? When me with my woman-ness and my brown skin went running full speed, gravity be damned, into that thick layer of glass and smashed right through it? How come I don’t remember that happening? Here’s why: It’s 2014.
There are a lot of women in Hollywood in this room who have the game-changing ability to say yes or no to something.
15 years ago, that would not have been as true. There’d have been maybe a few women in Hollywood who could say yes or no. And a lot of D girls and assistants who were gritting their teeth and working really hard. And for someone like me, if I was very very VERY lucky, there’d have been maybe one small show. One small shot. And that shot would not have involved a leading actress of color, any three dimensional LGBT characters, any women characters with high powered jobs AND families, and no more than two characters of color in any scene at one time — because that only happened in sitcoms.
30 years ago, I’d think maybe there’d be a thousand secretaries fending off their handsy bosses back at the office and about two women in Hollywood in this room. And if I were here, I would serving those two women breakfast.
50 years ago, if women wanted to gather in a room, well it had better be about babies or charity work. And the brown women were in one room over there and the white women were in a room over here.
From then to now…we’ve all made such an incredible leap. Think of all of them. If I had broken through a glass ceiling, I would have felt some cuts, I would have some bruises…I’d have wounds.
50 years ago trying to get out of separate rooms, 30 years ago trying to not serve breakfast or be groped by their bosses, 15 years ago trying to make clear that they could run a department as well as that guy over there.
All the women, white or black or brown who woke up like this, who came before me in this town.
Think of them. Heads up, eyes on the target. Running. Full speed. Gravity be damned. Towards that thick layer of glass that is the ceiling. Running, full speed and crashing. Crashing into that ceiling and falling back. Crashing into it and falling back. Into it and falling back. Woman after woman. Each one running and each one crashing. And everyone falling.
How many women had to hit that glass before the first crack appeared? How many cuts did they get, how many bruises? How hard did they have to hit the ceiling? How many women had to hit that glass to ripple it, to send out a thousand hairline fractures? How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice?
I picked my spot in the glass and called it my target. And I ran.
So that when it was my turn to run, it didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore. I mean, the wind was already whistling through — I could always feel it on my face. And there were all these holes giving me a perfect view to other side. I didn’t even notice the gravity, I think it had worn itself away. So I didn’t have to fight as hard, I had time to study the cracks. I had time to decide where the air felt the rarest, where the wind was the coolest, where the view was the most soaring. I picked my spot in the glass and called it my target. And I ran. And when I hit finally that ceiling, it just exploded into dust. Like that. My sisters who went before me had already handled it.
No cuts. No bruises. No bleeding. Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman’s footprints.
I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot.”
Ladies, we cannot be complacent. We do need to keep battling down the obstacles so our daughters do not even have to pick their way through broken glass, they should always know what it feels like to have the wind in their face, to breath the rare air and not to have to pedal furiously under the surface.
In truth, I truly believe women we are more ambitious and driven than anyone knows but the portrayal of ambitious women was never a positive one. In secondary school, we all learn that Lady Macbeth was ambitious but her ambition drove her to convince her husband to kill the king and then it drove her mad. Not great! Before that, look at the fairytales we read to kids – there are none about a woman who studied hard and worked harder than all the boys and kept her focus and set up e Fortune 500 company. In fairytales, women are either poor, helpless princesses (and stunningly pretty obviously because how can you expect any help if you are not the fairest in all the land?!), wicked stepmothers, almost poisoned by aforementioned wicked step mother and then forced to live with 7 mad men and clean up after them. We can wave all this away like none of it matters, they are just stories, kids are just kids, but then tell me why do fewer women start businesses (only 20% of Irish entrepreneurs are women and many of them cite self belief or lack thereof as a factor in them not pursuing their goals)? Why do women get paid less? Because I know they are not less, I know they are capable of more. So we need to lift our chins girls, just DO IT. Because I don’t think our male counterparts sit and think that they shouldn’t do something because they cannot do it perfectly. They just do it and they figure it out along the way. We need to not let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good enough’. You are perfect because you are good enough. Do not stop.
I am so inspired by all those women who don’t even know what they have done because they are too buy doing, who never stopped to think they couldn’t and just did, because they had to. Be your own woman. Rock whatever you want to but just don’t be afraid to do it.