A few days ago, a male Facebook friend posted that he had done "the impossible". What feat of nature did he accomplish, you might ask a bit breathless with anticipation? Well, I'll tell you. He is now weighs over 200 pounds. There was no goal met. Friends reactions ranged from laughter to confusion. But what I didn't hear was what really stood out: any shaming.
Can you imagine if you posted something like that on your page? Likely you wouldn't even do it as a dare. As women we know our weight is no laughing matter. And likely even your kids know that if women are talking about their weight, they're likely talking about gain not with an aura of jocular accomplishment but in tones of embarrassment or self-loathing. Women are well aware that they are defined in no small part by their body image.
Everywhere we choose to look, we see the double standard that exists for us as women. (That double standard usually becomes even more impossible when race is factored in.) It's okay for Chad to use Facebook as an ass-backwards way of bragging about his weight gain but not okay if you or I do it. Your husband's company loyalty is much less likely to be questioned when he takes paternity leave than yours is. Women still make about 76 cents for $1 a man makes.
What those double standards look like in real life are boxes. And not the cool ones that contain keys to a new car. Women are placed in little, neat boxes in our society, sometimes as a way to understand us, yes, but more often than not as a way to keep us small, contained, managed. The worst kind of boxes are abusive ones where women are threatened or stalked as female gamer Brianna Wu has been. Wu, founder of Giant SpaceKat, an iOS gaming studio spoke out against the online trolls that attacked her female gaming friends. Then the trolls turned on her...with horrible, graphic death threats. Dr. Danielle Citron explains in a recent INC magazine article about Wu, "the whole point of this abuse is to put someone in a box that is destructive, to call into question their integrity, to demean them...and fundamentally distort who she is." Most of our boxes aren't quite so violent but they can still distort who we are.
How do we get out of this?
One step at a time.
The first step might be an awakening realization on exactly how problematic and impossible it is to feel happiness and success when confined to a box you didn't design yourself. Those of you who work full-time because your family needs your salary when you'd rather work a schedule that allows you more flexibility might be in this spot. Your life feels cramped, your time and energy are short. You feel guilty and nowhere close to successful.
Another first step might be exploring outside the (body image, mom, employee, wife, sister) box. Deciding to step down to part-time, working with a coach to build confidence to make a change and doing some research on starting your own gig are all examples of exploring outside the box. Those in explorer mode may be unsure but are usually excited at the prospective of change.
No house is a home unless it is lived in, loved and feels safe. No box is a life unless it's one you've designed yourself. And those double standards? They'll likely still exist even when you step out of your box. But what is gone is the power of the double standard to make you feel less than. When we get out of the boxes we're placed in (as much as we can because we can't escape every double standard, only the ones we take part in) we step into freedom. When we use our voice, we allow others to do the same. We step into a chance to make a difference by claiming our own power.
What box feels stifling to you right now? What double standard makes you cringe? Leave me a comment below. Thank you for reading!