We Are Women And We Are Marvelously Multidimensional!
March is International Women’s History Month, which I can honestly say that I did not know until this year. Sure, I knew about International Women’s Day – every year I look forward to all the messages of support and solidarity from my female friends. Messages cheering me on for being a strong, confident, powerful, woman. Or, for being an emotional, sensitive, nurturing, woman. Or most recently, my favorite has been cheering me on for being whatever I want to be because I am a woman.
But this year, women get a whole month to celebrate and cheer each other on, not just one day! Maybe it has been like that for a while now, but to me this is BIG news, and it’s had me thinking and reflecting on my experience as a woman more than I usually do.
Recently I listened to a podcast on Spotify from Brene Brown where she interviews Elizabeth Lesser on her new book, Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers the Human Story Changes. I have heard Elizabeth Lesser speak on other podcasts and videos, and each time I am impressed with her candor and honesty. She certainly has a knack for telling it like it is!
One of her more interesting points that has me really reflecting on being a woman is rooted in science. She describes how the original experiments that gave us the terms “Fight-or-Flight” to describe our human reactions to conflict were only conducted on men. In recent years, a female researcher reviewed the studies and reflected on how “Fight-or-Flight” didn’t really align with her experience of being a woman, so she simply repeated the experiments, but this time, on women. The results, as described by Elizabeth Lesser, are that women don’t naturally have a fight-or-flight response, but instead, we have a “Tend and Befriend” response instead. This means we reach out the most vulnerable among us, we gather resources and we look for connection and commonality. Reflecting on past challenges and conflict in my life, armed with this new vocabulary to explain my experiences, I can see that more often than not, I do have a tendency to tend and befriend, and only when I am pushed to my limits do I resort to fight-or-flight. Oddly enough, it is in those moments of fight-or-flight that I also experience the most discomfort, like I am living outside of my values and beliefs. Something deep inside me has always believed that there is an alternative.
Ultimately, the human experience should not be categorized as one-size-fits-all; for women or for men. Any person can respond to conflict in a different way based on their previously lived experiences, their education, training, and the current context in which they are living.
But the new understanding that I am coming to appreciate is that the stories we have been telling ourselves for years may not actually be truly representative of the depth and breadth of the human experience. For centuries, our history has been told from the perspective of one storyteller, without the many shades of nuanced diversity that make up our daily lives. This one-dimensional mode of thinking plays out daily in small and large ways – like me just learning that there is one full month dedicated to women’s history, or in being able to update our understanding of how we engage in conflict from an instinctive perspective.
And so, I come full circle: Happy International Women’s History Month. May you be strong, confident, powerful; emotional, sensitive, nurturing or may you be anything else that you choose to be. Our human story is no longer one-dimensional but a tapestry made of all shades of experience. In short, this is me, cheering you on, for being whoever you want to be, because that’s the most important you that you can be.