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On My Mind: The Badass Woman

On My Mind: The Badass Woman

In light of recent events, I, like many women (and hopefully most of the country), am doing a hefty amount of digging into the female experience. I’m realizing that the implicit ways we speak about and view gender are often scarier to me than the explicit and seemingly abhorrent ways (e.g. all things Trump). Most of us outwardly denounce aggressive misogyny and acts of violation against women (as we should), but conversation regarding “lighter” offenses against women or even hinting at feminism often evokes an eye-roll, a smirk, or a quick-but-defensive assertion of “I love women! I’m all for equality”. Truly acknowledging the female experience is more than being angered and speaking out against explicit misogyny. It’s checking the implicit (and dangerous) day-to-day ideas, mannerisms, and structures that continue to fuel oppression of all sorts. I’m noticing this paradox particularly when it comes to seemingly innocent qualifiers that we all effortlessly use to categorize and label women (many, many ideas currently in development on this topic). Most recently, I’m hung-up on the idea of the “badass" woman.

Calling a woman a badass implies that she is killing it. Killing it at what, though? Women as badasses means women act/do as men act/do, rising to their level to reach equality. It means partaking in careers or jobs, hobbies, and activities that have been historically dominated by men. It means being at the top: a leader, a “tough” mover and shaker who can “hang” with the guys. Someone who isn’t afraid to get dirty and “knows her stuff”. In many cases, this may mean ditching traditionally feminine attributes such as sensitivity and empathy, labeling them as “weak” or “basic” or “lacking progression”. Being a “typical woman” does not mix with being a badass.

 Badassness often comes to mean belonging to a world that is traditionally male, and while that is certainly admirable, progressive, and long-overdue, it often fails to acknowledge the badass nature of women just as they are. Being a woman (and identifying as one, from my very cisgender experience), I am fully aware of the consistent fight to have access to all things men have historically dominated. I know the odds are often against me, and I therefore understand the importance of celebrating women “making it” to the levels men have comfortably rested at for eternity. I just cannot sit with, however, the idea that women are not inherently badass.

 It all comes back to the idea that there is no right way to be a woman (more on that later). In order to be a “strong” or “tough” woman, you have to partake in primarily masculine ways of moving and being and prove that you can “do it” too, while not being too assertive to risk being bossy or shrill.  If you display any notion of being a “classic” woman, you are just a woman: you lose your ability to have the title of “badass”. You have to prove your femininity regardless: are you basic (i.e. not smart enough or brave enough to mark your claim among men), or are you equal (i.e. partaking in activities and behaviors that are traditionally reserved for men)? Just being a fucking woman, doing whatever you may do and thinking however you may think, is what deserves to be celebrated and considered badass.

 Part of progression in the right direction is the idea of empowerment for women. Empowering them to be leaders, to be active outdoors and in sports, to value themselves and their voices and contributions. Empowerment is a beautiful thing, but it can sometimes imply that there was a lack of something before, something that needed to be fixed. If we reversed roles and empowered men to do things, what would we empower them to do? Would we empower them to be more empathetic, sensitive, and thoughtful? To check their privilege as the dominant gender? If this was true, the world would undoubtedly be a more tolerable and tolerant place. Let’s absolutely keep up the fight for progression in making everything available and accessible to everyone, and let’s not lose sight of what makes women badass in the first place. Let’s empower while acknowledging that what is already there is valuable and beautiful.

 I have been grappling with my own identity and societal rank as a woman for as long as I can remember, but I often lacked the language, courage, or modeling to talk about it. I have always felt like I let myself down as a women because I openly do not enjoy sports, I’m highly-sensitive, and, the kicker, I chose to be a teacher with no desire to “climb to the top” of anything. While I am brimming with pride for the women breaking glass ceilings everywhere, pushing the #girlboss movement, I couldn’t help but feeling like I failed at progressiveness for choosing a career that was so classically dominated by women.

 Who is to say, however, that careers and jobs traditionally held by women cannot be considered badass? The skills they require (empathy, caring for others, and significant organization) are crucial. What if I don’t want to be a leader (in the traditional corporate sense)? I’m an introvert, an observer. And, yes, I loathe most sports (particularly football, and particularly the NFL), but no, it is not because I “just can’t hang”. I think it’s absurd, and I prefer to use my time doing many other things. I am sensitive, I am emotional, and I do often cry, and it’s not because I “can’t keep it together”; it’s because I have big feelings that allow me to move through the world in a compassionate and thoughtful way, giving me creative energy and insight.   

 So yes, let’s celebrate all the women killing it at the proverbial top in leadership and activities and places that have been more traditionally held by men, and let’s also not forget to celebrate women collectively, and, most importantly, for who they are as badass individuals: individuals able to participate in arenas, activities, conversations, and roles as the women we authentically are. If you loathe sports, aren't outspoken, and don't desire to be an all-encompassing leader with the most dominant voice, you still get to be a badass. Being a badass is not just about who gets to the top of the mountain the fastest, who manages the most people, and who makes the biggest and seemingly most important decisions

 I have enormous pride in women not only being just who they are, but owning who they are unabashedly. I get a serious badass rush when I encounter women who truly know themselves and celebrate themselves while inspiring others and lifting them up along the way.  Women who are killing it, whatever that may mean for them, are truly magnetizing to me because I am aware of what they are constantly up against: the messages being sent to them both explicitly and implicitly. How you choose to present yourself, what you choose to do for work and in your spare time, and whoever you are is badass because you are a badass by nature. If you own it, if you live it, if you fight for it, and if you breathe it, you are a true warrior woman, doing your #warriorwomaning thing.

 

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