International Women's Day- Should Be Every Day
Of all the days we recognize throughout the world, I can't think of one that is more impacting to humanity than International Women's Day. From the official IWD website,
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.
I was mostly raised by women. In fact, the most effective "male" role models I had throughout my tumultuous and difficult youth were all women. I say this thankfully because it's my truth and I'm eternally grateful for that. In the absence of positive male role models during my most challenging and difficult times, it was the women in my life who saved me from myself. It was the women who recognized that the absence of positive male role models in my life was deeply disappointing and depressing to me.
I grew up in a very troubled home.
I suffered significant mental health issues as a result, spent a lot of time in trouble, and despite my quiet nature often found myself embroiled in conflict, sometimes turning to violence. I was witness to many, many bad things that children should not have to be confronted by. My Adverse Childhood Experience Score is 8/10, and they say that 4 is the score that puts one in the at-risk category for several horrible outcomes in life. I feel like I've been able to avoid nearly all of them. I know why.
From the Minnesota Department of Health,
Adversity is only one part of the equation. Children may also have their own characteristics and experiences that protect them and help them develop resilience despite exposure to ACEs. Resilience is positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity. In the face of adversity, neither resilience nor disease is a certain outcome.
I learned how to be resilient from brave, supportive women mentors who nurtured me, not only in the maternal way that one would expect, but in a dual role by kicking my ass when I needed that in the most paternal manner possible. They quite honestly taught me how to be a good man by showing me what the men in my life didn't. They taught me how to connect with my feelings, and how to be honest about that, as difficult and socially unacceptable as that was in the zeitgeist of those times. They taught me how to be empathetic and how to care for people authentically, and without needing any reward for doing it. They taught me how to be smart about disagreeing with people, and how to seek support from others when I was feeling vulnerable as I did constantly. They taught me it was OK to cry, and they taught me how to pick myself up when the odds were against me and just keep trying.
Tough and accepting women were my significant others who did a courageous and difficult thing in standing by me and all of my challenges. They were my alternate mirrors reflecting something good back at me, refusing to let me believe I wasn't worthy of being loved and cared for. They didn't stop reflecting positive and encouraging images about what the future had to offer; one where things never stopped getting better and better as long as I was committed to a continuous effort to improve, as much as possible, despite the odds stacked against me.
They showed me things about myself that I didn't understand or accept; things that would enable me, provide me with a positive outlook, and a reason to get up and do it all over again every morning. They nurtured my resilient spirit. Nothing has changed. It's still the case.
On the sliding scale of masculinity-femininity, the women in my life showed me that to be a good man, I needed to be aware of those feminine traits that were missing or subdued in most men of the time, and perhaps in many ways still are. They quite simply were much more aware of the debilitating masculine traits I was being uncomfortably socialized toward than I was, and they countered very effectively. In layman's terms according to Hofstede,
Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stress caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.
My natural self is gender atypical. I'm not, (much to the surprise of many in my life,) at all comfortable with the masculinized stereotype of a strong, aggressive, alpha man, but rather lean toward the assertion that a truly good man is one who knows how to be more in touch with his feminine perspective, the one that allows him to be more empathetic, more aware of those around him, and a better, more understanding caregiver. I try my best to manifest these traits, and that is thanks to the women that showed me why I needed to.
Thank you to my mom, Carol Grainger for protecting me when she was the one needing protection.
Thank you to my grandmother, Emily Woods for showing me that there is good in everything if you know how to believe it before you see it.
Thank you to several female teachers who looked past my fronting and saw a bright, sensitive young man worth supporting and teaching, in particular an exceptional English teacher named Mrs. Skolgny.
Thank you to my wife, Bina Grainger for believing in me and continuing the difficult work of supporting my well-being whilst knowing how hard it is for me on some days.
Thank you to my daughter, Avery for being the toughest girl I know and all of the spirited things she does to advocate for women and their rightful purpose in the world.