Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Unapologetically Stronger

At first it was cute. Our children wanting to work out like us and with us in our garage turned gym. Headbands and wristbands and all. Timing each other to use our elliptical machine for about 10 minutes each -- although never making it to five -- and then kind of using the lightest weights to do a couple of shoulder press somethings and crazy looking bicep curls (with our supervision, of course).

However, the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) and I don't wear headbands and wristbands while we work out, so we're not really sure where those images came from.

"Bryce, where did you get the idea to wear wristbands and headbands while working out?" I asked.

"Because we watched other people work out on the street wearing them."

"What people?"

"I don't know. People outside."

"It's probably from one of the shows they watch," the Mama said.

I nodded. "Yeah, I think there's a character on The Amazing World of Gumball that wears a headband and wristbands."

Later, I overheard the girls talking about exercising and starting their own gym.

"A long time ago girls weren't allowed to work out and get strong like boys," said Bryce.

"I'm already strong," said Beatrice.

I'm already strong. Right on, Bea. That's been resonating inside me for weeks now. And we're glad both our children, girls, have an innate sense of confidence at these early ages. Still years from tween and teenager land, we help build those callouses and muscle memory while instilling Kidpower awareness, safety skills and strength.

Because even though younger generations of women are doing things in life that previous generations only dreamed of, it still isn't easy. A recent New York Times article about why women struggle in business and attaining leadership positions highlighted:

"Women are often seen as dependable, less often as visionary. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion — and more likely to be criticized when they do grab the spotlight. Men remain threatened by assertive women. Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive. Some women get discouraged and drop out along the way. And many are disproportionately penalized for stumbles."

The line that struck me the most was, "Most women are not socialized to be unapologetically competitive."

Unapologetically competitive. A much more eloquent way of saying cutthroat, dog eat dog, nonempathic sell your mother on the street for sparkly baubles and cash competitive, abusive, sociopathic and violent as a means to an end, or just because the stronger wants to keep the "weaker" in check.

Thankfully I wasn't raised and socialized to be unapologetically competitive, which has been a blessing and a curse throughout my life, with the edge going to blessing (thank you, Mom). And yet, I'm not a women, or a women of color, and so I have no idea of what it's like to do battle with the likes of the unapologetically competitive man. Discrimination and sexual harassment continue to run rampant in Silicon Valley and the startup-investor world.

It doesn't end with business either. In a disturbing report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union titled Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians, psychological violence affects nearly 82 percent of women parliamentarians from all countries and regions. Among the kinds of psychological violence, 44 percent of those surveyed said they had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary term.

And more recently and closer to home, a US Representative, a man, said of another US Representative, a women, in response to a healthcare policy disagreement, "Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass."

I've got a knot for your ass, congressman. Growing up in abusive family situations, perpetrated by men, I find myself completely and unapologetically unsympathetic to men who treat women this way -- in a free market economy, democracy or not -- even if they don't intend any actual physical harm.

And so I love hearing our daughters say I'm already strong, and I'd feel the same way if they were our sons and would want it no other way. In fact, we want them to be unapologetically stronger throughout life in the face of any and all adversity, without ever losing the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. That will be wondrous indeed.

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