I'm taking a bit of a departure from the velo lifestyle for this post, feeling pretty strongly that what I will write here is important. Instead of bikes, I would like to focus on what it is that women, be them young, old, mothers, daughters, wives or anywhere in between, are up against.
Last week, while celebrating the one year anniversary of my blog, I retraced some of my steps from the previous year. I travelled by bike with my children to meet my husband for lunch, just as I had the year before. The weather was in our favour, and things were shaping up to be quite wonderful. As my children and I neared Granville Island, I realized I had forgotten all about the water park being open, and said so begrudgingly to my daughter. Knowing of her love of the water slide and playing in the spray, I instantly saw the disappointment on her face and promised we'd try to come back with our swimsuits during the weekend. When that answer didn't change her being on the verge of tears, my mom voice came out, and I sternly said it was not right of her to get upset at me for something out of my control, and that she would need to let it go, as I had already worked hard to take them on a special trip to the park and to see their father.
That's when the most shocking parenting moment I've had happened. As I looked up, a woman on a bike passed and made a hand motion for me to "calm down". If you're a mother, I can only assume you can understand my instant defensive switch, telling this woman to mind her own business. She then proceeded to stop and publicly scold me in front of my kids, telling me I am not allowed to bully my child. While trying my very best not to scream at this complete stranger, I politely reminded her that this was my daughter, not hers, at which point she turned to my daughter, apologized for my being mean to her, got on her bike and rode off.
I was stunned, and left standing them with tears of rage and confusion in my eyes. What had compelled this women to think it would be appropriate to chastise me for trying to teach my child a bit of understanding, and to show her mother a bit of respect when things happen that are out of her control? She had no idea what had led me to this point of frustration with my child. That I had just spent the better part of the week taming two children ready for a break from the school routine, or that just prior to this encounter, my son, sitting behind me in the trailer, had only just finished yelling at me that I was wrong about trains having wheels. It amazes me that somehow, this woman forgot that although I am a mom, I am also human, and can only take so much abuse, even if it is from my children.
I am still puzzled, five days later, but it did bring to light this bigger issue. It seems that we, as the female of our species, have this natural tendency to point out other women's flaws. Even though we struggle together to end the gender gap, fight as one for a woman's rights to freedom and to choose what we do with our own bodies, for some reason, women tend to be very judgemental of each other, and vocal about it. From the clothing we wear, to the size and proportions of our bodies, and even to the way we each choose to live our lives, women seem to struggle with accepting our differences.
Now please don't get me wrong, this is a pretty broad generalization, but before getting angry with what I'm saying, just think about it for a second. Have you ever caught yourself looking at another woman and questioning why she chose to dress the way she did? How many times in the last year have you compared yourself physically to another women, be it friend, family or complete stranger? Or seen the actions of another woman and thought to yourself that she was doing it all wrong or you could do it better? I won't lie, I am guilty of all those things, whether they were thoughts I kept to myself or said out loud to my husband or friends. But after my most recent experience, I've started to question my own actions.
Why do I care how other women are dressing, how physically different they are from me, or that I do things differently as a mother and a human being? I shouldn't. Simply put, I am the person I am because that's the path I have chosen for myself, just as the women around me have chosen their own paths. No two of us will ever be exactly alike, because each of our individual experiences had laid the foundation for lifestyles and choices we have made.
Let's face it. Although women have come a long way from our counterparts one hundred plus years ago, there's still work to be done. It helps no one if while we are working to make things just a little bit easier for our daughters and grand-daughters, we continue to scrutinize one another, and it belittles any achievements we've made for our gender so far.
Moving forward, I pledge to try harder as a woman to accept who I am, emotionally, physically, professionally and so on. I would ask that if you are a woman reading this, that you try to do so also. We won't always agree with what other women are saying or doing, but that doesn't give us the right to openly shame, criticize or talk poorly about them behind their backs. If each of us, as much as we can, start supporting the women we know, helping when it is asked of us, and congratulate each other's efforts even if we are still waiting to achieve our own goals, then perhaps we can start moving past being our own worst enemies. As a mother, I need to be the example to both my children of a supportive, confident and accepting woman. I know and understand that my daughter won't be exactly like me, and if she is to accept who she will become, then I need to accept who I am and the women around me are, imperfections, differences and all!