The International Day of Women was this week and March is Women’s History Month, but it’s hard for me to write about women I admire. I think that’s because for most of my childhood I was force fed the feminist idea that women were supposed to want it all, career and family, as well as be able to do everything men could do but do it better. I loved the old movies, I loved the fairytales, I liked the damsel in distress. I like to think we all need saving from time to time.
I didn’t want to do everything. I did want to help people and do what I could to bring about world peace, end hunger and protect the environment, but I wanted to do it as part of a team, not some superwoman who never slept. For me all the emphasis on how we had to compete with men just made me sad to be a woman. Then I watched some reality TV and found what I love most about being a woman.
First I watched the historical house shows on PBS, Colonial House, 1900’s House, Manor House, Frontier House and Ranch House. In each one, a family or group of families would try to survive a number of months living as their ancestors would have during the specified time period. At the end a group of historians would grade the the participants both on how well they adhered to the time period and did they do a good enough job that they would have been successful if they continued on.
I learned the most from the one that failed the worst, the Ranch House. When the historians gave their final grade to the Ranch, they not only said it had little chance of continuing due to the Ranches owner treating the hands with disrespect and as if they were totally replaceable (good ranch hands would have been difficult to come by,) but they took the time to say that in those days it was the job of the woman of the house to sow seeds not of dissension as the wife and mother had, but of harmony. Harmony! to bring harmony to the ranch was the duty of the women. That was the first time I felt like I knew what I had been looking for in my chosen role model.
Thinking back to all the other historical house shows, I saw that they were the most successful when the women involved happily, patiently and enthusiastically accepted their challenges and therein sowed the seeds of peace and harmony among all their fellow participants of the show.
This idea was reinforced even more when my daughter and I enjoyed watching the reality show Trading Spouses. Again there was a clear difference in the results anytime the woman chose to put her personal feelings aside and focus on the needs of the family she was with, as opposed to the woman who saw her mission to change the family she was with and be a warrior for whatever cause she had made her own. At the end of the show, was a twist, the women would decide how the other families $50,000 dollars (their payment for doing the show) was spent. If she had gotten to know the family she knew how to spend it to help them and the family usually didn’t mind this twist, but if she had pursued her own agenda, the family would feel cheated because the money would not go where it was needed.
Watching one after another, true-life family, I was able to see why I had such a hard time finding a woman role model I wanted to emulate. The women I admire most are the ones that help everyone around them shine, but don’t need fanfare to feel appreciated.
That is why I like the story of Esther. She had a huge impact on her people, she saved them and she did it by doing what women (traditionally) do best. She asked the king, her husband for a favor. She was a damsel in distress, and she let him be her hero. I don’t want to be a superwoman, strong in power but alone. I want to be like Esther, strong in faith and part of a team.