Womanhood is often difficult. For me, at least, sometimes the greatest difficulty lies in the fear that the suffering I experience will not be met with compassion, or even recognized as a truly human suffering, or worse yet, that the suffering I experience will be met with chides or derision. It pains me greatly to think of the suffering many humans experience, made greater by the thoughtlessness of those for whom they suffer. In the spirit of this holiday season, I offer my Christmas wishlist:
Firstly, menstruation can be difficult. If the process itself is not difficult enough, women also must endure endless, shaming jokes about how our bodies work and then also our thoughts and feelings especially disregarded during our cycle, (as in "Oh, she's upset, therefore she must be on the rag, which means, I don't have to take seriously what she says.") Though women may feel energetic and generous at other times, during menstruation she often does not have much energy. I wish, rather than being fodder for jokes, or an excuse to not take a woman's feelings seriously, this process would be impetus to generosity. I wish that all men would honor the women in their lives by being especially generous in listening to her thoughts with respect and compassion and by taking burdens off her as much as possible, respecting her need for more rest. I wish men would not be patronizing in this, but genuinely thoughtful.
There are innumerable self sacrifices women make during pregnancy. We couldn't list them all if we tried. I wish, rather than offers to take our children from us, all women would be shown gratitude for what our minds and bodies go through during this time. I wish women would receive encouragement and belief that we have the resources within ourselves to handle these challenges. I wish women would receive this encouragement and have trust from their partner and caretakers especially when they give birth.
Breastfeeding can be hard. It requires an enormous investment of a woman's time that she alone must give. It means we often don't have the convenience of finishing tasks in one sitting. Rather, we must stop and set things aside before we would like. Learning this kind of detachment from our tasks and projects is challenging. But I wish, rather than encouragement to wean, all women could have the powerful solidarity of others going through the same challenges and joys. I wish all women would receive the support they need to be successful at this task so many of us want to do. We know men can't breastfeed, but I wish all women would receive help from men in the tasks that men are able to do, so women don't have to feel everything is on our shoulders.
I wish people would stop trying to change women and fix women. Instead, I wish they would try to be truly present and really listen to us. I wish people would recognize that there are abundant lessons to be learned and wisdom to be gained from life as we experience it. And, when we are faced with the challenges of womanhood, I wish men would not sigh in relief that they don't have to go through such things. I wish instead they would reflect humbly on the inner strength that women must possess in order to handle such challenges. I wish, rather than trying to reduce us into something they can easily understand, men would instead recognize and honor our inner mystery.
Above all, I wish all men everywhere would recognize the humanity of women. And in this recognition respect our freedom and encourage us to be us. Just us.