It is Women’s History Month. In fact, we recently commemorated the International Day of Women. So, you would think we women would be super happy and totally feeling ourselves right now. And don’t get me wrong. We are. As with anything, however, there are many sides to a story.
This month is great for women and it has gotten more so every year. I grew up at a time when women were shattering glass ceilings left and right and proving that a woman could do any job a man could do. But no matter how many barriers we dismantled others were either revealed or erected. Old tropes about our emotional stability, physical appearance and mental capabilities refused to die. Any great achievement was still being seen as the exception to the rule.
And yet we persist, so every March we have a plethora of women from throughout history whose story we can use to inspire us and who influence us no matter what our gender may be.
It is awesome, uplifting and motivating. And exhausting, terrifying and daunting. Let me explain.
There are great women in this world doing great things. There are many more regular women, living their lives, whose names and faces the world will never know. There are women in this world setting trends and creating habits in a way that will always be able to be traced directly back to them. There are many more regular women, interpreting and incorporating those same trends in a way that becomes the culture without anyone ever knowing how it got that way.
Young women today have so many more options for themselves and so many more role models to look up to than my generation but my mother’s generation could say the same thing. Each generation of women builds on what we were given. While it may seem like it plays out on the world stage through the accomplishments of great, fabulous women, in reality it is the acts of everyday regular women that make the great leaps forward possible.
For every fabulous woman we celebrate there is a regular woman doing the best she can to live her life on her terms. For every woman who was able to dedicate her entire self to the pursuit of her goals, there was a regular woman sacrificing something in support of that pursuit. For every role model the world sees there are multitudes of regular women who are setting an example a great woman will someday follow to success.
So, if you are a regular woman, while it can be inspiring to take time each month to celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of great women, it can also make your efforts and accomplishments feel small and unnoticeable. When you see how hard it is just for the few to make it, you begin to feel like your own dreams are destined to remain unfulfilled. When you see the praise heaped on those women society has deemed as fabulous, it can make you feel inadequate in your regular life.
I know. I’m a regular woman. I’m a regular woman living a regular life. l don’t leave the house with a full face beat everyday. I don’t own designer clothes or bags. I don’t have triple digit followers on social media, let alone millions. No one is calling me to do TED Talks or be a keynote speaker at conventions. When I leave my house no paparazzi follow me. I don’t know anything about the lifestyles of the fabulous and historical.
What I do know is every woman is a regular woman until the moment she is called to be great. I also know that every regular woman is some other woman’s inspiration. Every regular woman influences some other woman to be her best self.
I can look all around me at women I know, regular women like me, who inspire me, guide me, push me, support me and help me get through my day. I have many girlfriends who are as close to me as family who show me examples every day of exemplary womanhood.
I have six sisters, one by blood and five by marriage. Each of them have shown me what it means to be strong, courageous, positive, grateful, happy, loving, kind, self-reliant, authentic, humble, persistent, spirited and, yes, great.
We regular women have no reason to downplay our contributions or feel insignificant. We may not make it into the history books but we make history every day as we drag this world closer and closer to gender equity simply by pushing our own boundaries and encouraging the young women in our sphere of influence. We are regular but we are not inconsequential or invisible. We are not silent and we will not be silenced. We are going to continue doing what we do and watch the world follow our lead.
(I dedicate this column to my sister Erica, a regular woman whose sunshine and laughter will reverberate through generations.)
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.