One time, long long ago, in a kingdom far, far away, my mom said to me, “Shannon, I feel as though I haven’t given you enough advice.” To which I replied: “Shut the f*** up, mom.”
(Trust me; she’s given me plenty.)
And yet, get a group of women gathered together in the presence of a feminist icon like Gloria Steinem, and all we want is advice. But the thing about advice is: no matter who it’s coming from, no matter how sound and wise, it weighs on us, becomes a heavy, restrictive Should. Unless, of course, the advice is to ditch the shoulds altogether, as was Steinem’s, at a recent event at Yale:
During the question-and-answer session, Claire Gordon (’10) asked the members of the panel if they thought women should feel obligated to continue in the workforce.
“Dispense with the word ‘should,'” Steinem answered. “Don’t think about making women fit the world–think about making the world fit women.”
She said women should pursue the life choices they would most enjoy, regardless of social expectations.
I love this idea about making the world fit women–I love it on the macro level, obviously, but I love it in the individual sense as well. And I think maybe, just maybe, such a subtle sounding shift in perspective might in fact play out to be huge: rather than looking at ourselves as the X factor that, well, should do the bending required to fit within the conventions, the rules, the, you know, shoulds, imagine looking at our work, our relationships, the way we prioritize, the way we spend our time as the things that can be molded, tweaked, adjusted instead. Imagine if we took whatever unfair truths might exist, said To Hell With It, and did whatever we wanted–the way we wanted–anyway. Imagine, just for a second, that the only thing we should be doing is being who we are–and that the rest of the world should bend to suit us. All advice should be so freeing. And speaking of, that advice my mom wanted to give me? I shoulda listened.