Forgiving Myself for Being Late to the Game

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Shae Jassmann -Feminine Strength4by Shae Jassmann

Sisters, I have a confession: For much of my life, I have not been on our side.

I am guilty of sexism against my own sex so much so that I have been heard saying things like, “I think some women are great in management but I would prefer a man as women can get too emotional.” (Cringe.) I took it as a compliment when my peers thought that I “wasn’t like other girls”. I didn’t stop to consider what was so wrong with being like other girls. I didn’t take responsibility for what that must say about the female relatives and friends that I cared so deeply for. Moreover as much I loved my girlfriends, I held them to a much higher standard than the men in my life. For years, I had no idea that I was part of the problem.

When I look back, there was no one specific “aha moment” where the blinders to cultural and institutionalized sexism were removed and I was able to see the errors of my young ways. It was a slow process of digging away at the debris surrounding my kind but ignorant heart. The off-hand comments of old teachers and lesser-known peers were like pebbles and smaller rocks. Once I saw them for what they were, they were fairly easy to remove. The boulders—the values instilled in me by my well-intentioned relatives and social leaders—those were significantly harder. My dad, bless him, did not mean to undermine my worth when he placed emphasis on how my strong thighs would be perceived by men. But he said the words all the same.

My education played a big role in helping me understand female oppression and instilling in me the importance of sisterhood. Studying about the other oppressive -isms, such as racism and ageism, helped me view my own internalized sexism more clearly. I was able to see how my core belief in equality for all did not match up with my beliefs and expectations for my own sex.

The most important factor in my transformation was the vast number of strong, kind, independent, women in my life. The females who, despite a culture that tells us that our primary worth is a reflection of our physical appearance, are successful mothers, lovers, employees, entrepreneurs, and everything in between. Women, who while being taught to be passive and competitive against one another, manage to build one another up and achieve success in personal, social, and professional arenas.

How did I think that being sensitive and nurturing was a sign of weakness? How did I miss that all people, regardless of sex, can be both feminine and strong and that we need those qualities to thrive as a society?

These days my students remind me just how difficult it is to grow up in a world that expects girls to meet impossible physical standards all the while being sweet and apologetic. They reinforce the importance of equality for all people and help me understand that it is the delicate balance of feminine and masculine qualities that help individuals, families, companies, and communities prosper.

I still look back and cringe at my old beliefs but I move forward by actively practicing self-compassion and reminding myself of Ghandi’s words: “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” I believe that my past weakness and short sightedness make me more empathetic and I am hopeful that this will allow me to be a better leader and friend. I hope that I will move forward more forgiving and understanding of my sisters and with a determination to make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

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RJassmannBioPhotoShae Jassmann – I like to think that I am fun, loving, and open-minded but I may be better described as a fiery, driven, over-thinker. I do my best to be kind and spread love and I am happiest when I am travelling.

 

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