I spent my Sunday having brunch with my girls. Two amazing Italian women. I can not stress enough how grateful I have always been for my girlfriends around the world. I mean seriously we all have superpowers!
I was brought up in a very traditional and patriarchic society by two unconventional, feminist parents. My parents are true feminists, they just don’t know it yet. There has always been a big contrast on how I was raised and the role that my mother had in our family compared to other families. There was a huge difference between my father and other greek men. A strong man, the youngest out of three brothers, a hard worker, a visionary, “the boss of the family” (as he says in a funny way), not hesitating to iron a shirt for my mom if he had the time, or make her coffee in the mornings. He knew his place in the world. He had no reason to show his masculinity. He was a man living in a lovely companionship with another woman. In equal terms. They worked together, they lived together, they raised a child together, they paid the bills together, they traveled the world and shaped their future. It did not matter who would iron more. Who would take the trash. Who would bring flowers to the other. It was not a matter of measurement. It was a matter of companionship, hard work, love, understanding and equal terms.
Maybe you wonder why I talk about my dad in a blog about women’s superpower. Because it is both men and women shaping women and it is both of them shaping children. When my mother was tired and overwhelmed and “hormonal” my dad would come to my room and whisper to me so she would not hear us:”Your mother is full of emotions today. She is stressed and sad. She is just taking too much in. Your mother is doing so many things every day. Let’s help her have a good day. Can you clean your room? I will go and buy a movie and ice-cream. Be a good kid today she needs it. She just does so many things for me and you. Let’s take care of her today”.
I had no idea how important and understanding his words were back then. Giving her the space to be. Understanding all the roles she was having. The one of the mother, of the carer, of the wife, of the lover, of the daughter and sister, the cleaner, the chef, the teacher…. One day (I think I was 7) I asked him “Dad why do you help mom at home? My friends dads never wash dishes”. He replied to me: “I am not helping your mom with the dishes. I ate too? Didn’t I? So we help each other. ”
From then to now world has changed. Politically and socially implied rules that have existed for decades are suspended. Things we have taken-for-grantedness fall apart. More and more people (both men and women) understand feminism for what it is, the greatest expression of sexes being equal, seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men. Now how we women cope with that is another story.
A friend of mine told me the other day “Stupid feminism. We do so much now-days. I just want to be home, cook and raise my children. Where are the times when men went at work and we did not have to worry about bills? Not only we work, we make less, we have to work harder, if we are tough we are bitches, if we are soft we are weak. I just have too many things to do. It’s overwhelming! And on the top of that I am a woman boss in a men’s job!”.
I understand her. Oh! I do. In my first managerial job, after a months work our CEO “advised me to be softer, give a female touch!”. I replied to him “I am giving a female touch, I am getting the job done!”. When I quit to move on with my career long time after our first talk he told me: “You know Nikol it is so difficult to find a replacement. You have set the bar too high!”. I remember we laughed so much as I replied “I told you, I was putting a female touch!”. ” You are too many men in this business Daniel. Find a woman. No one is irreplaceable “. They found my replacement a week after that, it was a powerful woman and she did a great job! Back then I was working in a male-domain industry. It was easier for my male colleagues to say I am a bitch than being managed by me. What our CEO was trying to say that day was: “You are a woman managing like a man in a male domain industry. We have not worked with that yet. Try to be softer. They will learn!”. And they did. I set the tone. Men got used to it. After 5 years it is normal that they are managed by a woman. What a small but great achievement! Isn’t it?
I admire women. I really do. We manage to be daughters and wives and partners and lovers. We manage to be great professionals, loving mothers and graceful home takers. There is no “I can’t” for us. A man wakes up in the morning, has a shower and goes to work. A woman wakes up, fixes the dishes, put on a laundry, have a shower, make her hair, do the make up, fix the nails, shave. I mean being a woman is a time consuming thing! However we always take the extra mile for the ones we love. We always make sure things happen. If you want something done ask a woman. She will sure find a way to do it. We love taking responsibility, even on times when we are weak and crushed. We strive every day, we shine every day. We women make the world a great place to live. Giving up for us is just not an option. And with this said I think a lot of women have a long way to go with each other. A lot of women hold on to the patriarch values of competing with each other in an unhealthy way. Less though, less and less every day and I will write about it in another blog.
There is always something that inspires me. People. Projects. Experiences. But what inspires more and more every day is women around me.
My colleague at work who has three jobs, two children and yet she finds time to go home and be a lover to her husband.
My mother who is doing a Masters during her middle 50s while having a full time job.
My cousin who has a two year old baby, go to the gym, cook for her husband, always finds time to talk to me and after all that spends her time in the police force, being a strong, brilliant police officer.
My best friend, who just moved to a new country, being endless hours alone at home, struggling to find a job, learn the language, be there for her husband. Despite the burdens when she picks up her daughter from school at 13.00 she is a superwoman. When she is broken, she remembers she is a woman and that is her superpower.
You can not be strong and courageous, unless you have your weak and fearful moments. A lot of days when the despair hits my door I look up to them and I am thinking “they make it look so easy. I know it’s not but if they can do it, I can do it!”
What is your greatest strength, your superpower?
Because women, I think, have found a new solidarity in this social change. We become involved, we encourage and support each other. And maybe we now just realize what’s really important to us. The answers are, of course, very personal and individual, but we all have something in common: We are all vulnerable and emotional, we undergo hard times, sometimes with a big smile, sometimes pouring our eyes out. However every one of us has a strength, a superpower inside us that gets us through the fears and tears. And above all, we are not alone. We have each other.