There's a castle near to where I live. It's absolutely beautiful.
Every time I look at it, I'm overwhelmed by its size, and its strength. Its formidable look as it gazes out across the city. Its proud independence.
As a modern woman, and particularly as a feminist, I'm often told to be like that castle. Strong and independent. Formidable yet beautiful. Close but still just out of reach. Viewable, but not knowable. Distant, slightly intimidating, yet still accessible.
It works well, most of the time. I am, for the most part, strong. I'm fiercely independent. I very rarely admit defeat on something which I believe I'm capable of doing myself. I'm unlikely to ask for help, especially if I think it will make me look weak or stupid. I am often stupidly proud, and ridiculously stubborn. I am almost all of the things that society tells me I should be, if I want to qualify as a modern feminist woman. So why isn't it working?
It isn't working because society is telling me a lie. Society is telling me that I have to be everything to everyone but never be true to myself. Society is telling me that I can do it on my own. That I'm a strong independent woman who 'don't need no man'. Society is telling me that I'm safest in the place where no-one else can get in. Where I have control of who I am and who gets to see it. Where no-one knows my weaknesses but everyone sees my strength. Society is telling me a lie.
Because the truth is that I don't have to be everything to everyone. All I have to be is who I was made to be. It is there that I will find true fulfilment. When I look to my creator, who knew me before He formed me in the womb, I will find the reality of who I am supposed to be. The truth is I can't do it on my own, and I need to stop trying. I'm a woman who needs people around her, who needs to learn to be vulnerable, and weak, and ask for help. And who needs to realise that this doesn't make her any less of a feminist, and certainly no less of a person. It just makes her human. I'm a woman, and I need men. I need other women. I need friends. The truth is, I might feel safe where no-one else can get in, but that's where I end up hurting myself. Because it is not good for me to be alone. It is not good for anyone to be alone. Vulnerable might be scary, but it is also liberating. It might mean losing control, but it also means gaining trust and intimacy and friendship. The truth is that when no-one knows your weaknesses, no-one can see the creator's power being made perfect through them.
Tomorrow is International Women's Day. It's a day when women around the world celebrate being female. Where we celebrate all the wonderful things about being a woman. And there are so many incredible things to celebrate.
But let's not celebrate the lies. Let's not be stubborn, or fiercely independent. Let's celebrate being women by celebrating honesty and vulnerability. Let's celebrate by letting our walls down, and being honest about how we're feeling. By asking for help when we can't do something. By admitting when we're struggling. By embracing the men in our lives who empower us to be true women, and allow us to work out how to hold independence and vulnerability in perfect harmony.
But most of all, let's celebrate being women by celebrating that we are beautiful in our vulnerability. That we can be strong, and that is something of which to be incredibly proud, but let's acknowledge that we can also be stubborn, and that is not okay. Let's shout down the lies of society with quiet honesty about our weaknesses, and humble confidence in our strengths. Because when we as women begin to acknowledge our need for each other, our need for men, our need for our creator, our own vulnerability, and our simple humanity, it is then that we truly have something to celebrate.
Hi, I’m Alianore. I used to be known as 'Nell Goddard', but then I got married and changed my name. I’m an author, blogger, and speaker. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend. I tweet as @alianoree and you can find more of my writings in my first book, 'Musings of a Clergy Child'.