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Women’s Success Criterion: Being the Subject of Her Own Desires

With the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day taking place on Tuesday this week there have been lots of articles, stories and videos about women – our successes and accomplishments over the years as well as the many challenges and barriers still ahead. For as much as we can measure our progress we still have a long road before us.

I sit here wondering what exactly does all this mean? What are we measuring and whose criteria are we measuring against? Do we celebrate or commiserate?

I attended a Women’s Day celebration hosted by the Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie and Colibri: Centre des femmes francophones du comté de Simcoe. It was one of the most delightful evenings I have had in a long time. The program included a variety of performances by talented local artists in English and French as well as door prizes, a silent auction, food buffet and information booths on local services. We had community and connection. I noticed amidst the celebration and festive atmosphere a sense of reverence as well. While we have much to celebrate in the joy of gathering together for women, at the same time we must recognize there are real and significant challenges that we continue to face such as the extent of violence against women and children locally and globally.

So what is progress for women? How will we know when “we’ve made it”? Beyond the external measures of financial equity, job parity, women’s talents being valued and women’s power seen as legitimate, is our own internal barometer of success which is our ability to be authentic and self-determining.

Polly Young-Eisendrath, in her book Women and Desire, describes how women have been conditioned to be the Objects of someone else’s desire rather than the Subject of our own desires. It shows up as wanting to be wanted rather than appreciated for who we are as our genuine selves.

We try to appear attractive, nice, good, valid, legitimate or worthy to someone else instead of discovering what we actually feel and want for ourselves. PYE

❤️ What does being the Subject of one’s OWN desires mean?

By contrast, being the Subject of your own desires does not preclude having an attractive appearance or a pleasant manner. But appearance, manner, niceness, self-sacrifice are never the central motivators for the woman who is a Subject. She speaks confidently and clearly even in the face of challenge, conflict, and her own anxiety. Because she wants to be known for who she is, instead of how she appears, she is straightforward and direct…It means speaking your own thoughts and feelings with respect for others, without trying to cover up the harsh bits or the rough edges in order to keep your image shiny and clean. PYE

Sovereignty over our own lives as the Subjects of our own desires is the ultimate measurement criterion by which we’ll know “we’ve made it”.

What was reinforced for me on Tuesday night is the importance of community and celebration to reconnect us to our core strengths, self-confidence and intention in our lives. To remember or perhaps relearn what it is that we want as Subjects of our own desires.

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We’ll move into possibility together!

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