“I have realised that ‘womanhood’ is not an excuse nor a justification, but a creative power at our disposal, to be used wisely, freely and intentionally in the best ways that each of us, as unique individuals, chooses to use it.”

S ignificant changes in my life over the last few years have caused me to do quite a lot of growing up.

As mature as I felt during my twenties, being well into my thirties has taken my perspective on the world to a greater, deeper and much more awe-inducing level. I don’t think I have ever been as clear about things before, yet at the same time, always curious and often overwhelmed.

I find myself in frequent need of ‘resetting’, getting back to basics about the meaning and purpose of my life.

The need for such reflection seems to amplify on such days as today, International Women’s Day, where social media like a vacuum, absorbs my mental and emotional energy, containing and incubating all of its particles, with no real objective other than to deplete it.

Hence this year, I have made a conscious effort to not once again get sucked in, to not become lost in discourse that often makes me feel that as a woman, this one special day is the only day that I am to be celebrated, or that I am obliged to celebrate the other wonderful women in my life.

Please don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the power of social movements, of sharing important stories and inspiring content – this is the reason we started Sisters & Stuff after all.

However what I wrestle with on days like these, is the notion that we as women, a collective gender, are afforded this one day to showcase our achievements, air our grievances and be justified in demanding real, positive change from others.

Just one day, where we have courage to speak our minds, telling the world how much we have been overlooked and how far we still have to go to achieve equality.

Just one day, where the media gives infinite license to publishing female-based and female-led news stories, where celebrities, brands and activists emphasise their advocacy for women fighting for visibility.

Just one day, where even I – in writing this very piece – am compelled to contribute to the conversation.

Yet now, through my grown-up eyes, I am starting to understand what it truly means to be a woman; and it has nothing to do with how I am represented on just this one day.

I have realised that ‘womanhood’ is not an excuse nor a justification, but a creative power at our disposal, to be used wisely, freely and intentionally in the best ways that each of us, as unique individuals, chooses to use it.

In shifting my mindset this way, I have grown in understanding of who I am and the purpose of my life on earth, subsequently realising the greatest gift granted to us by the feminist movement: Choice.

It does not matter how big or small we view it, choice is what determines our future, especially in Western societies where we have it in abundance. Yes, choice cannot prevent evil doings and tragic circumstances but it holds inexplicable power to help us overcome them.

I know now where there are feelings of lack, anger, pain and apathy, there is always choice in we how respond.

I know now that it is the gift of choice, that helps us unlock love, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, faith and hope.

In empowering the collective, we must not negate the choice of every unique individual that reside within it. We must not impose a standard or a set of rules to be followed by which every member of the collective is defined by.

What it truly means to be a woman, depends on what it truly means to be ‘you’.

You have the choice to write or to speak or to march, to shout loudly or sit quietly, to live in your own understanding of your womanhood.

The collective comes to true power when we first recognise those that are unjustly robbed of such choices, by political, cultural, social and economical forces outside of their control.

What will those of us with the privilege of choice do to change this, beyond our social media activism on just one day each year?

I once felt this was a challenge too great to bear, until I realised my individual responsibility to harness my unique voice within the collective. It doesn’t have to be the loudest or most popular, it simply needs to be actively used.

I’m learning to leverage my unique voice through good thoughts, kind words and intentional deeds every day, even in the simplest moments.

I’m learning to see how my life contributes to the whole collective, rather than allowing the collective to define my life.

I’m learning to be grateful, knowing that while so many women around the world are facing oppression, violence, poverty and inequality, I am empowered with the choice to do something about it.

Instead of giving into anger at the injustices, instead of feeling helpless and defeated, I am striving to be one less woman rendered powerless by the ills of the world.

I am fortunate because I have the choice. And so do you.

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