When Women Decide to Save Themselves First

Photo by Calle Macarone
Last week, I went through four different airports. My flight out of La Guardia to Toronto was particularly interesting. The safety instructions were delivered in English and French. I was reminded to secure my mask before helping others four times and in two different languages. While it is a simple fact that you cannot help someone while gasping for air, it does not seem to apply to women.

Growing up from a girl is hard. In girlhood, you are supposed to wear pink, play with dolls, and bake mini-cakes with a lightbulb. I did all those things. I even had a Barbie Corvette. According to my folks, I also liked trucks and was a little bossy. (It was OK because I would grow out of it.) From girlhood, you aren't supposed to "act fast" because boys - who have no control of themselves - might get the wrong idea. From girlhood, you should focus on your education, while hiding your ambition. From girlhood, you are supposed to protect the men who may grow up to be amazing husbands and fathers - the future heroes of America.

A funny thing happens to some women who unravel the ribbons of girlhood. Some of them decide to move to a big city to launch their career, some of them discover they don't particularly like men at all, some of them decide that they will no longer suffer in silence. At a particular point, some women decide to save themselves first. They put on their mask as the plane crashes into the unknown.

What defiance looks like to me. Photo by Clarke Sanders

For some reason, with both feet planted on the ground, the decision to breathe comes at a hefty price.  For every #Notallmen Tweet, there is a #Ididntspeakup reality. In my recent travels, an old acquaintance revealed to me that he did things at 17 that could have been reprehensible under a certain context. He is not sharing his story on social media and begging young guys to make better decisions. Rather, it was a move more relatable to a pup showing its belly - look at me being vulnerable for rubs and treats.

Throughout history, we have always had brave women. They told us we could be a part of Congress, that we could go to space, that we could play any sport we damn well decide. What we need now, is to call out all of the people on the sidelines. To the men and women who looked away, or voted "Yes" - we see you, Susan.  

When women decide to save themselves first, they are often looked upon favorably... later. We call them trailblazers and sheroes. We build statues. We create coloring books so girls can see them at their pretty arts and crafts table. Maybe one day we will honor their truth while they are alive by not electing misguided men to decide our fates. Then again, maybe we won't because the status quo just feels that f*cking good.

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