Here & there: ‘Womaning-up’ and the mid-term elections

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FEATURE — My family is lucky enough to have the best neighbors. A whole street full of them. We bring in each other’s garbage cans, rake each other’s leaves and visit on front lawns late into warm summer evenings. One neighbor has even hosted mid-morning tea parties with finger foods like those delectable little cucumber and dill sandwiches.

It might be Stepford if it wasn’t so dreamy.

The neighbors directly to the west of us are especially wonderful – they host a spooky dinner for the kids every Halloween, do a movie night in our combined front yards and scatter our yard with Leprechaun gold on St. Patrick’s Day.

Our kids, and my dog, run back and forth between the two houses, playing for hours in elaborate games of role-play and imagination.

Several years ago, when my youngest was five, he was playing at the neighbor’s house with their twin girls of the same age in one such elaborate game. During the course of play, my boy challenged one of the girls to something that stretched her.

She balked. My boy then told her to “man up.”

The little girl started crying and sought solace with her mom, who was doing work in the adjacent family office. “Gus told me to ‘man up’ and I don’t even know what that means.”

Her mom, accustomed to my house of Peter-Pans, supplied her with the perfect retort: “Go tell Gus to woman up.”

Armed with new confidence, the 5-year-old friend stopped crying and ran off to find my boy. Minutes later she was back in the office crying again. She reported to her mom that the retort hadn’t gone over well: “Gus said ‘womaning up’ just means to cry and be a baby.”

“Go ask Gus if that’s what his mom would say ‘woman up’ means,” her mother suggested.

Minutes later, the little girl returned to the office beaming. “Gus now says ‘to man up’ and ‘to woman up’ mean the exact same thing,” she enthusiastically told her mother. And further, Gus told her there was absolutely no need to ask his mother about it. In fact, they probably shouldn’t mention this whole “womaning up” business to his mom at all. Ever.

Which means I heard about the whole exchange later that day.

Now, the womaning up story is part of our family’s lore. We retell it frequently and laugh about it. The misguided notion. The we-don’t-ever-have-to-mention-this-to-my-mom business. And, in the end, the new understanding.

As much as I am vigilant about my role as the Wendy to my boys’ Peter Pans, keeping them in check and educating them beyond their male experience, there are pervasive misnomers in our culture that still reach them.

Misnomers that suggest to my little 5-year-old boy that “womaning up” means to be weak. Even if he knows his mom is strong.

Can I blame him? Think about the words we use as a society to describe things like weakness, cowardliness or over-emotionality. They’re all undesirable. They’re all feminine. And they’re all about the female body – one specific part to be exact.

But they’re all wrong. That particular part of the female body is amazing. Truly. There is nothing about it that is weak or cowardly. Instead, it is epitome of strength and resilience. A person need only observe (or participate in) a birth to know the truth of that.

Yet, the misnomers still exist. And the ideas about women being weak because of them still pervade.

But maybe that is finally starting to change.

This week was mid-term elections. Among all the other happenings both blue and red, at least 98 women were elected to the United States Congress. That is more than at any other time in our nation’s history. By a wide margin.

Although Utah’s sole female in Congress may not be going back to Washington, D.C., I am still hopeful. Hopeful that bit-by-bit, as women take on more leadership roles, they will be able to change the conversation. That bit-by-bit, our national neighborhood will grow and stretch under the influence of these women.

Because now there are 98 women to lead. Ninety-eight women to show strength. Ninety-eight women to show resilience. Ninety-eight women to show what “womaning up” really means.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Red2Blue310 November 11, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Next time maybe vote out Rob Bishop or Chris Stewart instead. What have they done for you?

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