The adult book club I belong to (I also lead a book club at work for teens) is getting me to read all kinds of books I would have never chosen to read on my own. We call it Wings and Winning Words Wednesday. We meet for wings on Wednesday and we pick a book to read from a major list of award winners. This month’s book? Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro.
Our discussion about this book was very interesting. I had a really hard time connecting with Rose. Rose is the main character in a series of short stories, all the way from childhood to parenthood. Rose did not seem believable to me because growing up I was never around such a weak woman who changes herself so quickly to the people she makes herself dependent upon.
I am so very lucky. I grew up around strong women. My Grandma worked as a nurse, raised five children, and still managed to help my Grandpa around the farm. She gardened, baked, cooked, and babysat the 10 kids that lived on the family farm. My Mom worked full time as an admin assistant in town, milked cows, worked on the weekends on the farm, raised three children, baked, cooked, had amazing gardens, and enjoyed doing painting crafts. I like to joke that the women in my family (Grandma, Mom, and my aunts) worked in town to support their husbands’ hobby farm.
The women in my family worked together. They shared, they encouraged, and they survived. This attitude of confidence and strength in ability has been passed on to my cousins and all of my female cousins are strong, independent, and confident women. They are professors, legal assistants, designers, teachers, historians, youth workers, and wonderful women who are truly beautiful from the inside out.
Back to Munro’s novel: the strength and support of the women surrounding me as I grew up is why I could not relate to the character Munro creates in her short story collection. In the collection, Rose has to compete with her mother. Her mother constantly tries to out complain and show up her daughter in every instance. Everything is a competition. As Rose grows up, she is curious in a passive way and she allows herself to be manipulated and pulled all sorts of ways. At one point she realizes she does not love her fiance and tries to break it off with him, yet realizes that without him she has no sense of self or purpose. How sad and tragic! Yet, one of the other book club members could relate entirely. Rose’s history and Rose’ mother were all too familiar in the personalities of their mothers and their sisters. I was shocked. I had no idea that the stories Munro wrote were mirrors of some women’s lives.
This week I have been listening to the album Stay Gold by First Aid Kit. One of the songs on the album, “Heaven Knows,” seemed to fit perfectly with this collection of stories: Heaven Knows.
Here are some of my favourite lines:
You’ve spent a year staring into a mirror
Another one trying to figure out what you saw
Paid so much attention to what you’re not
You have no idea who you are
You’ve lost yourself in others’
Expectations of you
Now you prefer this caricature before being true
But you’re better than that…
Lost in others’ expectations and paying so much attention to what you’re not that you have no idea who you are.
Those are terrifying ideas and descriptions.
So, on the eve International Women’s Day, I am so grateful for the women I have in my life. I am grateful especially to my Grandma and my Mom who were strong and independent in a time and place where I think that the majority of women were lost and submissive.
This weekend I will make sure that I support the women around me who are strong and especially those who need the encouragement and support to see themselves for who they are and to see the beauty and strength that lies within them. God created humans and he loved them. He doesn’t love one more than the other and He never assigned roles for each. Society assigns gender, so I am even more grateful that I belong to a family who sees humans as they are: creations of God.
Here are some hashtags to get us started: #MakeItHappen #womensday #IWD2015 #internationalwomensday #PaintItPurple
God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. (Genesis 1:26)
Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male. (Simone de Beauvoir)
Women are leaders everywhere you look — from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes. (Nancy Pelosi)