On a quiet morning at the cottage, while reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I was reminded of the amazing capacities of women. “Women have more feelings of empathy for other people than men do (though women and men have about the same degree of empathy for animals, whatever that means!” Rubin wrote. “In fact,” she continued, “for both men and women – and this finding struck me as highly significant – the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn't make a difference.”
It's no surprise that women have more feelings of empathy for other people than men but it's very surprising that women and men have the same degree of empathy for animals, and it's downright fascinating that the most reliable predictor of not feeling lonely is the amount of contact with women. How interesting that time spent with men, even through marriage, doesn't make an ounce of difference in staving off loneliness.
As women, we have incredible abilities but we rarely acknowledge or celebrate them. We are really good at the emotional side of life. We naturally exude empathy, compassion and altruism. Our intuitive skills are highly advanced and we are nurturing, caring and loving creatures. In fact, our brains are hard-wired for these traits. As women we know this – we talk about it amongst ourselves – yet we don't tend to celebrate it. After getting our loneliness fix by spending time with other women, we quietly return home, and softly and with feeling, we go about helping our husbands, our parents and our kids with their lives.
In certain parts of the world, young girls are circumcised to reduce their sexual desire, baby girls are killed to control population and gender, and the birth of a son continues to be cause for celebration while the birth of a daughter a burden. In North America, things aren't quite as bad. We have achieved more than our grandmothers but full equality has not yet arrived. We only appear to have equality. Women do make more money and hold more leadership positions today than in our grandmothers' day, but men continue to dominate the highest paying jobs and most top-level leadership positions.
While it’s easy to blame our oppression on our cultural background or on men themselves (these things do contribute to the problem), we need to understand that we are sometimes the ones standing in our own way. There are times when we don't recognize our own abilities. For example, young girls typically don't believe they are good at math. Attitudinal studies confirm this belief. The same attitudinal studies also show that boys believe they are good at math, at least in comparison to girls. Yet in actual math assessments, girls often outperform boys. Studies confirm these findings too. This math example highlights a much larger issue. Sometimes as women, we oppress our own capacities. It also demonstrates that males sometimes overrate theirs!
Recently I spent a week-end with family at the cottage. Our regular boat motor had gone home for a tune-up so we were using a rather cantankerous back-up to get across the lake. My sister, the first to arrive, couldn't get the motor started. Neither could my nephew, brother-in-law or even a friendly male neighbour. When I arrived, the motor continued its obstinate ways but with determination and resolve (and a few silent pleas to my father who had passed away), I managed to start it up. When my brother arrived, after hearing about our predicament he announced to the women that there would be motor starting lessons at the dock in the morning. While he was kidding about the lessons (he knows the motor is disobedient and unyielding), “motor school” was only offered to the women and he didn't acknowledgment the elephant in the room: the only person who had managed to start the motor was a woman!
It's time we acknowledge and celebrate women. When we do this, everyone benefits. Hillary Rodham Clinton observed, “If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunities, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue...it is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century.”
Let's celebrate women today and every day. They have fantastic gifts to share with the world.
Please share this with all the wonderful women in your life.
Debbie L. Kasman
Author of Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul