Tag Archives: The New York Times

Fear Isn’t a Reason to Quit

In “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared,” Caroline Paul writes about being one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department.

“I expected people to question whether I had the physical ability to do the job (even though I was a 5-foot-10, 150-pound ex-college athlete). What I didn’t expect was the question I heard more than any other: ‘Aren’t you scared?’”

Read the rest of Paul’s piece in The New York Times here.

As Paul points out, women are raised to be afraid, of well, many things. Things that are gross, things that could hurt us, things that are physically intimidating, etc. Some fear is healthy, of course. Fear keeps us from acting completely irrationally or taking unnecessary risks.

But what about risks that are scary because we could possibly fail? Possibly be humiliated? I mean, let’s be real. What the hell is scarier than failure? Paul writes,

“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole, she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone.”

Here lies the problem. As Paul states,

“We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.”

When we treat young girls as more fragile, they come to think of themselves that way. They are less likely to take risks because they might bruise their knees or their egos. Paul writes,

“When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making.”

I fear failure, probably a little too much. It has made me timid in my decision making, opting to stay the course, and wait for better things to come along.

It’s not like parents raised me to be this timid girl. My mother raised me to a feminist. To have opinions. To try new things. I mean, my parents let me travel to another continent (without them) when I was in junior high.

Did they treat me different than my brothers? Yes. Some different treatment is necessary. Girls have to learn how to navigate the world we live in, after all. And that’s the point really.

Girls need to learn to look fear in the eye and try it anyway, knowing they might tumble, bloody their knees, and fail. Failure builds character. It makes us stronger. It makes us brave. Paul writes,

“When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.”

I was talking to a friend of mine about this piece. My friend has two daughters. Her take was she doesn’t want to raise her girls to be fearless, she wants to raise them to be smart and brave.

Sounds good to me. We could use more smart and BRAVE women out there in the world.

So this week, I thought I would try something different. I created a Spotify Playlist. It is my Fearless Mix. You may recognize a lot of these songs from earlier posts. 🙂

 

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What Our Words Say about Our Privilege

Words are important. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

This past week was another one filled with bloodshed. It is heartbreaking. It is disgusting. And it has become far too commonplace.

I am fighting every part of me that wants to feel numb, that wants to throw up my hands in the air and say, what can I do?

I don’t have the answer to all this gun violence. All this killing. I wish I did.

What I can talk about is the language describing this violence and what it reveals about our country.

From the The New York Times,

“A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.” The full article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/28/us/colorado-planned-parenthood-shooting.html.

The suspect, Robert Lee Dear, shot 12 people. He is not labeled a terrorist in this passage. He is merely a man involved in “a gun battle” with police.

From The New York Times,

“For hours on Friday, officers traded gunfire with him inside the clinic before they were able to shout to the man and persuade him to give up, according to Lt. Catherine Buckley, a police spokeswoman.”

Dear traded gunfire with the officers. He was not killed. He was persuaded to give up.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, privilege is “a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.”

It seems like a lot of white people have trouble understanding what white privilege is or even deny that it exists.

It does exist. And this is what it is. It is this man still alive. It is this man not being immediately labeled a terrorist. And it is so many other things.

I’m lucky enough to walk around with this advantage tacked to my skin. It strikes me as an incredibly absurd advantage, but one that so obviously exists.

One of our greatest gifts as humans is our capacity for empathy. We all need to use it more.

Instead of saying all lives matter, think for a second about how maybe some lives are looked at and valued differently. Maybe some people are automatically guilty because of the color of the skin. Maybe you should stop and listen, instead of hiding behind that white skin and ignoring the things that are happening around you. Try for just a second to imagine, what is like to be young, black, and male in this country.

This week’s video is “Get Down” by P.O.S. Here’s my confession: After thinking about all these things yesterday and dealing with some homeowner stuff, I had a five minute dance break in my kitchen to this song (A lovely concept introduced to me by my friend, Susanna). Sometimes, you do just need to get down. But then, I finished this blog post because I can’t ignore these things either.

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