PowHERful: One Woman can change the world. When I hear it, I think of three things: a nickname, a TedTalk, and a saying.
My best friend has a nickname for me. He calls me Wonder Woman. It makes me flush with joy. It is something that I write down in all my planners to brighten my day. Being Wonder Woman means I can do anything I want; be whoever I want, because I am me, and I am powerful.
But being Wonder Woman can be hard. Being Wonder Woman means that I can’t make a mistake, and more than that, that I have to do everything. I need to make sure all of my homework gets done and that I go to all my classes. I need to organize next week’s meeting for my student organization and make sure the minutes from the last meeting get sent out on time. I have a project I’m working on for the cancer hospital, so I just have to make sure all the materials are ready, and while I’m at it, let me volunteer for that extra shift since I know they’ll be short-handed. Marcus is struggling with his science homework, so I can help him go over his lab report, and since the URO needs a presenter, I can volunteer for that as long as I leave right afterwards to go to my committee meetings. The weekend starts tomorrow, so it’s relaxation time. I’ll need to make sure that I support my friends, so I’ll just fit in Rachel’s 20th birthday party, and Sean’s album release concert and Chorsie’s stage-managing debut, even though they’re all the same day and the same time. Oh, yeah, and that biochemistry midterm is on Monday, isn’t it?
These cycling thoughts prevade my, and my female friends’ minds. Women, and girls especially, come under a pressure-cooker of demands. I watched a TEDTalk recently by the woman who founded Girls Who Code. She put it perfectly. She said women are raised to be perfect. But in my opinion, we’re not just raised to be perfect-we’re raised to be “everything.” By that, I mean, perfection is expected in every aspect of our lives. It’s not enough to be perfect at math and love reading. You also have to play sports well, sing well, be interested in video games, defy stereotypes—the list goes on and on. I, and many other girls I know, often feel like the world’s weight. Or, alternatively, that the eyes of the world are on us. The world seems poised for us to fail, looking for our mistakes, so we push ourselves to succeed, and excel, and surpass. To be perfect in everything: that is what we are socialized to see as powerful. But that is not power. That is invincibility and invincibility falls into the realm of Wonder Woman. She is infallible, and we are not—and that difference makes us human and imperfect and beautiful.
So slow down. Take care of yourself first. It’s okay to not be the doctor your parents dreamed of; it’s all right to not be your country’s Malala. You don’t need to be everything to everyone. Stretch yourself and push your boundaries but don’t break yourself in the process.
The last thing that the Women’s History Month theme makes me of is an oft-quoted saying. The saying goes “let her sleep. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains.” She can move mountains, but let her know that it’s okay if she doesn’t. It’s okay if she doesn’t do it all, if she is not Wonder Woman, because she is just as valid, and just as powerful, if all she does that day is go to school. Because in that time, she told her friend that their new haircut looked good, and that put them on Cloud Nine. She helped a lost high-schooler find their way around campus, and that made OSU their top choice. She may have struggled with her physical chemistry homework, but she finished it and she gained the tools she needed to change her future. Power is not always loud or noticeable. But it is always real.
Women are powerful. We are powerful—and one woman can change the world. But that is a heavy, potentially crushing, burden for just one. So be brave, not perfect. Know that you can be powerful, but also know you can’t be invincible. You don’t need to be Wonder Woman. But, if every woman is claiming her own, if every woman is changing her own part of the world, then together, we can, and we will, be Wonder Woman.