Today, something lovely happened. I was wandering through a store with my mother, when we were asked by a fellow shopper what we thought of the black and white, fitted dress her mother had on. I was about to give the typical off-handed, “that looks great” reply I normally give, when I looked at the woman. She was slumped and uncomfortable, clearly distressed about being the centre of attention, and desperately trying to cover her hips and thighs. The dress didn’t look too bad, but it was a bit too young for her. What what was worse, is that it made her feel bad.
My sales assistant brain took over, and I quickly scanned the store for something that would work. I spotted a black, sequinned top and thrust it towards her daughter.
“That looks nice, but she needs a longer top to elongate her frame”, I said.
The sales staff suddenly realised what was happening, and came buzzing back over.
“Oh! That’s gorgeous! You look fantastic!”, she gushed, “I love the crispness of the white against your black hair.”
The mother winced. I smiled at her, and told her to throw the black top over the dress. Straight away things started to change. Her back was straighter, her hands weren’t constantly trying to cover her belly, and she wasn’t as tense.
I asked what the outfit was for, and it turned out is was for the daughter’s wedding. She’d bought a dress already, but it was ugly, frumpy, and certainly not Mother of the Bride material. She needed to feel fantastic, and I’d inadvertently set myself the task to make it happen.
Half an hour later we’d found her a skirt to match the sequinned top, a lovely coral jacket to giver her some colour, and some jewellery for a bit of extra bling. The mother was transformed—her back was straight, she was smiling, and she was even excitedly talking about what shoes she had that would match it. She looked gorgeous.
The sales assistants were even happy, they’d managed to get a sale that was all but gone, and all they had to do was stand there. And the daughter was relieved. Her mother looked modern and smart, and was comfortable. They asked for my number, and the mother gave me a big hug, promising me to send me a picture of the wedding. And her looking all glam, of course.
I wanted to share this story, not to big note myself, but to share a story about women. more importantly, what we as women need to do for each other.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Inspiring Change”. We are called to push for equality, and be vigilant in demanding empowerment and positive change. But can we really call for equality and empowerment within a broader society, when we so often are the ones holding ourselves back?
So many of us spend our time envying, attacking, or deriding other women, when what we should be doing is supporting each other. We make snarky comments about what a random stranger is wearing, or attack physical traits rather than commenting on character. We call each other nasty names, and fight amongst each other about what constitutes a “real” woman. Or we simply ignore the needs of our fellow sisters, just to get ahead ourselves.
These are the things that need to change. We need to be inspired to support each other, and champion each other’s dreams. We need to compliment other women on their achievements, rather than begrudging them for what we didn’t achieve. We need to celebrate our individual looks—curvy, busty, sleek, and slim—and look past what we think the rest of the world expects. And we need to help each other when we’re struggling. Even if it’s just finding a way to feel beautiful, because that’s when we really shine.
Today I felt good, not because I did something for a stranger, but because that stranger was touched by what I did. I was able to make her feel beautiful, and the power that gave her shone on her face. If we can start with that—with the simple act of helping each other to feel beautiful, respected, worthy—than we can inspire change. And that change will be powerful enough to overthrow any inequality we face.
What are you doing to Inspire Change this International Women’s Day?