Ladies – It’s Time To Take Up Space!

Female democratic presidential candidates | CNN

By Irvina Kanarek

I was watching the Democratic debates and noticed how tall Cory Booker is compared to the other candidates. At 6’2’’ he stands out next to a 5’2’’ Kamala Harris. It reminded me of the statistic that the tallest candidate tends to win presidential elections. Of course, height has nothing to do with intelligence, ethics, or the ability to govern with wisdom. Though, there is something about someone who takes up space that, both consciously and subconsciously, persuades us to give them control. 

On an evolutionary level, this makes sense. Back in caveman dayswhen a humans sole objective was to survive, tall men were seen as stronger hunters and fighters compared to their shorter counterparts. Therefore, they were appointed leaders of their tribes. Women saw height as a signal of safety for their future offspring, so they mated with tall men. On the flip, men sought out women who were short with small waists. These features signaled that they were perhaps young and without a child in the womb—ready to procreate. Today, we clearly know a man’s height does not equate to a great leader. Nor does a woman’s smallness make her a good mother #Duh.

Regardless of career or mating objective, one thing that does make someone successful across the board is their ability to take up space with confidence and ease. Whether it’s a politician, a protagonist, or a working professional, a person with the initiative to take the floor, speak their mind, and ask for what they want makes for a modern-day win. 

Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ‘On The Basis of Sex’ | Focus Features

Even so, as a modern-day woman, I see we’re still subliminally told to remain small. The female political candidate can’t raise her voice in debate or she will be called, “shrill.” Though, any female who has made a mark in political history has been not only shrill, but loud, and outspoken, as well. Think Susan B. Anthony and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We may no longer be in caveman times, but our thinking is still quite duplicitous.

In the entertainment industry of TV & filmit’s the same. We still see the majority of words on a script going to men as well as most of the roles of the protagonist. What I find odd about these facts is that simultaneously the vast majority of actresses who have won Oscars for ‘best actress’ have done so for playing loud, pot-stirring, audacious women who take up A LOT OF SPACE. Charlize Theron in ‘North County’, Julia Roberts in ‘Erin Brockovich’, Halle Berry in ‘Monsters Ball’, Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, Meryl Streep in ‘Iron Lady’, and many more. None of these characters were quiet, small or composed. They were loud, angry, smart, intelligent, messy, obnoxious, broke, traumatized, ill, and hungry. They were a mess and they were heroic because of their mess. We want to see these ladies on the big screen because we are inherently drawn to women who take up space with brazen confidence—no matter the circumstance. 

Ladies, the caveman-era is over. But, the only people who can tell the world is us. If we want to one day see a female president, balance in the number of female CEOs, female board members, female directors, and producers, we are going to have to get used to seeing women TAKE UP SPACE. What does that look like? It looks like this…

Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ | The Weinstein Company

YOUR VOICE WITH HIM – Whether it be in business or dating—let’s all get to the point. As women, we are trained to be passive. Let the man speak, let him finish, don’t bruise his ego…but if we do all that it leaves little time for us to share our insights WITH HIM. When you notice you haven’t been given room to speak, politely interrupt the way you’re seeing some of the female politicians do during the debates. Some, like Lucy Kallaway, believe that it isn’t the job of men to STOP interrupting women, but for women to START interrupting men. Yes, interrupting is commonly seen as rude, though there are exceptions to every rule. I’m not saying go rogue here, I’m saying for both parties to consider their intention when they speak or interrupt. If both pause to reflect on the motive behind their voice (or silence) wouldn’t that bring some much-needed balance to the playing the field? 

YOUR WORDS WITH THE WORLD – No longer is ‘modest hottest.’ When something is done well, let us know. Whether it be projects you share on social media or at brunch with friends. Share your successes at work and in personal achievements. Talk about how you, as a female, are contributing to the economy through your job and a healthy community through how you navigate your personal relationships. One woman doing a great job at this is Documentary Filmmaker, Sarah Moshman. Sarah shares about the projects she’s working on, as well as her dedication to being a wife and mother. Check her out, she’s doing incredible things for all of us. 

YOUR BODY- Do those pole dancing, burlesque or belly dancing classes intrigue you? Good, go do them. We’ve compartmentalized the powerful CEO from the sexy female and we’ve taken the sexy seductress from the middle-aged mother. People don’t know what a female leader looks like because we’ve hidden all the incredible parts that put her together #WTF. We need to show how multifaceted we are. That we can show great empathy one moment, be sassy the next and connect the two back to a lucrative business idea. The more people start to understand that you can be naughty AND nice, emotional AND pragmatic, the more apt they’re going to be to see being a female as an asset to a leader, not a hindrance. One person who inspires me in this way is the Journalist and Author Liz Plank. The way she uses dance as an outlet AND as a form of activism is brilliant. 

Julia Robert as the title character in ‘Erin Brockovich’ | Universal Pictures

YOUR FULL STORY – The success and the struggle. When you make VP, please let us know. When you struggle with anxiety, we’d like to hear about that too. If we want leaders who are real and not wind up toys that just got off the conveyor belt painted with a fake smile, we have to be able to see that through struggle comes wisdom, endurance, and humble leaders. Whether it’s through social media or a dinner party, don’t shy away from sharing your stories of victory and hardship. Someone who does this well is my friend, Chief Development Officer, Kendra Puryear. She shares milestones in her non-profit career and also the anxiety that comes up of putting work down and simply enjoying a vacation. Her ability to be professional AND transparent makes her relatable and trustworthy with both peers and superiors. 

One woman who did all of the above is the beloved, Maya Angelou. The former civil rights activist, author, poet, and stripper. She told her stories, in a way that candidly expressed herself and freed many others. The words from one of her poems is one I reflect on often. She wrote, “I come as one, but stand as 10,000.” She shared that, when she’s about to do something that scares her, she reminds herself of the 10,000 ancestors who came before her. The women that birthed her blood and her bones to take up space in this very moment. I would venture to say, she spoke on behalf of them too. She took up a world of space in her poetry, her books and her work on this planet for all the 10,000 who were never able to do so. 

That is your job, woman—to take up not only your space, but take up some space for the ones who were never able to speak, share, shake, or shine. I’ll see you out there!

Maya Angelou quote | quotefancy

Irvina Kanarek is a Social Impact Storyteller, Filmmaker, and Rewriter of Rules. She is the author of ‘How To: Rewrite Beautiful, You Can Be A Hot Mess Today and A World Changer Tomorrow’. In 2020, she’ll be appearing in the independent film ‘Small Doses’ about the tension between fantasy and reality. You can find more of her writing and work on Instagram at @IrvinaK

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