It's not just about our sexual experience.
How do you feel when you read the word ‘boundaries’? Empowered? Exhausted? Energized? Resentful?
Maybe you feel uncomfortable because you worry that boundaries might restrict you and you feel restricted enough already. Or maybe you have great boundaries but you’re tired of constantly explaining, justifying and defending them. Maybe you know that you need better boundaries but the thought of creating, let alone communicating them, feels uncomfortable and overwhelming.
What about consent? The topic of consent is most often talked about in the context of sexual experiences or legal matters but consent actually affects every aspect of our lives. And our consent (or lack thereof) is regularly ignored in many areas of our lives.
When your phone rings and it’s an unwanted telemarketer, it ignores your consent.
When your boss demands that you stay past your agreed upon working hours, your consent is violated.
When friends, family members or co-workers constantly rely on you to vent their emotions without asking, it violates your consent.
When your children’s school calls you first, even though you’ve clearly listed your partner’s name as the primary contact, your consent is ignored.
When people assume that you’ll be willing to put your own needs at the bottom of the list, your consent is violated.
This may feel like a lot of little things, but they can add up to a whole life pretty quickly. Cultural messaging tells us that women’s needs matter less, that we should be selfless and that we don’t actually know what’s best for us. We’ve all absorbed this our entire lives, so it’s no wonder that we inflict these insidious messages onto each other, despite our best intentions.
Here’s what I mean: Do you expect more emotional support from your female friends and family than you do from the men? Have you ever delegated extra work to another woman at work (instead of a male colleague) because you know you can count on her to get it done? Have you ever talked a friend into something – joining an activity, being set up on a date, staying for another drink – after she clearly expressed reluctance?
Me too. Until I realized that I was being part of the problem.
When we push back on another woman’s boundaries, we send the message that she doesn’t know what’s best for her or that her wants and needs don’t matter. Simply put, this behavior perpetuates systemic oppression. And we can do better.
Adrienne Maree Brown describes emergent strategy as "strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions." One of the ways we can show deep support for ourselves and for the women in our lives every single day is by upholding boundaries, seeking consent, respecting time and acknowledging labor.
Sisterhood is more than an umbrella for us to stand under, it’s a process for us to lift each other up.
Your boundaries are sacred.
Your consent is sacred.
Your time is sacred.
Your work is sacred.
And most of all, you are sacred. Thank you for giving me your time by reading my words.
I’m always out here rooting for you.