I Am The Woman They Knew We Could Be

Photo credit: Andressa Voltolini

I am inspired. Inspired by you. Yes. You.

‘You’re unique like all other women.’ – Simone de Beauvoir.

We are living in a time where our rights and desires are recognised like no other and we can exploit it. I have recently been so privileged to meet two iconic women that I adore. One is Iris Apfel a self-proclaimed Geriatric Starlet and Dita von Teese a famous agent provocateur.

Here’s what I appreciate of them. Neither of these women is anything than what they want to be. They own who they are and they have a great sense of their femininity. They explore their worlds, challenge the status quo and while they behave and have a good understanding of the rules they often break them and flaunt their independent thinking.

I am a woman. Happily so.

When I was a young girl I was taught to believe that there was nothing I couldn’t do. I learned how to make a great barbeque, mow the lawn, pour beer with a good head, crochet a blanket and knit a jersey, make a perfect hollandaise sauce, bake and decorate cakes, read books I loved, hold conversations with just about anyone, lengthen a skirt pattern, paint on lipstick without needing a mirror, run in heels, how to buy heels you can run in, run, play soccer and cricket, get two degrees, start a business, chair a meeting, to make friends with anyone, to be fiercely loyal and how to appreciate love among so much more.

I read something that resonates deeply in my soul: we tell young women they can be anything they want, and when they do we don’t like it and tell them.

You all do great acts: run charities, lead companies, are entrepreneurs, authors, designers, life coaches, counsellors, artists, trainers, politicians, fabulous moms and moms just coping. I adore you all equally. I call us the divine sistahood and need you to know that I have your back.

When I share posts about the Pussy Marches or Madeleine Albright’s book and I receive a small acknowledgement in praise and usually from the same friends. If I share a piece about Dita or Pamela Anderson or aging playboy bunnies I have been criticised for celebrating them as they are perceived vacuous and underachieving women.

When I was a little girl I recall asking my mom if she thought we were ‘top heavy’ after reading an article on body shapes, she responded instantly: ‘yes, of course, our brains are too big’. Just because someone is sensually aware and living that outwardly doesn’t make them anti-feminist.

I am a woman in touch with my sensuality and I appreciate and celebrate anyone who bravely allows themselves to be who are they are. As I spend more time on earth I understand that there are few unique needs.

I come from a long line of strong and courageous suffragette inspired South African women. Every generation of them has given me gifts I place high value in. I am the woman they knew we could be.

Women I look up to (an ever increasing list): my daughter, Iris Apfel, Raquel Welch, Mala Yousafzai, Graça Machel, Elna MacIntosh, Christiane Amanpour, Serena Williams, Paloma Picasso, Hannah Gadsby, Frida Kahlo, Angelina Jolie, Dita von Teese, Elizabeth Warren, Thuli Madonsela, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sharise Weiner, Monica Bellucci, Evita Bezuidenhout, Noelene Kotschan, Anna Starcke, Sharise Weiner, my Auntie Dulcie, my Mom, and my son’s first grade teacher, Mrs Eager. If you don’t understand why any of these women make my list, dig deeper than their public persona.

I love when people live in their own world. No lies, to themselves or others. People use the word ‘authenticity’ a little too much and too easily these days. I love open people who aren’t afraid to express vulnerability or reveal too much or fall too quickly. Iris embodies another of my favourite characteristics and that is childlike curiosity about the world and people.

We are all unique and just wonderful. Take a closer look next time you judge another woman. She’s just as unique as you.

Read next: Misogyny: It’s Time For A New Collective Narrative