Tracee Ellis Ross Empowers Women to Live Life According to Their Own Rules

Source: Essence

While Tracee Ellis Ross plays the mother of five on ABC’s Black-ish, the actress herself lives an entirely different life.

“It’s really interesting to be a woman and to get to 45 and not be married and not have kids,” Ross said as she began her now viral speech at Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit last week. “Especially when you’ve just pushed out your fifth kid on TV.”

During her 11-minute speech, Ross detailed how society treats women who remain single and childless, and how cultural expectations diminish our gender for not conforming. Drawing from personal experience, Ross explored how ambition doesn’t always align with the so-called norm.

“I grew up planning a wedding… But I also dreamed of winning an Oscar and being on the cover of magazines and making a difference in the world — helping women find our voices. And from that dreaming, I have built an incredible life. I have become a woman that I am proud to be,” she said.

“And then someone tells me about their friend who adopted a child at 52 and how ‘it’s never too late for your life to have meaning,’ and my worth gets diminished as I am reminded that I have ‘failed’ on the marriage and carriage counts. Me! This bold, liberated, independent woman,” she said. “I’m killing it! So, why? Why do I get snagged this way? As if all that I have done and who I am doesn’t matter.”

She explained that society constantly tells young girls and women that “being chosen and having kids” are the end goals for anyone who wishes to lead a meaningful life. In her words, “husband plus child equals woman.” We aren’t complete unless someone deems us worthy of their love and progeny.

Source: Good Housekeeping

But with four simple words, Ross realized that, despite her success, she was still being sucked in by societal influence.

“I’m sitting there free writing, maybe conversing with my inner child, and I write down: MY LIFE IS MINE. My life is mine,” she said. “Those words stopped me in my tracks and honestly brought so many tears to my eyes. Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn’t. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own… I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so.”

Ross continued by explaining that, when women speak out or stand up, they’re condemned for being themselves. Women are regularly persecuted for stepping outside the accepted bubble of womanhood because the patriarchy feels threatened by those who don’t follow the “rules” their forefathers set in place. But, as Ross said, she’s going to have to break an agreement that she never officially agreed to in the first place.

“That agreement says: We are here to be of service to others, that our destiny is to live in the shadow of men. That we are simply objects of desire, and that we are willing to live with having our voices stifled again and again by the misogyny of our culture.”

Instead, Ross promised to her reality and her dreams and let those elements be her guide as she navigates her individual life. In the same breath, she invited the women in the crowd to do the same.

“Join me for a moment and imagine: What would it be like for women to completely own our own power, to have agency over our own glory and our sexuality, not in order to create a product or to sell it, or to feel worthy of love, or use it as a tool for safety, but instead as a WAY OF BEING?” she asked the audience.

Women need to stop thinking of themselves in respect to others around them. We must focus on who we are inside in order to understand who we are to the outside world. We were not put on this earth to please anyone but ourselves. We owe the men of the world nothing and, with Ross’s words echoing among us, we must recognize that we have countless allies who believe we’re worthwhile because of who we are, not who we love.

There’s nothing wrong with following the traditional path — the one paved long ago that says we should make stops only to pursue marriage and family. But we cannot chastise those who choose to forge their own road through the fields and forests that line the way.

Life isn’t linear. We’re all meandering along in some way or another. You zig. I’ll zag. If we meet again along the way, at least we will do so knowing that we were our brave selves, as Ross said. Our whole selves. The complete, real, true people we were always meant to be.

Read Ross’s full speech here or watch the entire presentation below:

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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5 Women Who Deserve People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ Title More Than Julia Roberts

People Magazine probably thought it was doing something noble when it named Julia Roberts as its “Most Beautiful” woman of 2017. After all, she’s nearly 50—practically prehistoric in Hollywood terms, especially compared to the first time she graced the issue’s cover in 1991 at the ripe old age of 23. But when you’ve chosen the same actress a record five times, the tradition starts to seem stale. Society’s perception of beauty continues to evolve, but People’s formula remains the same. Maybe it’s time to shake things up? Here are just five women who’ve redefined beauty on their own terms, earning them the right to the title (even if they didn’t make the list in the first place).

Betty White

One quick glance at the “Most Beautiful” list reveals that Oprah Winfrey’s the oldest person on this year’s roster. (She’s 63.) But why must People perpetuate the notion that youth equals beauty? If age truly isn’t an issue for those doling out the title, White surely deserves the honor. (They could’ve included her, at least.) She’s America’s sweetheart. She’s devoted literal decades to the entertainment world and, at 95, she’s still as spry, feisty, and funny as ever. Honestly, she’s beautiful in ways that these younger women can only aspire to achieve one day.

Hillary Clinton

When it comes to Clinton, the term “nasty woman” comes to mind. But after the impact she’s had on the women’s movement in recent months, her legacy will be one of the most beautiful things to emerge from our tumultuous political situation. Though she might’ve lost the 2016 election, Clinton’s attempt to break the glass ceiling has inspired 11,000 women to seek office, while encouraging countless others to fight for their human rights. She embodies the adversity women face every day, yet she still persists. If that sort of resilience and tenacity isn’t beautiful, then this world’s uglier than we thought.

Laverne Cox

Despite the fact that many people claim they’re inclusive, the transgender community has yet to gain complete acceptance throughout society. Cox, however, has been working diligently to fight for both transgender rights and women’s rights ever since she broke into the business. She represents the beauty America has to offer, if only we’d take the time to listen and understand, and such an honor could be instrumental in sparking critical conversations. Yes, it’d likely create controversy, but that’s precisely why we need to increase transgender visibility. Cox not only deserves the title, but naming her “Most Beautiful” might also help young people struggling with their own transition recognize that they’re not alone.

Michelle Obama

Our former First Lady has always been the embodiment of class and dignity. She’s beautiful on the outside thanks to her love of physical fitness, and she’s beautiful on the inside because she stands up for what she believes in no matter the obstacles. Beyond all else, Mrs. Obama has always been a champion for young girls. She’s taught this generation that education and intellectual pursuits are far more important than fixating on your outward appearance. She inspires females of all ages to pursue their passions and ignore the haters. In this instance, beauty isn’t just visual—it’s mental, too.

Melissa McCarthy

Jerry Lewis once claimed women cannot be funny. But anyone who’s witnessed McCarthy’s scathing impression of Press Secretary Sean Spicer on SNL knows that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. McCarthy has emerged as one of the leading comedians of our time. While she might’ve initially won our hearts as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, she has since become one of the most in-demand actresses in the industry (all without some stick-thin figure, mind you). From the looks of things, Chrissy Metz and Adele appear to be the only full figure gals on the list, perpetuating the notion that bigger isn’t always considered beautiful. But when “big” applies to the laughs you get from the live studio audience, dress size doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

When Empowering Young Girls, Actions Speak Louder Than T-Shirts

“Girl Power” isn’t some new concept—just ask the Spice Girls. But it’s certainly gained new momentum since the 2016 presidential election, as Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss to Donald Trump stunned the nation. In an era where unqualified misogynists can still gain the upper hand, it’s become increasingly important to teach young girls to go high even when “the man” tries to drag them low.

Yet, while our overall efforts are commendable, we need to take things to the next level. We need to stop talking and start doing.

Source: The Children’s Place

Source: The Children’s Place

Recently, The Children’s Place made an admirable attempt to bring girl power to the elementary set with an empowering line of feminist tees and tanks. Each piece features words and images that aim to bridge the otherwise glittery gender gap. They encourage girls to pursue male-dominated professions and forge their own path to success. Much like the inspirational quotes that litter Instagram, however, reciting such mantras and living their truth are two entirely different animals.

We can dress our daughters and nieces in pantsuits from the minute they’re born, and shout daily affirmations into the void the second they learn to speak, but our behavior will mean nothing if we don’t occupy these positions of power ourselves. Like those of minority races and religions, seeing yourself in the eyes of someone else helps you envision your own potential. We need to present young girls with role models that bring these ambitions to life. We need to be the women they look up to when they seek guidance.

Shirts may boost their confidence, but they’ll only learn to lead if they have worthwhile examples to follow.

Just as Hillary Clinton emphasized during her speech last week, change will only come if we get involved now—resist, insist, persist, enlist.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)