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.)

Advertisements

What If I Don’t Want to Be a Woman Anymore?

Does anyone else remember the F.A.O. Schwarz Friendship Tree? He’d always say, “Thanks for coming to play with me!” (I’ve tried to Google the rest of his spiel on numerous occasions, but I just can’t seem to fill in the blanks.)

However, I do recall how he’d entice children with claims that there were “things to touch and feel and more.” Yet, for any woman suffering through this election cycle, that seemingly innocent invitation from an old mechanical centerpiece may cause an involuntary twitch. In fact, it sounds vaguely familiar…

Oh, that’s right. It sounds like “locker room talk.” You know, something that might’ve come straight from the 2016 Republican presidential nominee’s mouth.

Women! We’re nothing more than objects for men to grope and fondle.

After all, he’s Donald J. Trump. He’s a star.

(Stars can do whatever they want.)

Welcome to his world of toys.

For women, the 2016 election truly marks both the best of times and worst of times. While Hillary Clinton promises to hold our collective hand and lead us on the path to progress, Trump wants to grab us all ‘by the p—y’ and drag us down the path to destruction. To harken back to First Lady Michelle Obama’s iconic speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention, Trump wants to pull us low, while Clinton strives to lift us high.

But, unfortunately, no matter which candidate leads the electoral majority, misogyny has already won the popular vote.

If Trump wins, men who wish to exploit his view on women will see this moment as their opportunity to justify any lewd and crude behaviors they’ve suppressed until now. If Clinton wins, every single move she makes will be analyzed and scrutinized until the end of time. (I’d say the end of her term, but we know any and all problems impacting our country will be attributed to her time in office for at least the next 50 years or so. At least.)

Despite the fact that her historic win would shatter the glass ceiling, women, in general, will be forced to wade through the shards that fall on Clinton’s behalf. All women will be held accountable for her actions because, while men exist and operate independently, women are often seen as one collective unit. Thus, her success will be our success. Her mistakes will be our mistakes. Her failures will be our failures.

confused-girl

Even if Hillary Clinton wins the election, we cannot write this off as some epic victory for women overall. This one battle will not end the war. In fact, it will likely fuel the fight. We like to pretend our country has moved beyond its humiliating past. Many honestly thought that electing our first black president would end racism, but we can clearly see that race relations are as volatile as ever. Many believe that electing the first female president will eliminate sexism and misogyny, too, but this agonizing campaign indicates otherwise. We’ve peeled back the bandage and exposed wounds that haven’t healed. Based on Trump’s rhetoric alone, it’s hard to imagine they ever will.

Like Full Frontal host Samantha Bee—notorious breaker of glass ceilings herself—recently said, Clinton’s presidency would unleash a ‘tsunami of misogyny’ upon the American people. Still, Clinton has yet to win, and we’re already drowning in vitriolic sentiment. We’re about to reach the breaking point even though we haven’t yet approached the starting line.

Well, what if I don’t want to be a woman anymore? What if I’d prefer to live as some androgynous being who’s respected for their brain, not judged by their genitals? What if I want to shirk the assumption that I’m some plaything created for men’s visual and physical pleasure, nothing more?

Over the last year—the past few months, particularly—we have been forced to call into question not only how people perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves. It’s both disconcerting and discouraging, exasperating and exhausting. We bear the daunting and perpetual burden of trying to prove our power and our worth time and time again.

But if we don’t, who will?

It’s tempting to throw in the towel. The hatred and oppression emanating from Trump’s followers alone could inspire any woman to crawl under their blanket and remain hidden for the next decade. But if we refuse to embrace our womanhood and fight for equality, we will never gain the respect we deserve. We must carry on the legacy of those women before us—those whose sacrifices brought us to where we are today. We owe it to past, present, and future women in our country and across the world to continue this fight, as misogyny will not cease without effort. Sexism will likely exist in some form for lifetimes to come, but we have the opportunity to be the generation that makes great strides toward gender equality once and for all.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)