On Bravery

I read this post on The Pool on the Everyday Bravery of Being a Woman a month or so ago and I wanted to send it to all the incredibly powerful and brave women in my life to remind them that even if they don’t feel brave, they are. They’re often just brave for existing and doing stuff that people have told them that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do.

So what makes a brave woman? I asked a few of my friends and the internet what they thought made a brave woman and who they considered to be brave and loved the truly varying nature of their answers.

One told me her Nan was the bravest person she knew, because she ditched her cheating husband in a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so, and went on to raise two incredible daughters on her own.

Another told me that people who escape abusive relationships are brave. Another explained that her sister is brave because she isn’t afraid to work hard and get what she wants from her life. People who stand up for what they believe in, doctors working in horrendous conditions and impossible circumstances. Taking the path of least certainty. Another told me that they consider bravery to be “a lifelong condition” that is determined by the experiences of your life and not what you do in one specific situation.

One of my friends is an incredible journalist in the US who works her arse off to educate people on the racism and discrimination that is still prevalent in the USA. People aren’t always nice to her about it, but she doesn’t back down. She stands her ground and she’s making the world a better place. Every time she tweets or puts something on Facebook that I can’t possibly understand because of the life that I’ve led, she makes me think about things from an entirely different perspective. Speaking out and putting your neck on the line? That’s brave.

I obviously didn’t know them but the women who fought for our right during the Suffragette movement were the definition of brave in my book (and this is particularly poignant as we approach the EU Referendum). They were arrested and beaten and chastised and ridiculed simply because they wanted to be afforded the same rights as the men of the country, the other 50% of the population.

Joan Clarke who worked on and cracked The Enigma Machine with Alan Turing and changed the course of the second world war entirely, during a time when women were completely disregarded in the fields of mathematics, science, medicine, engineering. That was brave.

Amelia Earhart – the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, aged 34. Can you IMAGINE the sheer stones it must have taken her to do that? God, I don’t think I’d want to do it, let alone in the 1930’s when she, and the other 98 women she worked alongside, was aiming to advance aviation for women.

I came across Maud Wagner the other day, the first known female tattoo artist in the USA who cropped up circa 1907. ERM. Can you imagine the shit she must have gone through to express her art? I know people who are shirty about women having tattoos now, over 100 years later. Yep. BRAVE. Rosa Parks for her simple but enormous act of staying sat on that bus seat. Katherine Switzer who defied Boston Marathon organisers in 1967, completely disregarding the fact that her genitals didn’t meet their entry criteria.

I recently discovered the rather magnificent Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) who writes about her fights with depression and anxiety with a candour and humour I’ve never known before (srsly, if you haven’t read Furiously Happy, you absolutely must. It is equal parts sidesplittingly, snortworthingly hilarious and desperately tender and poignant).

But bravery isn’t just about flying across the world and breaking down boundaries and moving things for forward for the women of the future. There really is an abundance of every day bravery in our lives.

I know women who have lived and survived through incredible hardships and have come out remarkably unscathed. I’ve watched people I love deal with terrible loss and get up the next day and carry on with a life that will be forever changed. I know doctors who tell stories about saving lives in road traffic accidents like it’s no big deal. I know people who have picked up their lives and moved across the world in the name of their career, leaving everything they know behind to follow their dreams. I know women who have started their own businesses and been incredibly successful despite growing up in incredibly deprived areas of the country and leaving school without a single qualification to their name. I know people who have struggled with dyslexia but spend their days teaching kids who live with similar issues.

There are little flecks of bravery everywhere in our lives. Isn’t that nice to think about? Isn’t that special? I bet you, like Marisa Bate says in that piece in The Pool, have never called yourself brave before, but you’ve said it of your Mum or your best friend or someone you’ve read about in the news. So maybe you should think about something you’ve done that’s been brave in your lifetime. Maybe you’ve started over alone after a brutal break up, or you’ve upped sticks and left your hometown. Maybe you’ve suffered abuse, or you’ve stood up for a friend who has been on the receiving end of a heavy dose of sexism. Maybe, actually, just getting out of bed was brave today because you’re surrounded by the darkness. That’s still bravery.

The world feels like a pretty dark place today, given the news that’s been flowing out of Orlando in the last 24 hours. I guess I just wanted to put a little bit of love and light out there.

2 thoughts on “On Bravery

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