The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Women hold up half the sky

Rachael Conlin Levy
Courtesy of Łukasz Strachanowski.

I’m rusty. Two weeks away and the keyboard clicks oddly, the seat feels strange and my brain(!) … well, the gears need oiling. So I’ll just chat a little and share some half-formed thoughts surrounding the title to this post and Chinese saying Women hold up half the sky.

What does it mean? That we’re strong. Important. No, more than important — critical.

I first saw the quote in the New York Times Magazine’s August 23, 2009 issue, which devoted itself to the argument that women — and our liberation — are the key to solving many of the world’s problems. Authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write convincingly that it’s no accident that where girls are uneducated and women marginalized the countries are disproportionately plagued by poverty and torn by fundamentalism. There’s growing recognition that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.

The New York Times cites studies that have found that investing in women, rather than men — allowing women to hold assets and gain income — results in more family money spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and children are healthier. And when women are more involved in society and the economy it appears to undermine extremism and terrorism.

“Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor [for turbulence and violence]; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room,” Kristof and WuDunn wrote.

It’s an excellent issue and I urge you to read it. But it’s left me restless. I feel a responsibility to do more: to educate my children, to make microloans to financially liberate women here in Nevada and across the world, to support my friends’ as they step onto unstable ground following separation and divorce.

In order for me to better hold up half of my own sky — the roof over my head, the beautiful blue outside — I must get stronger. Physically stronger, healthier, and happier with how I look right now with my thickening waist and heavy breasts. Did you catch Glamour’s celebration of women’s bodies in the September 2009 issue? Again, another good read.

The picture that prompted the magazine discussion.

What’s my plan for loving and strengthening my body? Well, there will be a number of sit-ups, push-ups and miles logged with my 24-pound boy on my back. There will be moderate amounts of healthy food and chocolate, of course, there must be chocolate. And there will be no squeezing myself into a size or style that just won’t work with my body, so I’ve gone ahead and (temporarily) charged $500 to the credit card so I can try on three different dresses in size 12 and pick the one that makes me feel prettiest for my littlest sister‘s wedding in May.

But strength of body is nothing without strength of mind, so today I pick up my half-finished novel set aside for the holidays. There is much to be done on it, much of it still unclear to me, so the research begins, as does a new, more achievable habit to write one thousand words a day.

I’d like to count and calculate all of this and make it public in some way. Accountability will force me to continue when the chrome has worn off these commitments. I’m going to take a few days to figure out how to best document my novel-growing, muscle-building and consciousness-raising, and then I’ll report back to you because I want you to keep me accountable for holding up my half the sky.

It’s good to be back.

3 responses to “Women hold up half the sky”

  1. chelsey says:

    Good for you!

  2. mochiv says:

    Awesome! I'm glad you're back!

  3. shannon says:

    What great information and affirmation!

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