There is a song by Peter Gabriel that I have always loved. Fourteen Black Paintings is, in my opinion, the ultimate call to action song. Here are the lyrics to that song:
From the pain come the dream
From the dream come the vision
From the vision come the people
From the people come the power
From this power come the change
When I was in my 20’s I was angry and feeling a lot of emotional pain. I was angry about a lot of things. But, mostly angry that women were boxed in by cultural images, social stereotypes…systemically eliminated from the corporate table and political arena.
In my 30’s, I became a mother. I remained angry, but something about becoming the mother to a precious and innocent baby boy, moved me to action. The nurturing mom would tenderly nurse him at 1 in the morning, while the kick-butt mom would consider ways to make the world a better place for him…dream of ways to change the status quo so that girls, women…heck all people could thrive.
It wasn’t long after Hank’s birth (about six months) that I began work on the Girls on the Run curriculum. I had a very strong visual image of what I wanted to accomplish. Here is the language I first used to describe the program and the “the Girl Box,” a phrase now used frequently within our culture as a descriptive visual for the imaginary place girls go around middle school.
|In 1976, I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was fifteen and like most girls that age, trying to figure out who I was inside a changing body. I desperately wanted to fit in with the popular crowd but I couldn’t fit into the box it placed over my spirit.The box told me things I knew in my heart weren’t true: That the way I behaved and looked was more important than who I was inside. That being a woman meant being quiet and submissive. That having a boyfriend meant having to mold my body and actions to meet prescribed cultural standards.But I stepped in anyway. The years I spent trying to mold my thoughts, body, lifestyle and being into what the box required were extremely painful. So I ran. I’d put on my running shoes and head for the woods, the streets, wherever my feet would take me. I felt strong. Beautiful. Powerful.July 7th, 1993 – I remember it well. I put on my running shoes and went for a sunset run. I am not sure during what point of the run the box disappeared, but like a glass womb it shattered around me and pushed me out, born to an entirely new freedom.It was a moment of personal awakening.
A year later I began to write the Girls on the Run curriculum. The concept, however, was born long before. It was born in 8th grade when a boy in my class told me that I looked like a boy. It was born when a young woman, weighing 85 pounds and starving herself, told me she needed to lose weight to be beautiful. It was born when a pregnant thirteen-year-old and I took a long walk in the woods.
Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program. It will, I believe, lead to an entire generation of girls living peacefully and happily outside of the Girl Box. In the year 2030, I’ll be 70. My daughter will be 32. If I have anything to say about it, she will never have to climb out of the Girl Box. Girls on the Run will shatter these constraints, like the spirit did for me that July night and help her and other girls feel comfortable simply being themselves.
I still get chill bumps when I read this. I can remember writing this exact series of words…Hank in my arms. I had no idea what was to come. I just knew that I had tapped into something very powerful and at the same time very scary. I would push social norms, push cultural buttons, challenge the status quo.
Here I am again…with something so simple as “The Naked Face Project.” This seemingly simple task…going sixty days without makeup…is causing quite a stir. I think I knew deep down in my gut, when Caitlin and I began this conversation, that something richer and far more powerful than what appeared on the surface, was at work…but I was not and still obviously in the middle of this, am unable to articulate exactly what quake is underfoot.
I do know that I’m no longer angry. I’m older now and I just want to be at peace…I realize this is very much a life process…an evolutionary process if you will. Moving gracefully into my last half/quarter of life is important to me. My mother did it so beautifully and with such strength. I feel an obligation to the hundreds of thousands of girls in Girls on the Run to model for them, as my mother did for me, this move to a kinder, more tender, compassionate and authentic older version of myself.
A couple of days ago, I did an interview with a Tampa news station. It will air today. I liked the words that were coming out of my mouth. Compassion, self-love, tenderness, strength, authenticity…were a few. This isn’t about makeup anymore. It’s about leaning into those things that frighten us…knowing that we are loved…celebrating the power that comes with sharing our vulnerabilities…landing comfortably in our own skin so that the time, energy, worry we spend in the space of wanting so desperately to be loved, beautiful, accepted simply slips away…and we can focus on the things in life that matter. Our children, our work, our friends, our passions.
I wonder if we aren’t onto something quite beautiful here. Everyone has to come to their own sense of peace…at their own pace. But if I can possibly change the 8 yards of world in which I live…isn’t this where cultural change begins? Blaming the fashion industry, the media and hollywood for the limiting views of women and girls, doesn’t change anything. Might by my taking this one small action…not the removal of make up…but the journey to be at peace with myself…be the solution?
I believe it is.
I believe lots of things. I believe in the power of love. I believe in the power of vulnerability. I believe in the power of authentic connection.
But right now, I believe that changing the things I do not like about the world, means changing me and my view of it. Peace begins with me. The Naked Face Project is no longer about makeup. It is a tool, an invitation, a powerful resource to go inward, examine my own buy-in to the Girl Box and take an honest and sometimes embarrassing and frightening look at how the smallest of actions I take, contributes to the very thing I’m trying to eliminate for girls and women, through Girls on the Run.
I’m done blaming. It’s too exhausting and doesn’t seem to be doing any good to changing things anyway.
Good Morning Friends. What a beautiful, beautiful day.