A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let’s all choose to challenge.
How do we challenge a world that feels constantly in flux and chaos? How do we ensure our voices are heard, our raised hands seen? How do we keep going when we all feel burnt out, let down, and generally exhausted?
Many would say perseverance – “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness.” We must persevere even though we are tired. We must persevere even when it feels like the doors will continue slamming in our faces. We must persevere no matter the challenges we face in achieving gender equality.
They are right. Persevering is the best option – but it doesn’t have to mean continuing to struggle. Within perseverance, we must make space for self care and the care and keeping of others.
Girl Museum has, over the past twelve years, been a case in point. Many times, a project has failed. Many times, the positive feedback we thought we would get has instead been sexist, derogatory comments from those thinking a “girl museum” is one where girls’ bodies are on display for consumption. We also face internal struggle: the turnover associated with internships and volunteering, the burnout of an entirely volunteer staff using their personal time to work, and the hardships associated with being museum professionals – or young professionals – in a world where career stability and financial security are, quite frankly, no longer achievable for the majority of workers.
So how do we persevere? We take care of each other and encourage self care. We make space for team members to take full leave – no emails, no projects – so that they can care for themselves and their families. We encourage all team members to take breaks from working with us, from our recent two-week full-team holiday in December to encouraging time off to study for finals, complete doctoral requirements, focus on paid work, or simply rest.
What International Women’s Day organizers got right for 2021 is the idea that we must choose to challenge the world around us, but they failed to mention the other – and equally acceptable – choice of taking care of oneself in order to recover from our past efforts and prepare for the fight ahead.
There is no doubt that this fight is a long road. Much like the rover Perseverance that recently arrived on Mars, achievement of such a complex and ambitious goal like gender equality takes time and immense collaborative effort. We are in this together, and we must make space for all voices to choose to challenge, but also for those voices to take time off – and leave the work to others – whenever they need, for whatever reason.
At Girl Museum, we #ChooseToChallenge. But we also choose to support one another, to encourage self care and caring for others, and to make space for all forms of activism. Gender equality can only be achieved if we work together, and we can only truly work together when we realize that all forms of work, no matter how big or small are valuable.
Girl Museum Inc.