It's been an interesting few months for the media. A rejuvenation of sorts has taken place and since Mr. Trump's election, support for the media and its freedom of expression has grown inexorably.
Only where does that support stop?
Perhaps when, instead of squealing adulation for a powerful speech made to the U.N about ISIS genocide, they focus primarily on Amal Clooney's baby bump and Prada dress.
If the media coverage of Amal Clooney's speech at the U.N has told us anything, it's that we never learn, and the most important question now is will we?
And while I wish it was just tabloids that got involved in the outfit critiquing and heel commentary, the fact is, it wasn't. It was credible news sources, estimable outlets and that's the very reason why the commentary is so crushing.
I recently attended a U.N Women's event with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) addressing the #freebeingme campaign propelled in combination with the Dove Self-Esteem Project. The campaign has been running since 2014 and is centred around the need to reclaim the woman's body image in the public eye.
'The Image Myth' has plagued women for as long as the press has been in existence. Why? Because to sell papers and magazines, the press have utilized every means necessary to create unattainable beauty standards so copies will sell. Because human condition rules that we always want what we cannot have. It's a human failing - a flaw in our make up. It's how greed came to define Shakespeare's oeuvre and how both world wars began. The media play on this need to aspire - to dream, and thus manifests the image myth, whereby the women and men you see in publications are not actually real.
They are fictitious beings, transformed by lighting, makeup, sculpting, and since 1988, the great power of Photoshop. They are unrealistic portrayals of humanity, and of course therein lies the problem. If that which you seek to replicate is unreal, your goals are consequently unreachable, and you will forever be disappointing yourself by not reaching them.
And until recently, the problem with all of this has gone veritably unnoticed and unrecognized. Nobody appears to care, because, apparently, it hasn't done much harm. What women are doing isn't as important as how they look - right?
The underlying problem here is that no matter what we do, it's how we look that defines us, still, as women in the 21st century. Here of course, it was motherhood that most came to define Clooney, which in itself is problematic because if we are only ever to be considered as potential mothers or wives, women will never be elevated to those same positions men achieve daily throughout the world. To be seen through the lens of the mother or caregiver only is detrimental to the future empowerment and recognition of women on the global stage. If we're only ever seen as pretty, homely, petite - we lose the potential to be serious, intelligent and informed.
Representing Nadia Murad, an IS survivor, Clooney delivered an impassioned and eloquent speech about the U.N and Iraq's neglecting to bring to court the terrorists that have indeed been tearing apart the lives of millions of families for years now. Not one has stood trial for international war crimes. And yet, this abhorrent fact seemed to slip the minds of those who coined headlines such as "Amal Clooney Puts Her Growing Baby Bump On Display In Chic Yellow Dress For U.N. Speech" or "Wearing 4.5inch heels at 6 months pregnant... Is that wise Amal?"
“Mass graves in Iraq lie unprotected," Clooney said in her address to the U.N, “Witnesses are fleeing, and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world."
Dove, together with the #freebeingme campaign collated results from a survey done in 13 countries throughout the globe and found that over half the women in the entire world have body image issues.
Why are these two events connected? Because until we start recognizing women for the real work they're doing, not the fake portrayals of people on the internet or in magazines lounging around on fake holidays - women will never be self-assured or confident enough to do anything else. What we should have been talking about the other day was Amal's speech; her client, her words and the corrosive inaction of the U.N. Instead I am painfully aware of the designer of her dress and the height of her slick black heels.
I do not want to be aware of these insignificant details. I do not care for how far along she is in her pregnancy - if she's showing a bump or not, because frankly, that is not what she was there for nor what she would have hoped people would be reporting on.
How do we fix it?
By reporting what matters; by fixing the image of the female in the public perspective; by rectifying the mistakes of those writers, advertizers, editors before us.
We are no longer household objects - we work, we build, we lead, we talk.
And what we have to say, is important.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.