What a double-edged sword kindness is. Something we all know the world needs more of, yet it is so often demanded from women or turned against us by people who seek to use us.
No doubt many of us are familiar with the kindness as a currency that “nice guys” like to peddle. An offer of friendship, a few unasked for favours and suddenly we’re expected to give more than we ever wanted or consented to.
This empty, hollow thing makes us guarded and distrusting. It is so important however that we all know how to be truly kind. Both to ourselves and to others.
Being kind to ourselves is better known as self-care. With stress and other mental health challenges being so prevalent in our society, knowing how to do it and knowing to ignore those that would tell us we’re doing it wrong is essential.
This kindness is as individual to us as we are from each other and there is no such thing as doing it wrong. Whether we eat a food we enjoy or indulge in escapism through media, there are no wrong foods and there are no hobbies that you can’t enjoy as any gender. As so called geek girls we have a lot of practice ignoring those naysayers but it still bears repeating.
Forgiveness is often seen as something we do for others but forgiving those who wrong us frees us from their grip on us. It doesn’t make what they did OK but carrying around the weight of it can destroy us. In the end it is not for them at all but a kindness we can do for ourselves to help to move on.
As much as we must show ourselves kindness we should endeavour to find ways to be authentically kind to each other. With “Lean In” philosophies and an individualistic society it can be incredibly hard to be selfless and generous to each other. The media has a huge hand in this, portraying relationships between women as catty, mean things founded on distrust.
But if we want to succeed in male dominated professions part of what we must do is to uplift each other. We can’t pull the ladders we used up behind ourselves out of fear. We must show kindness to those who don’t even have the few opportunities we have. Listen to them and elevate their voices.
Perhaps the hardest kindness is giving it to those who have done little to deserve it. It is often they who demand it from us the most loudly. It is never how we’d like to show kindness but always on their terms.
Sometimes the best things we can do for ourselves in those situations is to subvert their expectations and be kind in other ways. They demand our bodies and we give them a free lesson in consent. They call us slurs and they get taught about the breadth and beauty of gender identity and expression.
This always comes at a cost to us though and we must remember to first be answerable to ourselves. It is OK to walk away.
The need for kindness remains as technology connects us more closely without bringing the same level of emotional connection. It is easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to ignorance. The more you get hurt, the easier it comes. It is something I struggle with every time a cisgender person invalidates my gender, a straight person belittles my sexuality, a man dismisses my opinion. However in knowing that hurt we can make a choice to try to not let anyone else feel it.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
"It is I you have been looking for”, and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
— Naomi Shihab Nye