Today is another March 8th. In 2019, is this a better world for women? I want to believe that, and I see great signs … But I have to confess that I am very tired. The news worries me and haunts me. Today, in International Women’s Day, they found a woman murdered in her apartment. We are not safe even within the confines of our own four walls. A delegation of evangelical pastors, the same ones who advise the nefarious Mike Pence, came to meet with Costa Rican congresspeople, and if this country becomes even more conservative, well… God save us. We still haven’t signed the technical normative for therapeutic abortion in Costa Rica, which means that women continue to lack full ownership of our bodies, even if our life is at risk. We continue to blame the victims, those who denounce the multiple abuses and cover-ups of the Catholic Church in Costa Rica and the world, and those who denounce abuses and violations by men, such as Oscar Arias.
If you are still reading this after such a negative start, don’t worry, I will change the tone. Because I have wonderful people around me and it would be a shame to focus on the bad news. The best people I know, share a characteristic. A key characteristic that would help us a lot in solving the social injustices of the world. These people do not feel threatened by the success of others, on the contrary, they actively support other people, and always think the best of human beings. I think we should all try to do the same.
Yesterday I participated in a forum about women in photography. It was an opportunity to meet three incredibly inspiring women, to once again face my stage terror, and to feel the support and affection of my people. I’m still not sure why, but it was an emotional and important experience for me, and it will create change in my life.
One of the things that made yesterday night special, was that Dani made the effort to come, after several days of exhausting field production in the heat of the Caribbean coast, still dressed in production attire, with pockets full of citronella, to support me and take pictures.
Maybe I should write an entire blog about her. What a woman! We have been working together for about 9 years, when I hired her after she was my student in a course I taught at the University of Costa Rica. Although she sometimes thanks me for what I taught her by being her “boss”, it would be impossible for me to describe how much I have learned just by observing Dani. She is perhaps the most generous person I know.
From student, to employee, to my right hand, to an intimate friend, to family. Daniela is a survivor of very traumatic experiences, and yet she is incapable of harboring resentment or hatred in her heart. The world would improve a lot if we applied the emotional maturity that Dani expresses naturally.
Mache and Pato
I am very lucky to be surrounded by truly exceptional people. Just stopping a second to realize that, moves me. Many of those people are women. Two of those women are my two sisters.
I joke that I am the middle ground between my sisters. Not only because of our ages, but because my sisters are radically different and I am a mixture of both. But both have that key characteristic that I do not possess. I live eternally tortured by brutal FOMO, tied to my ego and my perception of what success should look like. They, on the other hand, are interested in the experiences of other people with almost innocent attention. I always seek to read between the lines and see what are the hidden motives of people, they believe in them. They are not gullible, they are just not cynical. They are two strong women, so strong that they do not need any kind of comparison to feel fulfilled. They are wonderful and an example to follow.
Jose and Paul
The life experience of men is very different from that of women. If it was not like that, an International Women’s Day would not be necessary. I already said that I am surrounded by wonderful people, and many of those people are men. When men are willing to humbly accept their privilege, and make active decisions to correct it, they are feminists. Feminist men are the best men.
Jose Tenorio was the one who organized the talk in which I participated yesterday. In addition to being a professional with an incredible ability to reinvent himself, Jose has this key characteristic to an extreme. His most recent project is to create a series of workshops that connect and bring up Costa Rican talent. It would be much easier for Jose to earn a lot of money by exploiting his exquisite photographic eye, but no, he decides to invest his own money in an exchange of experiences so that we can all connect and grow as a team. Jose always invites women to his panels, and constantly examines himself and invites us to be critical and to get involved in building a better world. Bravo, Jose!
And of course, I had to mention my husband. Paul does not speak Spanish, but he still endured about two hours of this language, to support me while I was consumed by nerves waiting for my turn to speak. Before we got married, we talked about sharing the same last name. In Paul’s culture, a family is a unit, and it is important for him to share the same name. For me, the idea of changing my last name just because I married someone was intolerable. It was all different when Paul told me that he would be willing to take my last name, he simply wanted us to have the same one. Paul is a feminist man, the best men are like Paul. Today we are the Naranjo-Shepherds.
After the talk, we all went to dinner. The table made an effort to speak in English, and Paul couldn’t stop providing ideas about how Jose’s initiative could go further. Paul supports and is excited about the growth and success of other people.
People are fast to say that women have “soft skills” in leadership. I don’t really like that label, but in this International Women’s Day, I invite you all to put a key characteristic in practice, one that is normally associated with female leadership: the ability to act as a team, to support each other unconditionally and to the promote growth and success of other people.