Showing up is being brave, being present and doing the right thing, even when it’s hard to do. It is standing up for what you know to be right, although society may not agree. It is being present for the people who love you and who you love when you are tired, distracted or irritable.
There has been a lot of media attention paid to the femicide phenomenon in South Africa recently. The hashtag #menaretrash has been trending on Twitter. Objectively, there is something very strange about a society that allows half its population to wage war on the other half. Which has got me thinking about showing up and what that means.
A lot of men don’t show up. True, not all men. But a lot. Showing up does not only mean refraining from raping and murdering women and children. It is also in the tiny choices that you make daily. Are you kind to your wife, do you treat her with the respect that she deserves? Do you watch pornography that demeans women, or have you ever visited a prostitute (where prostitution is criminalised in this country and many women turn to it, not out of choice, but out of desperation)? Have you listened while your male friends talk about women in a demeaning or disrespectful way? On a larger scale, have you run away and abandoned your family? Do you pay maintenance for the children you helped bring into the world even when it is difficult to do so?
But it goes further than this and I believe that this is something we all must face too: women fail to show up when we allow men to get away with these things. Most male children are raised by women. Why are women raising men who do these things?
How do we as women show up for each other when the chips are down? Do we bitch about other women behind their backs? Do we treat women with the same respect that you treat men? Do we stand up for victims of harassment at work? Do we have the same standards for men and women?
The world is messed up. Right now, a 16-year-old girl is becoming our voice in the fight against climate change. We are standing on the side-lines, some cheering her on and some trying to tear her down but most of us (myself included) are not showing up for the world in the way that it needs us to. Acceptance of this fact is the first step to changing it. Until we accept the reality, nothing will change.
Humans can choose how to behave. This makes us different from animals. You may have had a bad upbringing and life may not have been kind to you. But you have a choice about how you show up in the world and for the people in this world. I have made some shabby choices in my life. I have often chosen to run away instead of showing up for the people who loved me. The best thing about being human is the possibility and the ability to change the way we act.
I want a human revolution! To be honest, I think we all want one. And I believe that we can build a better, sane society, based on mutual respect. It will require effort and hard work, but we can achieve it. In order to that, we need to change the way we think, but, more importantly, we need to change how we act- how we show up. We need to stop acting in ways that are harmful to other people and we need to start speaking up and acting when we know that things are not right.
Or, we can continue cheering or jeering from the sidelines, complaining about what is wrong in the world but not doing much to change it.
We can choose.