There are only two articles of clothing in my closet—given to me by two different people—that are exactly the same. They’re tee-shirts with a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich printed across the front: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The woman who gave me the first one, bless her heart, is a pilot for Alaska Airlines.
I don’t necessarily need or want to make history in a grandiose way, but I do want to make a positive impact on the lives I touch. When I step outside the boxes that make others believe I am well-behaved, to make sense out of nonsense, it seems to benefit me and those around me. If I ask tough questions that allow others to look at life from a different perspective or challenge myself to change my perspective for the good of the whole, am I misbehaving? Perhaps for some. I know that my mother’s generation was taught to color inside the lines and do for others before themselves. Many in her generation also believed that if women acted by a singular definition of “ladies,” things would work out for the best. When the best was not achieved, the constructs started to shift. Thank goodness for wonderful and critical pioneers of change.
My sister sent me a link to an article, 15 Things All Badass, Fearless Alpha-Women Do Differently Than Other Types Of Women, in an email this weekend. In the subject box she wrote, “Don’t know why I thought of you immediately :-).”
The civil and women’s rights movements helped shift our thinking about what well-behaved looks like. In the US, before the 1960s, was it well-behaved to sit at the back of the bus if you were black? Is it well-behaved to keep silent about rape and sexual abuse? Is it well-behaved to try to hide your mental illness? Is turning a blind eye to injustice well-behaved? Those two words “well-behaved” can keep us in a box of perceived moral authority founded on fear. When we step out of those boxes, our boldness can illuminate their limits by shining light on all sorts of oppression.
As I read through the article my sister sent to me, and read about the 15 things all badass, fearless alpha-women do differently from other types of women, I had to smile. I know that of the 15, 13 perfectly describe me. I may work on the other 2. What if we expected all humans to incorporate this list of 15 into their lives, held each other accountable to the list — changing our cultural definition of well-behaved. I think we might all change the course of history.
History making, as with decision making, could and should be something that benefits as many lives as possible. If we stood in solidarity: expecting mutual respect from each other, calling out others when they began threatening the stability of other living beings, mutually cultivating lives of sustainable nourishment, and seeing our inner-selves as an investment more important then things, money, or other physical collections, we would make our world together a better place for all.
What do you do for the sustainable good of all that might be misconstrued as ill-behaved? Can you do more in that area? What does well behaved look like to you?
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