Women Support Women

A week ago today, Strip Down, Rise Up landed on Netflix. What was an ordinary mid-weeknight (consisting of the new agenda Netflix, Netflix and a little bit more Netflix), had a surprising result. During an unexpected scroll on Tuesday I came across Strip Down, Rise Up. When the world seemed to be focusing on Britney after the airing of the new Framing Britney Spears documentary as part of The New York Times Presents… documentary series. Unfortunate technicalities in accessing the documentary in the UK meant that a new viewing option needed to be found.

Ordinarily a safe and assured bet would be to find something true crime related however, this film stood out to me with programme synopsis, which read “In an effort to reclaim their bodies and lives, a group of women explore the intersections of movement and meaning in a powerful pole dancing program”. The world of pole dancing is one that I have been on the periphery of I have friends who perform, with artistry, athleticism and grace. Yet, there remains a social condemnation and often stigmatising perception of the art form, which outwardly seems to have been cultivated through a masculine gaze.

What I had not expected was close to two hours, of empowerment, self-discovery and women learning to hold their space. But not just hold the space, but to fill every inch of it and to exude a radiation of sensual energy which pours out from the soul. This new vibration of women reaching such a level, that they have seized their power back away from the patriarchal demonisation of women, takes women to a new level. Unreservedly the world is not ready for this level of female self-love.

Through the film, different professional pole artists are featured, but the most fascinating part to me was the following of a group of women who were different ages, body shapes, life experiences and personal struggles. Over the passage of a 6 month course with the S movement, the transformation of these women was huge, and it was through the pole dancing and being surrounded by a sisterhood of other like-minded women, that trauma recovery was possible.

This then made me think about the power of having your own sisterhood to lean on. There are many historic examples of girls supporting girls. From the Disney classic that made us all want to dress in matching colour co-ordinating velour tracksuits and the unquestionable ultimate fashion accessory the headband, The Cheetah Girls. To the new faces of power in US Congress known as AOC’s Squad, made up of four Democrat congress women, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The result of this fab four gave the usual MO of pale, male and stale a firm shake up and provided a new generation of women the confidence to smash through the glass ceiling.

So often we can benefit from the example and path carved by the women who have come before us. When starting to carve out my career I have turned to the paths of other women (and men too) who inspire me and to see how they navigated the nascent stages of their professional life. This has been a reassuring process as it helps to see there is no one correct way to work towards a career goal, yet the passion and drive to succeed is the common denominator which links my career heroes.

This has led me to gain mentors. Mentorship is an excellent way for someone with an industry insight and lived experience to pass it onto to the next person. In order to help them navigate a similar professional situation. Having a mentor can help to give you a deeper understanding into the industry or specific role you want to enter, that you would otherwise be unaware of without operating in that setting yourself. Yet, mentorship provides an unfiltered truth, as well as a glimpse into the progression and direction your current work is in, in order to be in the best possible position to succeed. The thing I have found most helpful about having a mentor is the ability to have a free and open discussion and ask the questions which you may feel uncomfortable or unable to ask in a professional setting. Most importantly it gives you a sense of confidence and enhances an individual’s self-belief that you are in fact entering the right industry and you can do it.

One of my goals entering in 2021 was to see if I could find myself a mentor and have that person to look up to and ask career advice off. I have been fortunate enough to have had a mentor for a month now and I find myself calmer and ready to approach my job search with a renewed sense of optimism and clarity. I have also learnt to set myself smaller intermediate goals designed to help improve my chances of employment. Since I began doing this I have noticed an improvement in my productivity and focus.

The final element I have really valued is turning to those who are going through a similar situation and one of my inspirations and motivations in creating this blog was to document the experiences of my friends and fellow graduates. I think (potentially a thought process fostered through school) there is an underlying competitiveness between us, which causes a shark mentality. However, when you re-frame this you realise these people are your biggest allies and you will grow together through your careers. You are creating your own tribe and people you can turn to who can relate. I have found great comfort and shared excitement through my friends hearing back from jobs, getting those interviews and scoring those jobs. As we move forward this is the network of people who will be my connections across the industry, and we can grow together.

Top Tips on creating your tribe:

1. Research and follow people’s careers who you admire for inspiration

2. Reach out to mentors for guidance

3. Look at those people who are coming through with you. Support and grow together and adopt a cheerleader attitude rather than a shark mentality.

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