Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.
I am, by nature, an optimist. I don’t really have a choice in that – it’s just the way I was put together – but I am grateful to have been born with that outlook. I just can’t imagine how awful it must be to be otherwise, always anticipating the worst possible outcome in any given situation.
But I’ve been thinking lately about “data porn”, as Eve Ensler describes it in The Vagina Monologues:
2 million women raped and tortured
1 out of 3 women
a woman raped every minute
one out of 2
one out of 5
I’ve been thinking about data porn in terms of optimism and pessimism. How can I be an optimist when such statistics are still true?
I’ve come to the conclusion that my optimism lies in the word yet. The pessimist thinks, “We haven’t eradicated violence against women.” The optimist thinks, “We haven’t eradicated violence against women yet.”
“Yet” gives us a reason to rise and strive and insist that things get better, and a reason to work to make it happen. The Suffragettes didn’t think, “Women don’t have the vote.” They thought, “Women don’t have the vote yet.” Saudi Arabian women are not thinking, “Women in this country are not allowed to drive.” They’re thinking, “Women in this country are not allowed to drive yet.”
Let me try it with some more sentences.
We have not yet put a stop to female genital mutilation in the 29 countries where it is practiced.
We have not yet ensured that women’s reproductive rights are enshrined in law in all countries in the world… or even in all states in the USA.
We have not yet empowered women to refuse the devaluation of their bodies.
We have not yet ensured that girls across the world can go to school without having to brave verbal taunts, stone throwing, kidnapping or shooting.
We have not yet stopped blaming rape victims for the trauma they’ve endured, accusing them of dressing inappropriately or drinking too much or simply being out of the protective custody of the home.
We have not yet stopped describing men who celebrate their sexuality as studs or players and women who do the same as sluts.
We have not yet assumed equal responsibility for housework and childcare in homes where both partners work.
We do not yet have equal representation of men and women in governments or positions of corporate leadership.
We do not yet encourage girls to enter the sciences.
We have not yet stopped attacking female public figures because of their physical appearance or dress sense.
We have not yet achieved equal pay for women. (Although if enough people watch this light, funny and inspiring short video all that might change sooner rather than later.)
Such a tiny word.
Packs such a lot of bang for the buck.