If She Can Do It, Then She Can Do It
Recently an account used a video of me pole dancing as a year end motivational message. That message was: don’t tell me you can’t. This happens frequently. Mainly, I ignore it. The words are diminishing, yes, but I don’t know these people. Nothing they say can cheapen it for me. It doesn’t affect what I do or why I do it. And my energy is for me. When I am inspired to break down the absurdities of inspiration porn, I do. But I don’t pole dance so I can talk about unexamined narratives that probably have their roots in the biblical concept of the sin of slothfulness as it was used to philosophically bolster industrialization. I pole dance because I like it. All that muscle and bare skin and hair tossing and heavy breathing. I like it even when it’s hard and i’m struggling. My body needs me to be physical. And I’m happy when I give it to myself.
Which makes it hard to understand the obsession with messages like: If she can do it, so can you. Why do you care? What does that add to you giving yourself what you need? And what on earth do I have to do with it?
These messages may be intended to offer inspiration or motivation, but they read to me as shaming. I am the weapon. It’s not even subtle. It boldly states: If she is doing it, and you are not, you should feel bad about yourself for that and go do it. But what is there to be ashamed of if someone decides that they and their body will not try pole dancing (or whatever you’re trying to motivate people to do). And if they use the words ‘I can’t’ to make that choice. I say ‘I can’t’ all the time. It’s often the starting point on my way to doing other stuff or getting my needs met. My body gets tired and my motivation wanes like a bleak winter’s day —too early. These are human things. We share them.
So tell me when has your shame made you feel confident or curious or determined? When was the last time you effectively coerced yourself --by way of comparison and judgement --into slow and committed progress? Motivation *can* come without shame first.
If you look to someone to learn what they’re doing, to see possibilities, to find a focus, to add some substance to a goal, to feel like you have the support and company of another human being on a path you want to take — that’s inspiration. that’s motivation.
We’re treading fine narrative lines between encouraging someone to believe in themselves, to access confidence, to expand, and forcing our version of what that should look like onto others and then judging them for recoiling from that. When Nike uses a hard line motivational message we all know they’re using tried and true manipulation for marketing. Why would we trying to manipulate each other in the same way?
Personally, and for the record, people can say ‘I can’t’ all day long about anything they want and it’s no skin off my back. You want to support people in their efforts? gorgeous. You want to open the door to possibility? magnificent. You want to lord your choices over others and use me to pack a punch? Please don’t. Especially if you are doing it to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. Please. Don’t.
If you need a pithy message to go with the video try this one (I even supplied you with the visual metaphor of my reflection in the mirror): If she can do it, then she can do it.