What Builds A Woman’s Mindset with Clementina Esposito
“Not everybody is willing to do that work, but until we really stand for ourselves and for what is real-unconditional love-all the other changes will be very hard-pressed to stick.” — Clementina Esposito
I had the joy of sitting down with Clementina Esposito, founder of The Clementina Collective, where no one writes alone. She teaches Authors and Entrepreneurs at the intersection of business, health, and spirituality to find their voice and speak their truth.
- How inequality breeds insecurity
- The ripple effects of repressed self-expression
- The importance of patience and acceptance
How inequality breeds insecurity
Segregating girls and boys, men and women, throughout childhood and beyond does not celebrate differences in a way that serves a harmonious and healthy environment.
“I wasn't allowed to do what the boys did.” Clementina shares, “I wasn't allowed to speak the way the boys spoke. And I was expected to do chores and stay behind while they went out to play.”
The delineation and alienation of young girls compared to young boys—specifically in the Italian American community Clementina grew up in—creates insecurities and confusions that follow these girls throughout their lives like a shadow.
In a world where boys are encouraged to run wild, grow up to be players and ladies men, and girls are told to be pious and demure in the service of men, it’s no wonder damaging mindsets set in early.
“My father was very strict about what I wore. I couldn't wear big earrings. I couldn't wear makeup, couldn't shave my legs.” Clementina continues.
The almost military strictness of authority towards girls compared to the carefree handling of boys breeds shame—the shame of femininity, of wants, of ambitions. The list goes on. “I had the feeling of ‘what's wrong with me? Why do I have to hide?’” Clementina explains.
The ripple effects of repressed self-expression
As an outspoken young girl, Clementina was no stranger to discipline and reprimanding. She experienced a consistent “brushing aside” meant to teach her to be “lady-like” and hold her tongue.
Clementina lived with the fear that she would, somehow, incite violence by being a woman in this world. This belief runs deep and wide, even now. It followed Clementina to her grandmother's 90th birthday party when her father asked her to alter the neckline of her blouse, even though at that time she was a married woman.
Men, historically, feel they have the right to control women at every bend in the road. From clothing to physical appearance to the way we speak.
Now, it’s no secret men have their troubles as well. However, that is not what this discussion is covering. Today we’re discussing the universal truths all women experience in one form or another.
“I love bright colors, I love fashion, but I denied myself all of that to try to stay safe.” Clementina points out.
Many women are told from a young age to be careful with what they wear for any number of reasons. From avoiding sexual harassment to avoiding specific images to upholding gender stereotypes.
“I'm still not able to fully relax into my femininity, and I look forward to being able to do that. I haven't given up that I am on my way there—relaxing into the fullest expression and celebration of my femininity.” Clementina shares.
After years of mental conditioning to hide, it can be a long road to self-expression. Every independent fashion choice and unashamed precocious comment is a small victory.
The destination is worth the fight. As women, we must embrace ourselves as we are, and recognize our power.
The importance of patience and acceptance
Equality is not about hating men or repressing them in response to our oppression; equality cannot happen without both sides practicing patience and acceptance.
“I hope we can get to a place where people who don't think they need to learn, are willing to learn.” Clementina shares, “Because the way society is constructed, for women to get along in our careers, we've had to do a lot of empathizing, a lot of understanding of men in ways that they haven't had to.”
Any supposed “loss” for men from women’s liberation—service, power, etc—is superficial compared to what men have to gain when they’re in the presence of a fully-healed and fully expressive woman, aware of her worth.
The shame and blame come from both sides, and so, the solutions must come from both sides, as well.
“It can be really hard to have these conversations.” Clementina continues, “There's certainly lots and lots of responsibility to go around. And lots of really, really hard work to do.”
Curiosity is one of the best mindsets we can cultivate between one another—openness to other perspectives, willingness to listen to stories, and to lean into someone's experience is a sizable step towards understanding. And from that practice comes viable change.
The real power lies in listening to one another and seeing each other authentically and genuinely, without ego or agenda.
How has gender inequality affected you? When was the last time you felt seen, heard, and appreciated for who you are?