This summer, the world watched as Simone Biles withdrew from Olympic events in order to prioritize her mental health and physical safety. It was a decision that shocked the nation and sparked a flurry of articles, tv interviews, and social media posts. Initially, we did not yet know whether she was in physical pain or emotional distress, but it was clearly something very serious. Within days, Simone Biles had transformed from the Greatest of All Time into the poster child for mental health awareness.
Simone is the example of a real Superwoman. A Superwoman put herself first, sets boundaries and sticks to them, and knows that sacrificing her own well-being is never the answer. Unfortunately, most women believe that being a Superwoman means putting other people first, giving all of our time and energy to those around us, never asking for help, being a martyr, and running ourselves ragged. Find a woman who “does it all,” and you’re bound to find people calling her a Superwoman. As girls, we’re infused with the idea that this is something to aspire to, and that not being a Superwoman means we are selfish or lazy.
Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta has the data to show that the stress of trying to be a Superwoman is a primary challenge for women and girls in Atlanta’s Jewish community. I am proud that JWFA decided to fund a 3-year signature grant to debunk the Superwoman myth so that we can all start being more like Simone and less like the Superwomen we’ve been taught by society we need to be. In the year ahead, we have the opportunity to break this harmful generational cycle of stress and pave the way toward a better tomorrow for our daughters and granddaughters by redefining what it means to be a Superwoman.
Rachel Wasserman is the executive director of the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta.