A new book, “We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere,” presents a manual for change that questions why women today are prone to self-criticism, and looks at how the rates of depression and anxiety among women are skyrocketing.
Co-authored by award-winning actress Gillian Anderson (best known for playing FBI Special Agency Dana Scully on “The X Files”) and journalist Jennifer Nadel, “We” (published by Atria Books, which is owned by CBS) can be seen as a counter to the “me culture.”
Appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Anderson said, “This book is a rallying cry for women to put a different set of values at the center of our lives, values that are antithesis to that, that are based on kindness and honesty and compassion and courage -- the courage to stand up for ourselves and for our fellow human beings, so that we can build bridges instead of walls.”
And what is necessary to accomplish that? “One of the things that we talk about in the book is really about self-care,” she said. “When we start getting honest with ourselves and we start making time for ourselves, it’s easier for us to go out in the world and be kinder and show compassion to other people.”
Nadel added that women need to stop pretending -- to others and to themselves.
“So many of us put on this face as we go out,” she said. “We might wake up at 3:00 in the morning and think, ‘What are we doing here? I can’t deal with my life,’ and then we put our makeup on and go into the world and start pretending. And if we talking honestly about how we really are, then we can begin to start developing the world that actually meets our real needs, not those that we’re faking.”
The book explores nine principles (Honesty, Acceptance, Courage, Trust, Humility, Peace, Love, Joy and Kindness) that can serve as a compass for women seeking direction. “Without them, life can feel like a losing battle,” they write. “When you’ve learned to incorporate them into your life, you’ll be able to live from a place of authenticity and love wherever you find yourself and whatever has happened in your past.”
Of the first principle, “Honesty,” they write:
“Imagine what it would be like if we all told the truth about what it is to be female.
If we stopped pretending when we feel fine when we felt vulnerable.
If we stopped hiding our needs to appear ‘likeable.’”
“Honesty is such a huge part of the book,” Nadel said. “Of all of the principles, it is a foundation. It seems very important that we were willing to get as honest ourselves to encourage other women to get honest.”
“These are principles that ought to apply to men, too,” said co-anchor Charlie Rose.
“In fact, the men who have read this book have absolutely loved it and have said, ‘What about me?’ To which we say, ‘Well, you’re welcome to take them and use them,’” Nadel said.
“But at this moment in history, you know, women are still lagging far behind men, and particularly at this moment our rights are under threat. So we’ve written it for women, but the principles are universal. And you’re welcome to them!”
The book also calls for women to read together and discuss the principles, which will accelerate the pace of change, Nadel told CBS News.
“It creates momentum. This is about movement building, and a lot of people at the moment are saying, ‘What can I do about the political situation?’ And this is one thing they can do,” Nadel said. “Find other women, read the book with them, share the ideas and encourage others to do the same.”
Anderson spoke of her experience speaking out for equal pay while starring in “The X-Files,” one of the hottest shows on television (for which she won an Emmy and a Golden Globe), as she was being paid less than her co-star, David Duchovny.
“It was quite scary at the time to make that decision,” Anderson said. “We were shown that it’s not okay to speak up, as women were often silenced. There’s a lot of backlash, and then there is the normalization of backlash. When I did actually speak up, the amount of responses that I got from women, ultimately empower women. And so when we can stand up and show what is unacceptable to ourselves and society, then it’s a good example.”
“It was how many years before you were able to say we should be making the same pay?” asked co-anchor Norah O’Donnell.
“Well, initially when I had this fight with Fox was a few years into the [series], and I finally won parity,” Anderson said. “But then when we did the new six episodes in 2015, I was offered less than half of my co-star, which completely boggled my mind. I eventually got there, but it was really important.”
She admits that she was afraid of “angering the man and shaming the woman” who were in charge of making that decision.
Another topic of “We” is depression. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness, women are 70 percent more likely to experience depression than men.
Nadel talked of one event at a time when she was “living in a ‘when ... then ...’ way, as many of us do -- When I get the job, when I get the kids, when I get the relationship, then I’ll be happy. And I had it all. And I was sitting there with my two kids throwing their pureed baby food at me and I got the call to go to Downing Street, which is what every journalist wants to get, and I just looked at my kids and thought, ‘I can’t do that, I can’t go. Even though this happens every day, I need to be here.’
“And then my life unfolded -- massive depression, burnout. And from that, great gifts.”
“You said the outside can look really great, but if you’re not happy on the inside nothing works,” said co-anchor Gayle King.
“It’s true, it’s true,” Nadel replied. “And so often we compare how we feel on the inside with how someone else looks on the outside, which just makes us feel more even more miserable and lonely.”
To read an excerpt from “We: A Manifesto for Women,” visit the Simon & Schuster website.
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