Tracee Ellis Ross Delivers Empowering Speech About Shattering Society's Expectations Of Women

"It's really interesting to be a woman ... and to not be married yet, and to not have kids."

Tracee Ellis Ross took the stage at this week's Glamour Women of the Year Awards to share some empowering words about taking ownership of her own life and encouraging other women to do the same.

The Black-ish star is the first Black woman in three decades to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical. She's also the designer of a fashion line for JC Penney and the host of this weekend's American Music Awards. But there are two things she hasn't done that some people, unfortunately, can't stop asking her about.

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"It's really interesting to be a woman, and to get to 45, and to not be married yet, and to not have kids. Especially when you have just pushed out your fifth kid on television," Ross shared in her speech, explaining that she often receives unsolicited advice or pity from those around her for not living up to society's narrow expectations of women. "It's never-ending, and it's not helpful."

Ross pointed out all the ways girls and women are told throughout their lives that their worth is determined by marriage and motherhood: "Nursery Rhymes. Fairy tales. Books. Movies. Sixteen Candles, every love song, and even Black-ish — all reiterating this narrow story of 'husband plus child equals woman,'" she said, adding that "the patriarchy is not pleased with me right now."

Ross said things changed for her when she decided to embrace one simple but powerful phrase: "My life is my own." The actress encouraged other women to join her in owning their own lives, even if it makes society uncomfortable.

"Join me for a moment and imagine," she told the crowd. "What would it be like for women to completely own our own power, to have agency over our own glory and our sexuality, not in order to create a product or to sell it, or to feel worthy of love, or use it as a tool for safety, but instead as a way of being?" 

Ross urged women to tear up the "agreement" that says they have to live their lives a certain way: "That agreement says we are here to be of service to others, that our destiny is to live in the shadow of men, that we are simply objects of desire, and that we are willing to live with having our voices stifled again and again by the misogyny of our culture."

"I'm drawing up a new one, and my terms are this," she continued. "I am going to own my experiences. I'm going to pay attention to the reality of my life and the audacity of my dreams instead of the expectation I was raised with. I'm going to make space for the good and the bad of it, even the yucky, scary, fear-inducing parts, and embrace all the bits and all the questions. I know that's how I go from being Tracee to being the Brave Tracee."

Ross isn't the only actress in Hollywood who has spoken out about society's problematic expectations of women. Tabloids constantly speculate over whether Jennifer Aniston is having children, leading her to pen a powerful op-ed last year declaring, "We don't need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves."

Read Tracee Ellis Ross's full speech on Glamour, or watch it in the video below:

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