I have been fortunate to have strong women in my life since birth: my mother, my sister, my aunts and grandma. When I set out for school, many and even most of my teachers were strong women. They taught me I could be smart and strong. They expected the best from me. I had women coaches who taught me to push myself. A female music teacher who taught me love of music and gave me courage to sing a solo. Many, many teachers through the years, influenced me by what they taught and how they lived their lives.
This was all back in the day when a female doctor or lawyer was fairly rare and a female pastor nearly unheard of. Yet with the influence of these women I did not limit myself based on gender.
Today, there are many women doctors and lawyers. Progress has been made but there are still challenges. Now marketing campaigns have determined female = pink and girl = princess. This sounds petty to even mention but it is pernicious. Labeling things as boy-ee or girly limits our children before they can even speak. Even this feminist mama’s own children have rejected everything from shoes to books to P.E. class as being “too boy-ee”. Thankfully they have a fabulous female P.E. teacher and other marvelous teachers. There are some signs such influences are making a difference. The clothing of choice for one of my daughters has become “P.E. teacher pants”, as she calls them. They both recently admitted they loved a book after they had initially rejected it as “a boy book.” These small advances are certainly not due to my feminist ideals. My girls roll their eyes at me. Seeing women in action is what is making a difference.
Seeing women in action has continued to influence my life throughout adulthood. In college, Pastor Jayne, taught me to project peacefulness and calm in worship. In some ways this boiled down to not skittering about or freaking out when something goes wrong. But, there was more to it than that. Things beyond words. As my Aikido instructor, this same woman taught me new dimensions to the possibilities of peaceful strength.
Just last year, a friend from college, Margaret Anderson, humbled all of us with her strength as she placed her self between danger and a park full of people and lost her life in the process.
Authors like Anne Lamott, Madeleine L’ Engle, Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Armstrong awe me with their words and wisdom. Malala Yousufzai embodies hope in the upcoming generation as she continues to show amazing courage standing up for the right of girls to get an education. There are countless women who inspire me in their words and actions, whether public figures or friends and family. I am sure the same will be true for my daughters.
People can coat us in pink, call us princesses, try to ignore what we say by commenting on our looks but as long as we continue to be who we are and do what we do, we will not be held back. The lives of strong women will continue to speak more loudly than pink sparkles and tiaras. So, bring on the pink. We will calmly inform you it isn’t pink at all but really “minus green.”(see link here Don’t tell me girls don’t like science!) Then we will put that “minus green” on like a badge of honor or cast it aside, whatever we choose. And we will set about being who we are and doing what we do.
Strong women using our power to change the world.
by Sheri Ellwood