(Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021)
My cheeks hurt and my heart is racing a bit. What is this?
Happiness and excitement and hope. That’s what this feels like.
When Kamala Harris walked through the glass doors and took her seat for the inauguration, I burst into tears. It was an unexpected reaction. (I cry a lot lately.)
I am watching the first woman, the very first woman of color at that, to be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. This is happening. Right now. Today. In my lifetime, and for my daughters and son- indeed for all the students- to see and remember.
I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath for years. Maybe for most of my life.
When I was born, there were 16 women in Congress. By the time I graduated from high school, that number was 31. Generation X may have had Gloria Steinem, but many of the female role models I remember being exposed to were either fictional (think Princess Leia), or sent mixed messages about strength tied up (literally and figuratively) with sexuality or in relationship to a man (think Madonna). I don’t remember looking up to a lot of women in leadership positions.
I even knew at a young age that my mom did not admire women in powerful positions. I think the first time I’d heard her use the word “bitch” was in such a context. (This was not unique to women of my mom’s generation, in fact it was true of most of the adult women I knew as a child.) I don’t know why. I never asked her. She didn’t really invite the discussion.
Even if no one ever told me I couldn’t do something, or be someone (indeed, my mom always told me I could do anything I wanted to), there was always a “but…”
It was mostly unspoken, but it was present. It was felt and seen.
The positions of power (in government, in private companies, in lots of movies) were mostly held by white men.
The influential people that the media chose to personify, amplify, and glorify… were mostly white men.
If the media profiled a powerful woman, there was almost always a series of “buts” in fine print.
But… she’s abrasive.
But… she can be conniving.
But… she’s not approachable.
She’s too angry, too weak,
Too emotional, too caustic,
Too tough, too loud,
And now. Now I have two daughters. Now there are 116 women in Congress.
Give me the strong women. Give me the women who are “too much.” Give me the women who are fierce and intimidating. Give me the women who aren’t afraid to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly. Give me the women who are honest and compelling at once and who carry the torch and lead the way for all the daughters.
Give me the women who make waves.
For there are Never Enough of them.
Give me the women who are powerful with their words as well as their convictions. Give me the women who can be all of these things and still bring light and love and hope—because if you do it right, and you are true in your intentions…
YOU CAN BE ALL OF THESE THINGS.