Saturday I was in Raleigh with my sign yelling my head off. Three times the estimated crowd came out totaling somewhere around 17k participants. It felt good. “Forward together. Not one step back.” “Women’s rights are human rights.” “Hey hey. Ho ho. HB2 has got to go.” “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks.” I might well have been the loudest person there without a loud speaker. And I relished in it.
And then I returned home and something unexpected happened: I lost my shit. There were serious tears and an enormous well of frustration that came exploding out of me. Frustration at the years of schooling and media where I learned that brilliance, genius, innovation in science, religion, art, mathematics, anything “important”, was male. Frustration at all the young boys who were “natural leaders,” “gifted” in science and math, the feeling that my achievement was invisible until the raw numbers on an exam or a grade sheet stared back at my peers. Frustration at all the talented, brilliant women I’ve ever met who never got their day in the sun because they weren’t able to see their brilliance and weren’t encouraged to cultivate it. Frustration that a lot of very small minded men are still leading the charges in government, bumbling around making huge mistakes that the much better informed members of the populace have to pay for. Frustration that I still fight every day to see through the socialized muck that I am deserving of achievement and acknowledgment, that I am a strong, innovative and capable business woman who can impact the world with lots of elbow grease (as if getting a business off the ground weren’t difficult enough on its own). Frustration that we are still marching to say that 51+% of the population deserves equality and respect.
And yes, not a small share of these tears were for my grandmother. For my loss that she is no longer in my life, as well as the injustice for all the years she lived, never to see equality of the sexes despite how worthy of dignity and respect she and her sisters are. And a thought haunted me throughout the day. An image of women and men marching with the same sorts of signs: “equality now” “reproductive rights” “equal pay for equal work,” alongside hovercrafts and driverless cars. 100 years or more into the future and still fighting for the respect we deserved centuries ago. And I thought about my grandma’s words printed on my poster: “Our time has come.” I am long past ready for women to have their share of power. I am ready to fight. OUR. TIME. HAS. COME. Donald Trump and his cabinet of regressives may be the final push for many women, but we were due our fair share of the power well before they came along.
Some estimates say that 4.5 million people marched for women around the world on Saturday. And yet we know that the success of the Women’s March is not dependent on how many people came, or how much coverage it got. It is dependent on what happens afterwards. It is dependent on keeping up the momentum to drive sustained action by woman and men determined to turn this state of affairs around.
My contribution towards taking us the last mile or 100 miles: holding up and supporting the work of women who are transforming the world through their courage, brilliance and hard work. Finding my courage and will to fight each day and sharing my experience to help other woman do the same. Highlighting this work to show the world that women are every bit the geniuses, the innovators, the pioneers, that their male peers have been. And importantly, that women’s leadership is a key element for righting the world from destructiveness.
Last Tuesday, a group of women came to my house. Each of them had created a business that was enabling a major shift towards sustainability in our community: green togo containers, a food hall that showcases the work of chefs committed to sustainability, a pioneer of zero waste soaps and lotions, 100% organic and bee friendly bouquets, a marketing and a design firm for socially conscious ventures to take flight. The women sitting in the feminest brought their brilliant ideas, dreams, get-up-and-go AND femininity. There was more hope than I’ve ever felt in a single room. You dream it – we can make it happen. A woman’s working space to support each other, collaborate, share practical things like office assistants equipped with a garden and outdoor teashop? Doable. A speaker series to educate each other on the nuts and bolts for running a business. Yes ma’am.
I will keep you updated on these endeavors as they blossom, with the hopes that the seeds may scatter and take hold in other communities.
And here’s my secret dream: that little by little we are able to show the world what success looks like in the form of women leaders. That a young girl will have ample examples of women innovators who fought courageously to remake the world. That the femininity that a woman brings to bear on her work: compassion, connection, empathy, resilience, the power of emotions, will be qualities that are respected in business alongside courage, strength, competition and achievement as essential tools to thrive both financially and morally in our endeavors.
Forward together, Not one step back!