Year of the Woman
by Alina Wilson
Month of the Girl
As a woman, I am often disheartened when I stop to consider the state of our society. I see women struggling to be recognized as equal to men. I see women treated like objects by the leaders of our nation, and I see women maligned and disrespected. My history teacher, a white male, once told me that “It is nearly impossible for a woman to truly succeed and be valued in our society.” Despite all of this, I have never been so proud to be a woman. I see women rallying in the streets. I see women changing societies and acting as mentors to other women. I see women running for political office… and winning. So yes, even as many attempt to deny us our rights, in my eyes, this is truly the year of the woman.
When I was younger and my awareness of society increased, I believed that being a woman and being Black were barriers. I hated how my gender and my skin color made me different from my white peers. I hated how I always seemed to be “other.” If I’m being honest, I still feel this way sometimes. My parents have always taught me to believe in my own potential, but until quite recently my identity as a Black woman was a source of stress instead of pride. This slowly began changing as I actively chose to explore my culture and gender. I began to participate in cultural groups, such as Jack and Jill, with more fervor and gratitude. I attended Black Girls Lead, a leadership program for black girls by black girls. At these places, I rediscovered my love for my affinity group, my gender, and myself. Then, this summer I attended HERLead, a fellowship for young women striving to change the world. I can honestly say that I have never been so proud to be a woman. I conversed with and learned from women muralists, politicians, and philanthropists from around the world. The girls in my cohort were equally phenomenal and diverse: some of them wore twist-outs and others wore headscarves. At that leadership forum, I learned the power of women and the power of myself.
When I turn off the news, I see women breaking barriers. I see female CEOs, female athletes, and female politicians; and this past year, volunteering with a congressional campaign for a woman in Oklahoma has inspired me to become a politician, to make my mark on society. Although I am horrified when I see how women are treated, I am empowered every time one of us breaks another glass ceiling, inevitably taking the rest of us with them.
At one point or another, we all realize something is different about us. Maybe that something is our race, our ethnicity, our gender, our class, our sexual preferences. Right now, those things seem like barriers. I hope that one day we will truly celebrate these differences and realize that they make us stronger. We are all responsible to do our part to get there.