I was very fortunate to attend the Women in the World summit this past weekend, where I was endlessly inspired by women and girls from all walks of life, who shared their stories of survival and triumph. I cried no less than three times (thank you very much, pregnancy hormones), laughed and cheered my ass off for these women. From how to use the Internet for activism, to the importance of educating girls, to engaging men in the fight against female genital cutting, this summit was custom-made for me. Or at least it felt that way.
But the most exhilarating moment came at the end when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the stage. Quick witted and alternating between humor and solemnity, she very effectively addressed what it means to be a woman in the world today. While her entire speech was captivating, two points in particular struck me. First, regarding the pervasive nature of extremists’ fascination with controlling women:
“Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies. Yes,it is hard to believe that even here at home, we have to stand up for women’s rights and reject efforts to marginalize any one of us, because America needs to set an example for the entire world.”
Thank. You. I find it deeply ironic that Americans repeatedly point to the people “over there” who — gasp! — deny women’s rights so blatantly. While I can drive a car and leave the house without my husband, I still fight against misogyny every single day: for control over my own body, to be paid equally for the same work someone with a penis does, to be free from institutionally condoned sexual harassment and violence. The list goes on. And Hillary is totally right: America must set an example for the rest of the world. But we obviously can’t rely on elected and aspiring politicos to do this for us; we must do this ourselves. And as Leymah Gbowee said, it’s time for us to stop being politely angry about the sad state of affairs in this country. We could all take a lesson out of her playbook.
I think we are moving in that direction, albeit still with some semblance of courtesy. From the recent Limbaugh debacle to attacks on women’s healthcare, we are flexing our collective feminist muscles and showing these jackasses that women are not to be fucked with. But this isn’t a one-and-done situation. It requires us to be tenacious, fearless, and inexhaustible because, clearly, our woman-hating nemeses aren’t giving up.
Which brings me to Hillary’s second awesome point: NEVER give up — not on ourselves, not on our potential. We need to remember that we have an awesome power, and as history has proven, perseverance serves us well. So as infuriating and frustrating as 2012 has already proven, I say bring it on, because we are awakened, we are angry and we are ready to fight for as long as it takes!
Thank you, Hillary, for that reminder not to take any more shit. **Virtual high-five**