My two favorite movies since I was a kid have revolutionary female characters and story lines. The first one is "Grease". We think of the 50s as this time where everyone was all happy, going to the HS rally and virginity for women was a prize for a man's taking. The "good girls" and the ones who followed the rules were the popular ones right? "Grease" kicks that on it's ass - the girl gets the guy by being in control, by embracing her own sexuality. The side stories include premartial sex, talk of not keeping a possible pregnancy and healthy disregard for being the same as everyone else. The movie ends with her singing "you better shape up .." to him so he could meet her needs.
The second is Dirty Dancing. Besides the fact that we all learned nobody puts Baby in the corner, it is about the dangers of illegal abortions, about men not taking responsibility for getting someone pregnant, for the hypocrisy of judging by class instead of by character.
I mean really what are the chances that I could be a conformist?
Would I have marched and risked my life to ask for the right to vote that men had ? Would I have succumbed to fascism or been a resistance fighter ?
We all like to think that we would have been on the side of right but that is always looking at it from the comfort of learning about something rather than being in it. All of the above required massive sacrifice. Many of us think we would have fought against those obvious wrong things because of the progress those movements brought us to, it meant often going against everything and everyone that you held dear.
So here we are at a time when for many, like millions many, of us the actions of a few scream that they want to drag us back, to infringe upon rights that we have taken for granted because we did not imagine they would still be an issue.
How could I not be part of speaking up when one of my favorite quotes is a sad reminder of what could happen if we sit silent.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It is my mother's fault that I am such a rebel. It is actually the fault of most of the women in my family and the mothers of my close friends as I grew up. They are incredibly subversive. They are the resistance. My father also was a rebel he tried to leave Romania at 9 because he was against the government so seriously it's in my genes.
I think of the stories my friends tell of their mothers and they, just like me, may not always appreciate the small acts of rebellion and the underlying subversive nature of the impact these acts had on their children. These women changed us so we could change the world in big and little ways.
Women have done small acts of revolt against the status quo for a long time, setting examples in their own homes to those impressionable children they raised. I see this in the friends I have.
It is my friend the compassionate physician who treated all his patients with the same level of respect and care regardless of their gender, orientation, or race who was raised by woman who believed in the best in him so he lived as such. Imagine at the time when "I Love Lucy" debuted, his mother decided for herself that she wanted red hair too and she did it. Seems so small to so many of us but picture it then , this was money her husband earned and she did not go back when asked to change it. She showed her husband and her son that women do not have to shout to be heard. That her opinion mattered in a time when too often the opinion of women was the echo of their husbands. Her granddaughters are leaders who inspire because she inspired them.
I think of my other friend who took charge of her body and became a personal trainer in her 40s. In the process getting into better shape than she was when we met in high school. Her mother was always in charge at home, on the outside a traditional woman who is an amazing cook. A Catholic woman. She never let her older daughter feel alone, not when she got divorced, not when she changed her life, not ever. She empowered her daughters to be who they want to be, to speak their minds and to know they cannot compete with her pizza making skills. Their own children now are truly exceptional.
There is my own mother who left her life to go on journey with my father and start a new one. She was often told no, discouraged, her kindness taken for granted. My mom believes in people, is pro-choice and pretty much sees no reason a woman cannot do something a man already is. She may not always like my opinion but she has never told me not to have one, though she is my mother and is known to give me the opinion I should have. She is a revolutionary for saying hell no to a government that was a brutal dictatorship. Her grandsons are often told they are kind and compassionate, they for sure got that from her.
There are my two friends, siblings, who are incredibly vocal and unrelenting in their pursuit of their passions which include law school, human rights, business careers, arts and most of all open hearts. Their mother defied the odds and went back to school, got her dental degree, all while raising two girls as a single parent. Role model whose grand-kids are being raised by those two daughters to think nothing is impossible.
My best friend's mother was always smiling when I saw her but boy if you ever got on her wrong side you better duck and roll. She was someone who married a man many years her junior, something that is still given too much stank eye, back in the 60s. She demanded a lot of her daughter but because she knew her daughter was meant for greater things. She smiled and laughed a lot but was there for sure if you were about to have a good cry. She called it like she saw it and she was a role model for what authentic looks like. Her daughter is the one you want in your corner because she takes to causes and does not let go until an injustice has been corrected.
There is of course my tri-Athlon racing, help the kids of this town, go back to school after 40 to get a degree from Columbia University friend. Her mother decided to follow her heart and leave her marriage for another woman back before these things were not news and get her law degree. Her daughter learned from her that if you follow your heart you will be successful.
These seem small or maybe insignificant but they are not. They are the glue of women who say we are worthy of our own opinions. There are the big acts like Rosa Parks refusing to move her seat. These are the everyday struggles that still plague women globally.
It is not elitist to understand that those of us who have more of a voice have to speak up for those who do not. That we appreciate the rights we have fought so hard for and won and are using them to do things like vote, protest, organize, donate and advocate.
I want to honor the women like my mother who got a divorce when enough was enough because she understood her self-worth. These women who may have not always raised their voices raised children who are caring about themselves and others. Who may not always agree but can align on the need for better things for the world not just themselves.
There are so many examples that I could go to but that would be a book not a blog. You did not need to march, no one called anyone out for having a different belief because your choice not to march, not to have or to have children, to work or not, to marry who you love, to be able to be the CEO of a company or the CEO of your home is exactly what we marched for.
Even in our silence women have often moved mountains and at some point in every one of our lives we find we cannot be silent any longer. Some of us love men, some women and we do not want to have more than the opportunity to show you what wondrous things we too can do. We will not look back when we know the future is forward so if you cannot support us, encourage us, empower us to help others and add to the fabric of this world well then please just sit down and let us walk by. Remember we raise children and as you can see above we leave a lasting impression,