As I slowly sank to the bed while folding laundry upon it, my soon-to-be three year old halted her enthusiastic attempts to help me and carefully observed my face. “Are you sad, Mommy? Why are you sad?”. I took a deep breath as tears rolled down my face. How should I respond to my emotionally perceptive little toddler with honesty and gentleness? “Yes, Mommy is sad. A lady… an important lady who did some great things died tonight. She worked really hard so that you and Mommy and lots of other girls can have a chance to be anything they want to be in this life.”
She accepted this response with a nod, wiped the tear from my cheek, and recommended that I have a snack and take a nap and that would make me feel better. I smiled at her innocent kindness (and valid suggestion) and began processing my thoughts. Why was I feeling so deeply emotional about the death of a woman that I never met and whose life I knew little of? I pondered the most influential moments and words of the Notorious RBG.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.Ruth Bader Ginsburg
As with many young girls, I was raised to be “nice” and respectful. Elders were to be obeyed and male figures were the standard symbol of authority from my own traditional family to Sunday mass and every elementary and middle school principal I’d had. I quickly learned that it made less waves to stay quiet if your beliefs differed from those around you, especially male voices. I considered the experiences that may have been different had I understood that I held within me the same strength and power as Ruth to affect change. We are presented with a choice of mourning her death and fearing the uncertainty of the future, or coming together and committing ourselves to living out her legacy through our actions. What if…
When, as young girls, we are encouraged to tame our wild in favor of keeping ourselves pretty and presentable, we indignantly say… “I dissent.”
When we are taught that we are only capable of certain jobs or careers, or should forget these pursuits altogether if we decide to have a family we do them anyway and say… “I dissent.”
When we are sexually objectified and pursued without permission, we ignore the habit of being nice to stand strong and say… “I dissent.”
When harassed or expected to “lighten up” and accept inappropriate and demeaning jokes, we refuse to smile politely and instead say… “I dissent.”
When discriminated against in the workplace or made to feel shame for your unique way of balancing your personal goals and personal life, we say… “I dissent.”
When overlooked in areas of leadership in favor of a masculine presence, we demonstrate our soft strength and pave our own way of leading as we say… “I dissent.”
When we recognize unequal, unjustified, or blatantly hateful behavior being practiced toward any person or group we stand with them in love and say… “I dissent.”
When those who govern our beloved country do so without empathy, justice, or respect for their female constituents, we take to the polls and say… “I dissent.”
When told to dim our feminine light for the comfort of those uncomfortable with their own, we shine anyway and say… “I dissent.”
When encouraged by society to raise our daughters according to outdated practices and limiting belief systems, we break these barriers to mother with kindness and confidence as we say… “I dissent.”
And when our brothers on this earth are presented with the opportunity to maintain the status quo instead of fighting for their fellow women… their wives, their mothers, their sisters, and daughters, they feel empowered to stand with us and say… “I dissent.”
Imagine what a beautiful world this would be. Now let us join together in creating this world for ourselves, our sons, and our daughters… one step at a time. We hold inside ourselves the power to rise up, wipe our tears, and continue her mission together.