As misogyny continues to take a toll on our communities through violence and rising inequality, it’s important to remember the amazing work done on the feminist front in 2009. To that end I offer you ten short vignettes that have inspired and challenged me to think bigger about change. These are small, often personal, steps forward that should motivate us towards equality and justice in the years to come.
I’m proud to be a woman and proud to have witnessed the following women (and men) take a stand in 2009.
(In no particular order)
1. Rosie the Riveter High School opened in Long Beach, CA to help young women train for careers in the trades. A founder of the school and a former steelworker and longshoreman, Lynn Shaw, told the LA Times that the school is “about trying to change the way society looks at women.”
2. Pop star Rihanna showed young women how it’s done when she got the support she needed to deal with the painful and humiliating experience of domestic violence.
3. Fewer than half of the 22 officials designated by President Obama as having Cabinet rank are white men — only nine in fact. Obama has included a much larger proportion of women in his administration (36% so far) than Bush did, including Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor. Let’s boost that number to 50%!
4. Young women, many of whom are students, are playing a large roll in the Iranian opposition by organizing protests, marches and media outreach. They often risk their lives and do so in a country that is increasingly brutal towards women.
5. 2009 brought a tremendous list of firsts including the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics, Elinor Ostrom; the first female poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy; and the Army’s first female top drill sergeant, Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King.
6. While it remains to be seen what type of health care reform (if any) we’ll have in 2010, I applaud all the women fighting (again) for a woman’s right to choose at a time when access to abortion is being slowly chipped away. When the Stupak Amendment became public, thousands of women across the country called and emailed their legislators, wrote blogs and editorials, and spread the word the old fashioned way that abortion rights are important rights.
7. Women serving in our Armed Services have shown tremendous courage off the battlefield fighting for their rights as mothers. Single mom and Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson was arrested for missing her deployment to Afghanistan when she couldn’t find childcare for her infant son. She is currently fighting in court for a time extension.
8. Directors Nora Ephron and Mira Nair both made feature films about strong women who followed their passions, Amelia Earhart (Amelia) and Julia Child (Julie and Julia).
9. There are many men out their supporting women in our struggle for equality and I’d like to give a shout out to one of them here. KRS-One is a well-respected Hip Hop artist who was recently asked what he thought was missing in hip-hop today. He answered, “More women. More women. Not just emcees or b-girls, but women taking control of hip-hop. Every time you degrade a person, you degrade yourself, because you are standing next to that person. You can’t diss a person, and not diss yourself…”
10. Ann Nixon Cooper died at 107 just a few weeks ago. She saw the end of segregation, the rise of MLK, the victory of women’s suffrage and then cast her vote for Obama. She saw things she never imagined and we will too. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
May these stories inspire you to step out and stand up for women in 2010.