Mountain

I’m driving in my car and a familiar voice comes onto the radio. I turn it up a little…

Shawty, I don’t mind, if you dance on a pole…

I can’t believe I’m still listening, but the curiosity is killing me…

You can take off your clothes, long as you coming home, girl, I don’t mind…

This can’t be for real…

They be lookin’, but they can’t touch you, shawty, I’m the only one to get it. So just go ahead and keep doing what you do, do it…

That was the last time I listened to that song. Now I can’t get past the opening notes before my stomach turns. Apparently, no one ever told Usher the truth about the stripping profession: the fact that women who make money through that line of work happen to be far more likely to fall victim to crimes such as rape and sexual assault or the fact that they are less likely to recommend it to friends and far more reliant upon it as their sole financial support than their male stripping counterparts.

Rewind a few weeks…

I’m sitting in a church service and the guest speaker is talking about Moses and the burning bush. He gets to the part where God asks Moses to put his staff on the ground and it turns into a serpent, then he makes a crack about that being one of the many reasons why women should not be in leadership, as a woman probably would have screamed and run away from the serpent before she could see the miracle completed and the serpent turned back into a staff. Apparently, no one told him that Jesus turned concepts related to gender on their head when he praised Mary for sitting at his feet and taking the male role of student while he corrected Martha for fulfilling the very female role of tending to her guests.

Rewind a few months…

I’m lounging on my couch watching Frozen for the first time and finally hearing the supposedly “empowering” song Let It Go in its entirety. Days later, I am strangely, angered and saddened as I see a majority of the little girls that come to my home trick or treating dressed as Elsa. Apparently, a glamorous dress, long blonde hair, and a pretty castle still beat out emotional maturity, a good, kind heart, and a healthy sense of community even on a good day.

 Am I crazy or is being a woman tough?

While some of us are stuck in “no woman’s land” as we wrestle with our singleness or marriages in the age of the romantic comedy and in family or friend groups that send us the message that our highest possible calling and deepest happiness is to be found in the role of loving wife and mother, the rest of us seek our comfort from some bizarre sexual revolution that ultimately still has us catering to some equally disheartening (or arguably more so) man-made construct of sexiness and desirability.

Living in the Bay Area has really brought issues of gender to the surface for me. It only takes plugging a few words into Google to learn about the incredible inequality women are facing in tech companies, such as the one powering your internet search for the topic.

I never felt like I fit prim and properly into the “woman” category. Always a little too loud, always a little too opinionated, often completely outrageous… The battle is never over. While the women at my office, in my very female dominated field, catch up on the latest buzz regarding their take on 50 Shades of Grey (a franchise I object to on a large variety of grounds) I’m not sure where or how I come in, but I feel no more at home when the talk is homemaking or child-rearing.

That being said, I never had any interest in the whole tomboy gig either. I am far too big a fan of perfume, jewelry, and makeup for that. Is it too much to ask to be permitted to engage in an intellectually stimulating debate, maybe even voice a wildly unpopular opinion, all while wearing glittery, golden shoes? Will the day ever come that a woman is seen as fiercely feminine, not for her sultry appearance, but because of the contents of her heart and mind? It’s not looking good… In fact, the prognosis is quite bad…

That’s where you and I come in. We think we don’t have the power, but we do. We think all the control has been stripped from us, but it hasn’t. We get to decide every day the kind of women we want to be, the kinds of daughters we want to raise, the movies we want to watch, and the books we want to read. We get to turn off the radio or the television and say, “We aren’t buying the garbage you are selling any more.” We get to look at our peers, our partners, and our parents and tell them we don’t see ourselves in the product they are marketing. We get to say it’s not ok to convey to young people that exploitation is sexy or that a woman is only as valuable as the man she stands behind. We won’t stop shining because it threatens you. We won’t stop speaking out because it scares you. We were made for a greater purpose, we are rooted in a deeper identity, we bear a more valuable image, we reflect a greater light than the one you’ve reduced us down to…

 Inside of me is the brightest light there is, and I can’t, I won’t, hide it.

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