“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
As a child, one of my favorite things was to sit in my parents laps while exploring my sorted multi cultural history. Though today’s world has become more and more of an ethnic melting pot, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Mixed Families were fewer and further between but within that caveat of a childhood – there was so much to explore on each side of the family. Starting when I was in elementary school and going much into adulthood, one of my favorite past times has been learning about and contextualizing my complex family history, on all three sides.
When I was three, my parents split and my father remarried – though i don’t consider myself the product of a ‘broken home’ by society’s standards – I definitely didn’t have a normal upbringing, but my parents always implored how important it was to embrace your roots – no matter where they led. but, for as much as I learned about his side of the family, my grandmother’s parents trials and tribulations leaving Lithuania and Ireland on my father’s side, and into the throws of slave history in Southern, Creole African-America on my Mother’s Side, and a family lineage that I’ve fallen in love with time and time again.
In a predominantly patriarchal society where men are more often than not named after their fathers, and the fathers before them – I’m proud to come from a long line of women that were named in honor of each other. Yep, my mother, her mother and my great grandmother were all named Lola – I broke the mold by matriculating over to Amanda, but in the back of my head I just can’t help it, and in the depths of my heart I can feel it: I’m a Lola, too. And then, on my mother’s father’s side of the family – my great grandmother Anita Scott Coleman honed in on life in the American South West and became a prominent author of the Harlem Renaissance, and one of the only women, speaking out about the trials and tribulations of African American culture. Emblazoning a path that both my mother, and myself, were privy to.
My mother, who deserves an essay or three just about what she’s accomplished in her lifetime, has been one of the biggest role models – if not the role model for my lifetime. Growing up in Compton in the 1950’s and 60’s with her nose to the books, my mother became valedictorian of her high school and went to both Stanford Undergrad and Grad school on scholarship. A vital resource in the maths and sciences, she’s not only helped me propel my love of both into both a college major and then into career, but she was a math tutor for my classes growing up – touching the lives and brains of peers left and right. Beyond just being a mother, she was my mentor, my peer and someone I’ve always aspired to be regardless of our differences. Nurture being just as important as nature, I was as influenced by my step-mother as I was my birth mother. Separating when I was less than two years old, I never had a full grasp on the idea of ‘divorce’, but over time I became increasingly aware of the influence my step mother had in my life – from her calming presence to her endearing anecdotes and nurturing personality.
Whenever I look back on my upbringing with my adult onset hindsight, the trials and tribulations of my teenage years and calamity of college behind me, I’m continually blown away by the notion that I’ve been surrounded by intelligent, independent, loving, charismatic and creative women my entire life; women that have done more than pave the way for my family line to excel in the great beyond, but they’ve had a complete affect on the exterior world as well. Now that I’ve had ample time to process the cross cultural melting pot that’s defined where I’ve come from and all of the idiosyncrasies that amass into who I am in the context of today’s society, I’ve become overwhelmed with pride for the female predecessors who’ve paved the way for the women of today and have fought for gender equity and equality, as well as a host of other social rights – not to mention, the right to vote and the right to choose.
The nuanced difference between ‘Gender Equity’ and ‘Gender Equality’is an important facet of Women’s Rights. Gender Equity implies that men and women are given the same resources and programs within society, a way of promoting gender ‘fairness’ and implying a world of equal opportunity regardless of your given sex. A byproduct of Gender Equity, Gender Equality correlates to a society where men and women can cohesively have access to and enjoy the same facets of society; it seems one cannot exist without the other.
Though I don’t necessarily think that women need a day set aside from men to honor their achievements, every now and again it’s beneficial to give ourselves pause and understand the brevity of our history, the circumstances that we fought against and others that we conquered. The irony, at times, is that it feels like women can hold our gender back as much – if not more – than men do. Be it ‘slut’ shaming, body shaming or gossip behind each others backs, the catty behaviors we engage in with each other wage small battles between us women instead of focusing on the bigger gender inequality ‘war’ at hand and speak volumes on our personal self-esteem. As women, we can accomplish more together than we can as individuals – but that’s only if we have each others undivided support, not their indifference. Instead of talking about them, talk to them – if there’s something you don’t understand, don’t immediately dislike it – seek to be engaged. Women as a whole can’t be propelled forward if we’re trying to hold each other back. We can influence the world to be collectively better through creativity, courage and charisma instead of cold shoulders and callous behavior. Not to mention, It’s the 21st century, and it’s time to embrace our independence, intelligence and sexual identities.
Within every vertical of society, from science and technology to sports, women have been valiantly leveling the playing field while defying the odds and overcoming adversity. In 1896, Wyoming became the first state to give Women the vote, in 1916 the United States elected the first woman to the House of Representatives, and now in 2016 – there’s a chance we could see our first woman president. Billie Jean King put Women on the map in the Tennis world decades ago, fast forward to modern times and we have Becky Hammon as the first female coach in the NBA working as a Part Time coach for the San Antonio Spurs while the Buffalo Bills have brought on Kathryn Smith as the NFL’s First Full Time Female Coach.
If you’re still in the mood for inspiration, fantastic creative females like Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Etta Jamesand Amy Tan seep their literature and music in their femininity while historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Sally Ride, Mae C. Jemison, Florence Nightingale, Susan B Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Marie Curie, Margaret Mead, Rosa Parks, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Page and so many more have caused our society to have in depth, personal and social reflections and explorations on what it means to revel in femininity. These are w omen that not only taught me grace, beauty, independence and determination, but that it’s more than okay to fight for what you want, it’s mandatory if you are seeking to change the way the world accepts you. It’s the 21st century and it’s time to stop seeing gender as a quantitative category that defines and holds back members of society and instead see it as a platform to engage.
Whether old or young, a mentor, a parent or a friend – celebrate the women in your life by discovering their passions and providing support while they unleash themselves on the world. In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve included a fantastic TED Talk from Reshma Saujani entitled ‘Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection’ – an important piece of advice for women and the men who love, cherish, admire and learn from them.
Who are the most influential women in your life and how are you choosing to celebrate them today?
Celebrated annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day is a chance to honor the dedicated, driven, determined women working for gender equality around the globe while at the same time, revel in Women’s achievements across cultural, social, economic and political spheres, in addition to gender equality.
For more on International Women’s Day, head to their website and socials: