#ThrowbackThursday: International Woman’s Day Edition
If we were sharing a quiet dinner in a neighborhood restaurant, I’d lean forward at some point, speaking in a lowered voice so our conversation didn’t carry. “Are you as scared as I am?” I’d ask.
You might rest your hand on mine, a reassuring gesture. But if you’re someone with a penchant for upheaval, you might brush aside my concerns with a dismissive wave. “We needed someone to shake things up!” you’d say, and even though we might disagree about that underlying premise, we’d find a way to navigate our differences. As friends do. And at the end of the night, we’d hug it out, energized as always by a shared commitment to the greater good.
But virtual meet-ups are different, aren’t they? We can’t read facial expressions. We can’t hear the subtle changes in pitch and tone, and we miss the subtle pauses. We can’t meet each other’s eyes, and we can’t translate what we don’t see.
I’m going to trust you, though, to push past those limitations. As friends do. I’m not expecting you to compromise your own views, but at this virtual dinner, please allow me this moment of grace.
You’d probably notice my furrowed brow, were we to sit across the table from one another. “What’s on your mind,” you might reasonably ask, and while I’d probably start by talking about seals and such, I’d eventually wade into rougher waters.
What’s on my mind? Lemme tell you… I’m deeply concerned about the direction our country is headed. I am mourning the fact that we’ve lost our way, and I’m frightened about the cold, dark place in which we’ve found ourselves this weekend. I hear the drumbeats of war, drawing ever closer. White supremacists roam our streets unmasked–emboldened by a president who refuses to condemn their actions and instead offers a statement against “violence on all sides.” Politicians refuse to step into the breach, and religious leaders are strangely silent. I’m as scared as I’ve ever been, and oh, how I wish Hillary Clinton had shattered that highest, hardest glass ceiling!
This isn’t a fresh concern, mind you. I’ve been troubled by this presidency since Day One.
I worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign for a reason. She represents my deepest hopes and highest ideals. Plus, she’s smart and sassy, and better-equipped, by far. Not without her faults, but who is? She’s as imperfectly perfect as they come. Like many Americans, I was elated about her winning the popular vote, but when she ultimately lost the electoral college to a huckster, that elation quickly turned to despair.
No surprise, when I read the prompt for Susanne Conway’s photography challenge, those emotions bubbled to the surface again.
God forgive me for not thinking of my grandkids first, but this is the first image that came to mind.
My friend and I spent countless hours supporting the Hillary Clinton campaign. How exciting, to be on location for this event! We were joined by countless Americans, gathered around their television sets (or and hunched over their electronic devices), fully expecting that we’d be celebrating a big win. But there was a deep rumbling that night, and a shaking. Our dreams were crushed by the weight of unseen forces.
We walked back to the hotel together in silence, blanketed by wooly clouds that offered little in the way of comfort. I zipped my coat against the cold, wrapped my scarf a little tighter. An outsized rat skittered across the sidewalk, baring needle-sharp teeth as it defended its right to the trash bags heaped at the curb. The Empire State Building–alternating floors glowing blue and red before the polls closed—was awash in angry red.
That was then, and this is now. I’m not dwelling on that night, but I’m mindful of its significance. I’d be hard-pressed to explain how much our country has shifted, folded in on itself, and slid backward. And tonight…well, I’m glad tonight for the warmth and glow of your friendship, because my typically optimistic outlook is a bit faded around the edges.
Everything looks brighter in the morning–that’s what my Nana always said. But if we were to linger over coffee tonight, we’d probably explore this at some length. We’d laugh; we’d cry. I’d give you side-eye and you’d tell me to hush. We’d eventually fall into a comfortable silence, but not before I asked you to share your One Wish with me. As friends do. Then we’d ask the waiter to bring us a gooey, guilt-free slice of cake. With extra forks, please, and glow-in-the-dark candles.
Today, more than 600 Women’s Marches are scheduled in all 50 states and 32 countries–an epic, irrefutable display of outrage, commingled with sisterly support for those who feel threatened by our 45th President’s rise to power. I applaud the participants, as well as those who cheer them from the sidelines. Working as one, they exemplify my favorite proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.”
My own prayer is very simple: May these events be peaceful; may they manifest joy and a positive outcome; and may they serve as an honorable reflection of the women who came before us, on whose shoulders we now stand…
Women who stepped from fear into the fullness of their destiny, refusing to remain silent or be silenced.
Women who trembled at the thought of confrontation, but bravely faced their oppressors.
Women who brokered peace in the world and their own lives, based on an inalianable truth: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”
Women who served as witnesses to the vagaries of history–and unfettered storytellers, born “for such a time as this.”
Women akin to Sojourner Truth, whose impassioned speech (“Ain’t I a Woman?”) is finding its echo in the footfalls of these global protesters—sisters in solidarity, laying claim to our own birthright.
Ain’t I a Woman?
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
–Sojourner Truth (Delivered 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio)
Edited to add: There were massive turnouts at the Women’s Marches, here and abroad. Peaceful demonstrations, 2.5 million participants and counting, and this is only the beginning. (Photo collection courtesy of the New York Times.)
“These seals seem to know you,” said the movie producer who shared the beach with me this morning. I was snapping photos in the rocky cove; his crew was sprawled across the sandy shoreline, filming a promotional piece for Visit California.
It’s true that the seals are comfortable with my presence. They talk to me, and vogue for the camera.
So naturally, I’ve been posting lots of photos & videos lately. Because: seals. Who doesn’t love ’em?
But there’s also backstory to this, my most recent obsession.
You see, my friend in New York loves seals. She’ll drive all the way to Maine, just to watch them play.
“Do you see seals on your morning walks?” she asked me one day.
“No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them around here.”
She was really disappointed, because: seals. Who doesn’t love ’em?
It didn’t seem all that likely at the time, but I promised her I’d take pictures–if I ever saw them here, that is.
In a poignant twist of fate, I first saw these harbor seals on the morning of my friend’s cancer diagnosis. I’ve been taking seal videos and snapshots for her, ever since.
These harbor seals keep showing up–for my friend and me, and for anyone who finds delightful these gifts from the sea.
So there’s another other thing I haven’t yet mentioned. Trust me: It’s very much related.
My friend and I are working in tandem on some special projects for the Hillary Clinton campaign. It’s a coast-to-coast connection that makes us feel as if we’re doing something good in the world. And despite the miles between us, it’s brought us very close. Illness or no, we are stronger together.
Well… I didn’t know it when I visited the seals this morning, but my friend had sent a handwritten card to our candidate of choice. She tucked a short note inside, and addressed the envelope to Madam Secretary, Hillary Clinton. “Let yourself be great!!!” she said, and then she signed her name.
And so it was that while my friend was at the hospital this morning, hooked up to the IV line that delivered her third chemo treatment–and while I was in Goff Island Cove, circumventing the film crew and capturing these images–my friend from New York heard her cell phone ring.
Guess who was on the other end?
Yes, that’s right. Madam Secretary, Hillary Clinton.
If you know me, you know already that my eyes were swimming when my friend let me know how things went down. Hillary was gracious, she said, and so very encouraging: “Get well soon,” she’d said, with genuine warmth in her voice; and after thanking my friend for the personalized card (and her volunteer efforts), Madam Secretary mentioned the four, smallish words that touched her so deeply.
“Let yourself be great!!”
A softball coach first shared those words of encouragement with my friend from New York. She was just eleven years old. But as so often happens with words that resonate, my friend never forgot that handful of words. And when the just-right moment presented itself, she passed them along.
You never know where a moment’s kindness might eventually travel.
You might be surprised about the reach of a few, carefully selected words of encouragement.
Like these seals, they imbue a special kind of magic. When you least expect it, they find their way back to you, carrying treasures of their own.
Senator Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire was arguably (albeit only partially) a repudiation of sexist behavior.
I was steamed — but sadly, not surprised — when I saw this in the New York Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was about to deliver a line that has become a centerpiece of her campaign since her loss in Iowa.
“Everybody in this race is talking about change. But what does that mean?”
“Iron my shirt!” yelled a man, who stood up in the middle of a jammed and stuffy auditorium at a high school in Salem, N.H., and held up a yellow sign with the same text. He repeated it over and over.
Mrs. Clinton asked for the lights to be turned on, and the shirt man was removed along with another man who had stood up too.
“Oh, the remnants of sexism are alive and well,” Mrs. Clinton said.
When everyone had settled down a bit, she said, ““As I think has just been abundantly demonstrated, I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling.”
As a seated Senator and candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton deserves respect, regardless of our political affiliation or differences.Those who diss or dismiss her because of her gender are sending a similarly sexist message to all women, everywhere.
With all due respect, if that guy had pulled the same stunt on me, I would have wanted to plant his Adam’s apple under the soles of my stilettos. Iron your own shirt, buddy. In this election, we’ve got more pressing concerns than your mysogynist tricks.
I’m listening to Dirty Laundry, performed by The Eagles. Picture credit: Getty Images.