In 1942, my 18-year-old grandmother, Berna Willins, was a part of the farm service corps, filling a job previously held by a man who was attending to the army. Recognizing the pay inequality for women at the time, she bravely organized a sit-down in protest of women’s rights. I found this story interesting as I only first heard it today; coincidently the same day as women, men and children marched in unity across the world for the same reasons.
But how is it that in 2017, women are still protesting the same issues? Have we not come far enough that we can award progress to our mothers and grandmothers who have fought this battle already? In our North American culture that celebrates diversity, and thrives on female empowerment, how is it that the word misogyny is still even in our vocabulary?
In a culture that promotes over sexualized images of women, yet shames the female body, that cautions women how not to get raped, rather than teaching men NOT to rape, that encourages women to strive in the corporate world, but where pay inequality still exists, and where we’re told to love ourselves, but also cover up, what has really changed? If anything, we live more confused than ever. Ridden by social media, rape culture, propaganda, anti-feminist discourse and being on the verge of a relapse in history, how are we to navigate moving forward?
By no means do I have the answers to these questions, but in the very least I can open up a dialogue.
When I turned 18, my grandmother and I discussed the significance of voting, at every electoral opportunity. She highlighted the importance as a woman today to utilize that civil right, which was once previously denied to so many. And that discussion continued today not only about women’s civil rights, but also our rights in regards to freedom of violence, reproductive rights, equal pay, freedom to worship, freedom to love, and my specialty, rights as a woman with a disability. But as highlighted in these protests, women’s rights are human rights.
I try to reflect on how popular culture and societal issues directly affect my own life, and in terms of this blog, how IBD plays a role. And I can’t believe that someone who struggles with chronic illness, may also be facing inequality simply for being a woman. Is my baggage not from an ostomy but rather even heavier because I am female? I would hate to think that, but the fact is, it’s true. Society says I am burdened by my own gender. And aside from the IBD, I am nowhere near as marginalized as other women in North America, but I am also not naïve to my privilege.
Let me be VERY clear: I am PROUD to be a woman. I am proud of the strength my body has endured. I am proud of my perseverance, my resistance to misogynist idealism, and my openness. I am proud of my accomplishments, my education, my career, and my future. I am exceptionally proud of my resilient female friends, my aunts, my sister, my mother, and my grandmothers. I am proud of the man who raised me, and the men who influenced my attitude, perspective and intention. I believe myself and my small circle live with integrity, compassion and respect. And I’d like to extend that circle wider.
Berna was strong willed, confident and dignified. She lived a life of elegance and grace, which I admire and hope to also personify. My grandfather (Pop, Jack Willins), loved her severely and I can only dream of finding a partner who celebrates a women’s achievements as humbling as he did hers.
I could not partake in any organized march today, as we said our goodbyes to Berna, however I feel it is important to still partake in the conversation about our human rights. The rhetoric surrounding recent U.S. politics is concerning yet profound considering how much progress is still to be made. Initially I am saddened that such protests need to still occur, yet proud of the obvious solidarity that has just been witness around the world….And Berna would be too.