Months of hateful language against multiple minority groups, as well as the proliferation of anti-Hillary signs and t-shirts proclaiming: "Lock her up!" or "Trump that Bitch!", were bad enough. But it was the explosive release of video evidence of Donald Trump in sexual predator mode that opened a cultural Pandora's box of gender pain, denial and outrage in America.
I have my own litany of deep emotional bruises and scars from male interactions I've tried to forget. I've yet to meet a woman who doesn't. So, how am I dealing with all of this? I've often found myself humming Helen Reddy's powerful 1971 anthem.
"I am woman, hear me roar. In numbers too big to ignore. And I know too much to go back and pretend."
I've been soothed in the last 10 days by four powerful women who have raised their voices in outrage and shared their wisdom on how to keep reaching toward the light. They've given me hope that this painful labor is giving birth to another leap foward in human evolution. Women are on the rise throughout the world. And there is no turning back.
"Cause I've heard it all before. And I've been down there on the floor. No one's ever going to keep me down again."
Michelle Obama: "Enough is Enough." In a speech for the ages, America's most respected public figure gave voice to women and girls everywhere who are all-too-familiar with the fear and pain of gender disrespect, humiliation and violation. If you have not heard her words, please listen. They will go down in herstory as a defining moment and a call heard round the world for women and men who respect and love them to stand up and roar, enough is enough!
"Oh yes, I am wise. But it's wisdom born of pain. Yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained."
Gloria Steinem: "Go Toward Freedom." Just a few days ago, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with Gloria Steinem on the campus of Michigan State University. What did Gloria say about what feels like a culturally dangerous time in America?
She responded with the metaphor of domestic violence, telling the audience: "The most dangerous time for victims in abusive relationships is when they try to escape. That's when they are most likely to be killed or suffer the worst beatings. It takes great courage for victims to make the leap toward freedom." Steinem told us she is not surprised by the stunning, gender-specific backlash against the first woman to seriously challenge the male monopoly on the most powerful leaadership position in the world. "We have arrived at a moment in history where the female half of the human race is reaching a tipping point of escaping from thousands of years of subjugation in culturally-abusive relationships. No wonder it feels so dangerous,"Steinem, now 82, told us. "Take care of each other and keep pushing for equality for all. It is our only path to freedom."
"You can bend but never break me. 'Cause it only serves to make me. More determined to achieve my final goal. And I come back even stronger. Not a novice any longer. 'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul."
Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka & Kah Walla: "Why Are American Women So Quiet?" My third source of inspiration comes from two courageous African leaders I was with at the recent World Leadership Conference of the International Women's Forum. Over 900 women from 40 nations gathered in Chicago.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, was inducted into the IWF Hall of Fame at the conference. Kah Walla, a political leader from Cameroon who has been imprisoned multiple times for challenging and running for president against her nation's 32-year dictator president, was the closing keynote speaker. Both used their moments on stage to express their dismay and challenge American women to flex their collective clout.
"Why," Walla asked the stunned audience, "have American women been so quiet as one of the most respected leaders in the world -- who happens to be a woman -- has been repeatedly demeaned and insulted on the global stage?"
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka put it this way: "Don't Americans realize that Hillary Clinton's election would not just be a breakthought for the U.S., it would be a world changer!"
At moments like this, I ask myself, "What would Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro and Coretta Scott King do if they were with us today? I have no doubt they would say, What are you waiting for? The moment is at hand. The world is watching and waiting."
"If I have to, I can do anything! I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!"
Let them hear you Roar!
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