An Ode to the Women Who Have Shaped Me
I had a conversation recently that shook me to my core.
It was a normal conversation about politics that progressed to a one-sided shouting match. I was the calm one, but defended my criticisms of Trump and what I consider to be black-hearted conservative policies. Then, the person asked me, “Why do you even care? You don’t even live in America.”
God, I wish I had $10,000 for every time I was asked that question. But I calmly answered. “Because I have kids who are going to have to live in the world we are creating, because my husband and I would like to move back to the US someday, and because I love my country and want what’s best for all Americans. Because I’m American.”
“That’s debatable,” was the response from someone I know well (or thought I did) and respect, even though we disagree politically. From someone who I always thought respected me.
It felt like an earthquake. Like when the ground that has always been there to support you suddenly jerks and jolts and knocks you off your feet and tosses you around.
A few other hurtful insults were thrown at me, criticizing me for my liberal beliefs, with the result that I have spent significant time recently reflecting on how I developed from a Reagan-voting, military-loving, individualism-touting, bootstrap-raising, my-way-or-the-highway bullying, I-deserve-all-I have white woman to the compassionate and passionate liberal that I am today. I was raised conservative, but conservatism is as antithetical to me today as it was appealing when I was young. What changed me?
The amazing women who have been part of my life.
Of course it’s not that simple—no one who travels to foreign countries, attends university, reads extensively, has an astute partner, and lives abroad remains unchanged. But when I think about the moments that literally shifted my behaviour or way of thinking, they were connected to some woman in my life:
A boss, the first who cared about me as a person and not solely as an employee, who challenged my views on marriage and motherhood, and shared her feelings of lonliness as she grew older without a companion; my friend who showed me there was humor to be found in the frustration of raising kids, and if you didn’t tap into that humor, your children would suffer; another friend who was betrayed in the worst way but stood strong and fought for her future when it would have been so much easier to crumble; a colleague who pointed out my hypocrisy by asking a simple question, “How is your viewpoint less ideological?”; my female colleagues and now friends who supported each other when a misogynistic manager bullied and abused us while the male management did nothing; the role-model mothers in my community who patiently dealt with temper tantrums, unreasonable demands, and teenage snark; friends, family and colleagues who taught me how to be a friend, to open my mind to new possibilities, to listen, to understand that privilege is as much responsible for my success as my own efforts, and most importantly, to reflect on and challenge my own views, then to change them if they didn’t meet that challenge.
None of these women were aware at the time that they were influencing me. They didn’t see themselves as models of human behaviour with a mission to change someone’s worldview. Heck, I didn’t know how much they were influencing me. It took that face-slapping comment from a friend for me to reflect on and see how by simply being authentic and open, they helped mold a better human, a better citizen.
When you look at history’s list of heroes, so few are women. We rarely get the glory for our accomplishments. Yet our influence reaches deep into our societies. We are accomplished in our own right and inspire others to achieve. So many of our reactions and conversations appear to be insignificant moments that drift into the ether, but they actually resonate years later in the behaviour of our children, friends, strangers, and even ourselves. Our routine moments take on a life of their own when someone sees them as a way of coping with difficulties. Our day-to-day life is the ultimate example of soft power.
But we also aspire to more. Some of us want to play a stronger role in our government and businesses. And because we are women, we are told by other women to support each other. Madeline Albright famously said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Hell aside, we SHOULD be helping each other. It is unfathomable to me that it was a woman who stopped the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m still furious that women helped elect a misogynist racist to the highest political office. And it is women who are often the most vicious critics of female celebrities, politicians and neighbors. They are a minority, but their power has been accentuated because so many of us have NOT been politically engaged. Now we are. But marches and protests are not enough.
We need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
The conversation I experienced was like an earthquake. So, too, was the election of Donald Trump. But like after every earthquake, there is a time for reuilding. For making what was destroyed better, stronger, more resilient.
We need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
There is a record number of women running for office this year. Not all deserve your vote (some are like Phyllis Schlafley who would take away our rights), but they all deserve your attention. I’m a Democrat and hope that every woman elected this year has a (D) after their name. But it is also important to keep in mind that it was two Republican women—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—who stood against their Party and voted to keep the Affordable Care Act, who are on record for being against overturning Roe v. Wade. Don’t support a woman candidate because she is a woman; support her because her actions will influence others to be strong, tolerant, compassionate, and engaged.
Yes, we influence with our soft power. But we can have an even stronger influence on our families, fellow Americans and country.
To do that, we need more women in office. Run for office. Support a candidate. Vote.
Vote. Vote. Vote.
This rally coincides with President Trump’s visit to Tokyo. We encourage Americans and others to join us. As Americans overseas, we want to make clear to President Trump and all U.S. elected officials that we expect our government to represent American values and principles throughout the world -- and not to promote fear, hate and division
Stand with us and make it clear that the current state of American government is NOT acceptable. Come make your voice heard and share a message to demand the economic, social, racial, and environmental justice that we deserve from this administration.
Also, help Americans living in Japan learn how to register to vote from abroad, the most fundamental act of resistance! (All similarly minded individuals are welcome to attend!)
We encourage Americans across Japan to join us in making a pledge to register to vote on January 1st, 2018. With other US citiizens in America and around the globe, we will use our votes to help replace current elected officials who support irresponsible policies that jeopardize the lives of Americans -- both at home and overseas, including in Japan -- with candidates who support positive, constructive alternatives.
DATE/TIME: Sunday, Nov. 5th, 2:00 to 4:00PM
LOCATION: Hachiko in front of Shibuya Station near scramble crossing
NOTE: In line with Japanese police rules, we will not be calling out individual politicians by name. Please be creative with your signs! (Police will ask that any signs bearing Trump's name be removed.)
Suggested template: "Don't like _______? VOTE!" or "Want ______? VOTE!" eg. "Don't like healthcare dismantled? VOTE!" or "Don't like a bully in the White House? VOTE!" or "Want diplomacy over warmongering? VOTE!"
Laws and regulations should be based on an understanding of the daily challenges facing average Americans. The White House and its allies are pushing for huge tax breaks for the rich while stripping regulatory agencies of the authority and resources to protect the health, safety and welfare of all Americans, and gutting programs meant to protect the most vulnerable. The administration has also undermined the efforts of career diplomats to maintain regional stability and cooperation in Asia. As Americans living in Japan, we urge the administration to abandon its saber-rattling and pursue sensible solutions, using diplomacy to avoid conflicts that threaten the lives of our service members and millions of civilians.
The U.S. government has a duty and obligation to fulfill its responsibilities to the people. As Americans living abroad, we will continue to speak truth to power and vote for new leaders who will represent true American values and principles.
Trump, it's time for you to pay close attention to Americans across the world. We will resist your agenda, and we will make sure that you are held accountable; we will accept nothing less because we know that you are unfit for the office of the President of the United States.
Women are taking a beating under this administration. But we will not sit back and take it. Democrats Abroad Japan is joining the Democrats Abroad Global Women's Caucus to show our strength, strategize about how to make our issues and concerns a priority to politicians, to identify politicians who help us for our fight for equality and how to motivate people to vote in the midterm elections.
Join us for our first meeting. Our discussion will be "Is feminism a bad label? What does feminism mean in today's environment?" "How do young feminists differ from middle-aged or older feminists?" "Can you be a feminist and NOT support a women's right to choose?" "What issues are important to today's feminists?"
The Pink Cow is owned by American Traci Consoli. We'll be supporting a woman entrepreneur who serves amazing Tex-Mex food in a cozy environment. Your 3000 yen fee includes dinner, a drink or dessert (your choice) and a donation to Democrats Abroad Japan to help with our Get Out the Vote efforts.
What do we use the money for? Materials for the rallies and protests we have held on taxation, immigration, gun violence and women's rights; advertising materials to promote VoteFromAbroad.org; post cards and postage for our Letter-writing campaign to politicians about the issues we feel passionate about; room rentals for voter registration training; events for bringing our message to demographics who typically don't vote; and phone banking.
A small donation at this event makes a huge difference in our reach.
Here is a map to the Pink Cow. https://goo.gl/maps/xaqqQb2Cg5U2
Looking forward to seeing you there.
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