These 7 Women Started an Email Thread About What It Means to Be a Woman in the Age of Trump

Mar 8, 2017 12:00:00 AM

by Kerry-Ann Royes

Did you wear a pink hat? Stay home? Help a girl make sense? Reactions to the post-inaugural marches were as varied as womankind. Listen in to a spontaneous stream-of-consciousness between a group of women bloggers around the country who lend their voices to education. Here is our email chain.  

Beth Hawkins, Minneapolis; Director of Editorial at Education Post

  Fellow women writers, education advocates and mama bears: I didn’t go to the Women’s March the day after the presidential election—I’m too much of a journalist at heart to participate in protests—but I followed all of your Facebook posts and tweets as closely as if I’d been there. I was astonished to realize that in the incredible diversity of opinions we had about the event and about the need to keep showing up for children. Some of you took your children to introduce them to a kind of civic activism that fuels you. Some of you support our kids just as fiercely, yet did not find the same meaning in the march. I’m moved, in the wake of the largest peaceful protest in U.S. history, to open a dialogue. What does it mean to be, raise and educate women in the age of Trump? Let’s share with each other and then with our readers. I’ll kick it off: Schools are full of girls learning to be women. They are full of women trying to have an impact on the dreams of the girls coming up behind them. This is no trifling thing. Did you know that when I was a schoolgirl there literally was no such thing as a woman’s athletic shoe? We wore smaller men’s shoes. My mother could not get a credit card or buy a house. I could go on. I’m a lesbian raising a child with multiple disabilities. I was shocked at how hard it was to realize after the Inauguration that we both were being erased from existence in the eyes of officialdom. I’m old and I’m mad and maybe they can strip me of some rights but they can’t take my faith in my right to exist. I’ve taken a lot of hits over the years, but for the first time now I wonder what will happen to my son when I’m gone and whether my identity has painted one more target on his tiny back.

Kerry-Ann Royes, Ft. Lauderdale; blogger, Faces of Education

  I am a feminist, in most of the nuances of what that means. And I have a 12-year-old, first-generation American girl—so, I am a "mama bear," too. Walls, banning funding on sanctuary states...he actually told British Prime Minister Theresa May she will be better off for Brexit because "she'll have only the people she wants in her country." I'm done. I'm just done. I wish I made it to the march. I wanted to stand among thousands of people, women, and be reminded that I’m not crazy…or alone. Because that’s exactly how I felt on November 9 . I didn’t recognize this version of America. Have I been this delusional all these years? You are all strangers to me. But those women were not strangers. And the conversations! The conversations I had with my daughter and son after they witnessed everyone standing there! I'm so crazy grateful for those conversations.

Bernita Bradley, Detroit; blogger, Detroit School Talk

  I dedicate this to all the women who have felt that life is hard and felt as if someone wants you in a Stepford-Wife box or just wants you to comply and be a lower-case woman.

And so those scissors in your hand, Do you think they change my value Their cutting me into pieces Do you think it changes my worth Life spreads me across its table leaving me exposed to elements

And yet still I am cut from the finest of cloth My thread count supersedes that of any other in existence I hold in warmth during the coldest storms Coolness in temperatures of 125 and above Rain rolls off my outer as water to a duck’s back 

Build a tent of me and I will withstand the strongest winds Immersed in an array of colors, for I wear well. I am a King’s choice garb to adorn his arm as he sits before his peers. My remnants are sought after to assure that none goes to waste.  

But they become the finest linen at the most exquisite gala or Tied around collar with matching pocket decor of tailor made suits. I am critiqued for flaws that only make me more unique.  

My original pattern can never be mimicked and my creator dare not compare me to others For He knows my worth Which is why he sets me on the highest shelf in await the appropriate buyer.

I am women I am queen Virtue in me

Fleet of foot, I surpass the best In my sleep I do what others only dare to dream I am choice Primal yet never extinct. Fragrant of success Admired by many

I am women.

Erika Sanzi, Cumberland, Rhode Island; blogger, Good School Hunting

  I wasn't a big fan of the women's marches. But part of that feeling is that all the wonderful and important things happening that day were overshadowed for me by parts of the event(s) that I just couldn't abide. There was a piece of me that felt that the rhetoric of Donald Trump that we all found so vile had now been repackaged and was flowing far too freely and proudly in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Children holding signs scribbled with profanity, Madonna's words at the microphone, outright hostility to women who happen to be pro-life…. That being said, I saw some really profound messages that I embrace and would rally for if I didn't have to be surrounded by others whose rhetoric is beyond the pale for me. I have never owned the term feminist. While I see myself as fiercely independent and strong, I've been told over and over that I do not hold the "proper" views to be a feminist. And over time, I have discovered that there doesn't seem to be a definition of feminism that is even universally accepted. Those who know me also know that I've never been one to wear labels well ;). If and when there is a march to fight for equity in school for kids, justice for Black and Brown children in our schools, a dismantling of our unrelenting achievement gaps, I'm there. My truth is that most women who were willing to fly to D.C. for the Women's March (particularly those who look like me) wouldn't be moved to march with me on behalf of poor Black and Brown kids needing better schools. I do not pretend to know how those who are marginalized in this country feel in the wake of this election but I try to imagine their uncertainty and fear. I can only work to empower and stand up for them and for me, education advocacy and raising up parent voices is how I do that.

Vesia Hawkins, Nashville; blogger, Volume and Light

  To be honest, I struggle with the merging of feminism with issues Black women face daily. It began in college when my professor—White, female and feminist—tried to take me under her wing and make me a mini-her. She would invite me into her office to list all the reasons I should be a feminist, especially in Tennessee. Well, my minor was African-American studies and I was 19, 20, 21 and mad as hell. Interestingly (or perhaps not so much), my Black male professors made a greater impact on me forcing me to believe my Blackness could never overshadow my girlness. Further, there was no way in hell I was going to rally against the Black man who was considered public enemy #1! Then I got married. And had children. Suddenly, being Black and female meant something else and my womanhood mattered tremendously. Still, the feminist label eluded me. To this day I support it, but don't own it. The women I call comrades-in-arms enjoy a shared passion for education, children and their families. We are on a battlefield daily where we are outnumbered, yet we are undeterred. Let's be clear, no one can fight like a mama bear! I'm reminded of the battle over the Gaza Strip and reading about Palestinian women waking to prepare their children for the day and then heading out for battle. In this spirit, I think we continue to lead by example by waking up every morning, handling our business at home and then, with every weapon at our disposal, taking it to the battlefield. The battlefield littered with anti-school choice laws, racist policies, way too many failing schools, and our most fragile falling through the cracks. Facing opposition armed with privilege and the pretense of being for all children when in fact they are scared as hell for their personal situation. So, even while I'm knitting pink hats for my peeps, I'll be locking arms with you in this fight for our children.

Maureen Kelleher, Chicago; senior writer/editor, Education Post

  With all its flaws, I still embrace the term feminist and hope that those of us who call ourselves feminists can keep working to better embody the concept with empathy and without arrogance. When we went to Washington, my daughter and I brought signs from a Chicago immigration rally the previous weekend that said "Here to Stay" and " Aquí Estamos y Nos Quedamos." The posters were beautiful and showed faces of men and women in all skin tones from all over the world. A young woman wearing a headscarf asked if she could take our picture and gave us shy high-fives afterwards. We were honored to know how much she appreciated our presence. We also had the opportunity to talk with Canadian television reporters about why we came. I was so proud of Antonia for saying we were there to support immigrants. She talked about her papá, who just passed his citizenship test in October after holding a green card for a few years. I told the reporter, "Women's rights are human rights are immigrant rights."  While they might not always be exactly the same, I truly believe we need to focus on the overlap and work together. At home in our neighborhood, immigrant rights, especially DACA, are also closely entwined with education rights. I'm helping a young man I've known since he was 6-years-old figure out what to do about college without access to federal financial aid. A while back, I wrote a letter to an immigration judge asking to stay a deportation order for his dad. Their family has bought and rehabbed a vacant property in our neighborhood, raised one young man through high school and a little college and has two more on the way. I want my neighbors to stay here and thrive. For that, they need access to college and jobs. That means excellent K-12 schools as well as policies to fix our broken immigration system. In Chicago, energy from the Women’s March helped fuel thousands of people to O'Hare to protest the recent travel ban and win the release of 18 authorized visa-holders who were being detained. As a member of the demographic getting a lot of heat right now—White women—I'm here to say it's not all about us. This is a defining moment when we can ask ourselves what we can do for our country and our neighbors.

Laura Waters, New Jersey; blogger, New Jersey Left Behind

  I have two daughters in their 20's: both self-described feminists; both successful in their current fields (environmental science web editor; charter school science teacher); both in happy relationships (one straight, one gay); both privileged in their Whiteness and the quality of their K-college education; both utterly devastated by Trump's victory. What's been most striking to me, though, is not their focus on Trump's misogyny—that's obvious, right—but on their sudden realization that Jews are a target of hate. When I was growing up in New York City, anti-Semitism was just part of the fabric. I lived in a neighborhood that was almost entirely Roman Catholic and when I was about 10 I was ostracized from the neighborhood gang at the behest of the other kids' parents who regarded my family as unfit. So I've been there. But my kids haven't. I think they saw anti-Semitism as "old country," like my Yiddish curses or holiday meals, a history that they knew about but wasn't personal. Now, with Trump and Bannon and the alt-right and bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers and swastika graffiti, they're suddenly confronted by their "otherness"—not their femaleness but their heritage. I'm really proud of them, in spite of the pain. They have been thrust into a world where their identity is viewed with disdain by more people than they ever imagined and my girls have responded by embracing their Jewishness.
An original version of this post appeared on Faces of Education as To Be a Woman in the Age of Trump.

Kerry-Ann Royes

Kerry-Ann Royes is a mom, businesswoman and active volunteer who lives in Broward County, Florida and is particularly passionate about education and social issues affecting women and girls. She is the founder of The Arrow Consulting and advises clients on business strategy in corporate social citizenship, non-profit leadership, and collaborative community development issues—all with an eye to improving the lives of families and children in South Florida. She currently serves as the principal advisor to Partners In Education, Inc., a non-profit entity of Broward County Schools responsible for developing partnerships that improve the academic experience of more than 250,000 students in 238 schools. She formerly worked as executive director of Community Advancement for the YMCA of South Florida, where she led the expansion of YMCA programs serving more than 3,500 students daily. Royes earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology/sociology from Florida International University and an Executive MBA from Florida Atlantic University. A native of Jamaica, Royes has lived in South Florida for more than 25 years, where she embraces the gorgeous weather, diverse population, and rich opportunities for art and culture. When she’s not focused on saving the world, Royes enjoys reading, traveling and soaking in the sun at the beach with her family. Kerry-Ann blogs about education in Broward County at Faces of Education.

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