In honor of Women’s History Month, and on this International Women’s Day, we begin a series of posts focusing on the role of women in resisting oppression and advancing social justice. At a time in our nation’s history when overt, unabashed sexism, misogyny and homophobia are on the rise, encouraged by those in power, we at GLIDE remain committed to lifting our voices in demanding gender equity, freedom and dignity for all.
This month, people from across GLIDE’s extensive community are responding to the following question: “When you think of the role of women in the advancement of social justice and resistance to oppression, who comes to mind as an inspiration?”
When I think of the role of women who have the courage and stamina to overcome injustice, and oppression, and internalized misogyny, I think of the sheroes like my grandmother, who as an immigrant worked each day to affirm her dignity and who saved my life by providing unconditional love during my incested childhood. I admire all the many leaders in civil and womanist rights movements, and also the writers and poets who have given voice to our authentic and rich history, present, and all our possibilities.
But the first who come to mind are all the women in recovery, who have battled with demons internally and externally to overcome addictions to violent relationships and the chemicals we have been seduced by to escape our pain. Women’s struggles are perpetual and we have to encourage one another, stand with each other as allies to continue to fight for our health rights that are being threatened, against our unequal status in wage-earning in the workplace, and against being perceived as second-class in all arenas of our society. Eve Ensler is a voice that keeps ringing in my mind, as is Maya Angelou. We as women and our men allies must always stand, rise and lift our voices to sing.
Jorge, Health System Navigator
This quote is excerpted from his acceptance speech for the National AIDS Memorial Grove Unsung Heroes Award on behalf of the SF Leather Community. The entire speech is available here.
I’d like to take a special moment to thank all the women in our lives. All the women that bathed us; all the women that drove us to the hospital; all the women that helped us die and held us when often our own families wouldn’t even touch us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Joy, Family, Youth and Childcare Center Administrative Assistant
I know that it’s strange, she’s actually kind of a controversial figure, but her name is Gina Carano. I like her because she is a Mixed Martial Arts [MMA] fighter.… She basically created the division for women. What I really like about her is that she took a male-dominated sphere and made it a place for women who might have a desire to do those sorts of things….
She doesn’t change who she is to meet the expectations of the media. She is inspirational because she shows that there is a place for strength as well as beauty, and that you can be both. You don’t have to be one or the other. And she kind of redefined what women are in the media.… She really hated losing weight because she was so attached to her muscles, and she doesn’t care about fitting the media’s image of female MMA fighters, which is smaller. If they are a larger body type or more muscular, that’s beautiful as well.
LeRon, GLIDE Church congregant and Racial Justice Group member
The first person that comes to mind is Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Just the fact that she was a journalist, she was very outspoken about race, she practiced black self-respect… She saw the hypocrisy of the lynching and hanging of black men and often said, “You might kill me by lynching me…but I’m not going down without a fight.” I like the fact that she was very honest in her journalism… She talked about race in a very firm, very no-nonsense way. There was no ambiguity about it.
I also love Malala Yousafzai. I think out of everyone living that she has the ability to change the world more than anyone.… She has stood up for women around the world as far as education, and stood up to the Taliban. She was shot and she could have just hid and never come out but she recovered and continued to speak out against the oppression of women and why women should have the same educational opportunities as men. To me, that is the kind of young lady that I’d want my cousins and allies around the world to look up to. She’s an intellectual, she’s young, she’s fearless and she embraces the idea of being a global citizen. She’s one of my heroes.
Cathy, Senior Case Manager II, 149 Mason Street GLIDE Community Housing
I think the first person who comes to mind is my mother, and our whole lineage of women, coming from the south and just coming from the kind of conditions and situations they had to face. Whether it was not being able to go to school, or segregation, they continued mapping out a way and trying to show a trail of hope for their daughters and nieces coming after them. For my mother, [that meant] moving from that small town in Texas to Los Angeles when she was 19, which was a bold thing to do then by herself. She just knew she had to get out of that small town.
Additionally, I also think of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. More modern-day inspirations would be Angela Davis and Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker who just really found a way to resist and make their lives matter, even when faced with what seemed the impossible pressures of racism or sexism and gender issues.