Today I write in an effort to reflect on my place in the world. I am a woman; I am an American; and I am human.
What this year has made me question is who I am as defined by my actions. And what I’ve found is that there are very few actions I’ve taken to yield results I can be proud of.
As I’m trying to write this, I realize how difficult it has been to acknowledge my own disenfranchisement and, more importantly, to recognize and participate against the disenfranchisement of others. But that should be the foundation of today’s community.
I had never acknowledged that as a woman I am treated differently and my value is not defined in the same way that a man’s is. My appearance and my merits are intertwined and regardless of what I do, I am still an object for many. Despite having been lucky enough to grow up in an immediate environment where this was not the case, the real reason I never acknowledged this is because, until this year, I’d taken my objectification and value as a given and something to be overcome on a personal level.
But this year we saw our first female presidential nominee and with that and countless other achievements from powerful women, a dialogue entered the mainstream media. I realized that as women it’s our responsibility to correct this injustice together. We are more capable of defending one another as a group, rather than alienating ourselves in our struggle.
This and the past handful of years we’ve also seen an incredible movement calling attention to the disenfranchisement of others. Specifically we’ve seen an outcry highlighting the prevalence of racism in America and the fact that it still very much permeates our system.
On this subject, I’m embarrassed and disappointed to say that this is yet another issue on which I’ve remained passive. I may have shared the occasional post on Facebook or discussed my stance with like-minded individuals. However, as this election has shown us, talking to those that already share your point of view doesn’t really create a conversation; it only works to segregate groups even more, through affirmation of opinion. This lack of dialogue and exclusion of others based on their opinions is how we got here, coupled with our individual entitlements and lack of accountability in defending others.
We now have an entitled, opportunistic bigot for President-elect and we can only blame ourselves for that. The media and campaigns for both candidates built upon inflammatory messages of hate not only for the opposition but for those that supported them. And we ate it up and let it divide us even further.
More than that, we used the politics of it all to overshadow the foundational concept that we are all human and as humans, deserve the same rights, regardless of race, religion, sex, or political stance.
We chose to let our differences define us to the point of self-alienation.
We chose to look at those with opposing opinions and disparate concerns as lesser than us.
We chose to see those that didn’t share in our experience as being incapable or unworthy of supporting us.
But as a woman, I’ve also learned that women cannot be the only ones accountable for our rights. Men must be held accountable as well. Men are capable and should be expected to participate in our struggle, though they cannot share in our experience.
As an American, I’ve learned that I am accountable for the well-being of my fellow Americans, in their struggle to survive a changing economy and culture, though I haven’t shared in their experience.
And as human beings we are all accountable to fight for the rights of our fellow human beings, regardless of race or religion. We must hold ourselves responsible and be vigilant against the infringement of those rights, though they may not permeate our everyday existence.
I write this primarily for myself, but am sharing it in the hopes that it reaches someone in some way; that as it has helped me find hope and purpose in the wake of such turmoil, it helps someone else move forward.
Call it naive or overly sentimental but the fact remains, we are all part of something greater than ourselves.