Women’s Ambition 100 Years in the Making

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The night before we celebrated 100 years of white women finally getting the right to vote, a black woman dominated the political conversation.

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said in her Democratic National Convention keynote. “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Less than a week before we marked 100 years of white women finally getting the right to vote, another woman of color had people actually coveting newspapers because her face was splashed on their front pages.

“[Trump] inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground,” said vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris in her recent acceptance speech.

One hundred years after the 19th amendment was ratified, this is what ambition looks like, worn proudly. Hang that thing like a flag with a capital A and let it flutter and fly for all the world to see.

At a time when we seem to be on the cusp of understanding that equal representation is not charity, settling, window dressing, affirmative action or tokenism, are we really still in conversations about whether ambition is a derogatory term when applied to a woman?

I don’t believe that’s a real conversation. Not even the people perpetuating it are invested in anything more than distracting us. They see our power coming, they see our light shining and their only goal is to diminish, to dim. They’re like the holdouts who don’t believe the hurricane is going to be that strong, so they stand at the ocean’s edge and defy it, only to be knocked out cold by the forces of wind and water.

Whew. Doused.

You only get back up if we say you get back up. We’re a storm that’s been building for more than a century.

Believe it or not, even threatened types like Trump and his ilk in Congress don’t much care about that. They’re too busy using their positions to make more money. But they know there are people who do care and that their votes are up for grabs, even if they’re a shrinking group in our country.

In a recent New York Times article headlined ‘Christianity Will Have Power’ by Elizabeth Dias — a bracing must-read — she introduces us to a Christian woman in Iowa named Caryn Schouten:

“Or there are people who think that because we have conservative values and we value the family and I value submitting to my husband, I must be against women’s rights … I would say it takes a stronger woman to submit to a man than to want to rule over him. And I would argue that point to the death … Mike Pence is a wonderful gentleman … This is probably a very bad analogy, but I’d say he is like the very supportive, submissive wife to Trump. He does the hard work, and the husband gets the glory.”

Make no mistake about it, while we all scoffed at Trump referencing suburban housewives in a recent Tweet, he was having the last laugh. The Caryn Schoutens of the world felt heard.

And you know what? It’s a good thing when people feel heard. Just not at the expense of others being squashed in the process. Ambition with a capital A is not for everyone. But for those who were born that way, to soar and use their amplified voices to advocate for equality and fairness, to bring empathy on a global scale, to create and connect in ways they feel called, well, they’re — OK, we’re — not going away. We’re amassing power, the kind that gives you the option to use your life to run a principled, loving household and be happy doing it.

Why do so many people (read: women) forget that last part when they deride feminism? No one is asking you to aspire to the Supreme Court if your life-long desire is to run a colorful ice cream shop where the community likes to gather.

I have listened to Michelle Obama’s first three podcasts. They are honest, relaxed conversations about marriage, raising children in a way that brings forward the values of past generations, the idea of normalizing women’s health, the acknowledgement of a low-grade depression so many are feeling right now, and the overall joys and challenges of womanhood. Kamala Harris represents an American ideal of finding work that allows you to marry your strengths and passions and bring them to bear on a large scale.

Let’s normalize who we are as women having an array of experiences. Let’s not see diversity as appeasement. It is representation that actually lives up to its name and represents people who had previously been kept small and silent.

White women have now been able to vote for 100 years. In the meantime, black women have become arguably our wisest and most formidable voting bloc. Together we are unstoppable in ways that benefit everyone.

Even those who don’t realize it.

Originally published at http://unfetteredexpression.com on August 18, 2020.

Written by

Columnist, Blogger, Author, Coach in the Greater NYC area. Six-word bio: Zen chick with a Jersey edge. Favorite topics: gender, politics, race, meaning of life.

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