Inspirational Women

By Drs. Jami and Heather Wilder

In the last year, we have been inspired by an amazing group of girls and women. Some inspired us with the tenderness; some with their strength. As we focus on inspiration this month, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge those girls and women who inspired us to be better people.

Zuriel Oduwole

Zuriel is an 11-year-old Nigerian advocate for education for girls. An outspoken documentary maker, Zuriel speaks to leaders and political heads, giving a voice to the millions of girls seeking access to education. She is the youngest person to be interviewed by Forbes Magazine and named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Africa. Through her Dream Up, Stand Up, Speak Up program, she is putting ideas into action and encouraging other girls to value education.

Steubenville Rape Survivor

Last year, a story emerged in the national media landscape about a teen girl from Steubenville, Ohio, who was sexually assaulted by members of the town’s football team. The events that followed turned a bright spotlight on the dynamics of teen and small-town culture, gender inequities in media coverage, the impact of creating hometown heroes out of high school athletes, the importance of speaking up and speaking out on behalf of the silenced, and so much more. But, for us, what happened in Steubenville extended beyond lessons learned. We were Midwest girls raised in small towns (one of us not too far from Steubenville). In the good, the bad, and the terrifyingly ugly; in the loneliness and solidarity, her story felt familiar. As psychologists specializing in trauma recovery sitting with countless others who have been violated and silenced, her story felt familiar. Though we don’t know her name and we have never met her, we feel a connection to the young survivor. Without knowing, she reminded us about the importance of helping to break the silence of sexual assault by first providing a tender place to talk. (As a side note, we did not provide any links to the news coverage or the photos that came from this story. Instead, we included a video link to a segment of the Melissa Harris Perry show that captures the heart of it for us.)

Donna Nesselbush

The first time we saw Senator Donna Nesselbush, we were standing at the foot of the Rhode Island State Capitol Building with other families. She was standing at the top in a line of other members of the state government. For them, it was a celebration of the end of a long road toward marriage equality in the Ocean State. For us, it was a beginning. As recent transplants to New England, we were honored to be there as all families in the state were provided the protection of marriage. We were (and still are) inspired by her perseverance in this fight, even at times when it may have seemed futile.

Edie Windsor

In honoring perseverance in the fight for marriage equality, it would be impossible not to include Edie Windsor.  Windsor, plaintiff in the landmark case Windsor v. United States, challenged the Defense of Marriage Act bringing hope of marriage protection to same-sex couples throughout the country. While we are inspired by her fight, we are equally inspired by her love and commitment to her wife Thea Spyer. Be sure to watch the documentary, Edie and Thea, about their very long engagement of more than four decades. You will be inspired by their love.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Nearly every Saturday and Sunday morning, we are reminded that “the struggle continues” by Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC’s the Melissa Harris-Perry Show. We gladly accept her invitation into #Nerdland as she presents a unique exploration of social issues. We appreciate her in-depth look through a social justice lens and her advocacy for providing space for voices of those who may be voiceless in our country. But what inspires us most about MHP is her grace, honesty and humility in exploring her own experiences of both privilege and oppression. She is willing to go where many others avoid, often examining and acknowledging her impact on others, including in a recent apology issued for comments made in jest. We are in constant pursuit of this grace, honesty and humility in our own lives and in our own understanding of oppression and privilege.

Nina Turner

In our home – when the name “Nina Turner” comes up – everyone smiles. Our teen almost always starts recounting her favorite Nina Turner memory: “Remember when my group met Nina Turner in the bathroom at the statehouse and she invited us to her office …” Nina Turner, Ohio state senator and Minority Whip, is a constant crusader for residents of the Buckeye State, particularly for those who have been impacted by Ohio’s changing voter laws. She fights fiercely for those who may not have always had a voice in the political game and for those who are in need. She inspires us to keep speaking out for those who are silenced even when the pushback is strong.

Lily Myers

College-student Lily Myers became an internet sensation when a video of her performance of her poem, “Shrinking Woman” went viral. The poem, presented at a national poetry slam, turns an astute eye on the ways in which we teach our daughters to “grow in” while teaching our sons to “grow out.” Myers’ work highlights our relationship with food, ourselves and our mothers. As both mothers and as daughters, we are inspired by her to continue looking inward to explore the ways in which the outward works to shape us. We are inspired to acknowledge the impact of our mothers’ socialization and to own the impact of ours on our daughter.

We also want to acknowledge Wendy Davis, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Warren, and Jennifer Lawrence for their tenacity, courage, strength and compassion that also continue to inspire us.

So who inspires you? Let us know in the comment section below.

Jami Wilder, Psy.D. and Heather Wilder, Psy.D, are clinical psychologists and owners of Wilder Therapy and Wellness in Cranston, RI.

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