An empowered tweet. A promise to reach the next generation of young women. An interview on national television about how young women are overlooked and therefore limited by our society is spotlighted on the news. A photo opportunity of the figurehead among a group of teens to show that there is a connection to the individuals being served. A dire request for funding reaches the inbox imploring donors to keep the "education" of our young women going so we do not lose the ability to make a difference.
Welcome to the new feminist hype that many do not want to discuss or even acknowledge. At least this is the conclusion that I have come to as I receive yet another e-mail from an assistant to a high profile - powerful woman who says her boss cannot find half of an hour in her schedule to Skype with my students. She is part of the majority of women who touts the empowerment of young girls, the manipulation of the young girls by the media and society yet, does not take actual steps toward meeting those affected in their own natural environment. What if she did?
The reality is few high profile women are willing to actually get in the trenches with the young women and understand them. If the young women reside in a rural community such as my students do, the likelihood drops significantly that they will ever realize such an experience.
Maybe the figurehead is intimidated by the truth of these young women, their experiences, and the realities they face. Maybe the female leader finds it is easier to preach from the pulpit and keep a distance; thereby, limiting the likelihood of being exposed for her own imperfections. What if she did take that risk? If she did, I believe the outcome would be positive and life changing.
Maybe I am spoiled. We have been fortunate to have Gloria Steinem, Maria Shriver and Dee Dee Myers speak and empower the students to think beyond their immediate rural area and see unfettered possibilities. Each of these women brought their individual experiences, through humor and honesty, to share their triumphs, their weaknesses, their strengths and their fears. Not one of these women was rejected by the students. Instead, these women were embraced. Not one of these women was forgotten. Instead, these women were highlighted as motivating factors to elicit personal change. Sadly, the majority of female leaders seem incapable of making the leap.
Many will think that if I approached guest speakers as I have approached the blog that this must account for the high volume of rejections. I would hope that you would know better. There is a point though where I need to ask myself if what I am teaching my students each day is merely hype that I bought into because I wanted to believe or if it is real. I hope it is real.
At the end of each day, I will continue to contact these women, as I believe in my women’s studies students and their ability to bring about positive change. I believe that because they have undertaken the challenge of enrolling in this class that they have committed themselves to being an active participant in the “sisterhood”, not someone who simply mouths the word. I only wish others did as well.
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