We are proud to share this second installment of reflections in our Women’s History Month series honoring women’s roles in resisting oppression and advancing social justice. GLIDE remains deeply committed to the struggle for gender equality. In the current national climate, it is more crucial than ever that we resist and repel the misogynist forces arrayed against us, and that we unconditionally stand with the women and LGBTQI people who are put at risk under the dangerous policies of the current administration.
This month, people from across GLIDE’s 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?”
Isoke, Maven of Transformative Learning
Sojourner Truth, a suffragette, a fighter for women’s rights during and after slavery time, said the following:
“I will not allow the light of my life to be determined by the darkness around me.”
I find that quote to be so powerful for today, and for me. I don’t know what she meant when she said that, but I know for me it means that I still get to have my joy, my laughter, my sassiness, my thinking, my love of people. I get to have all that no matter how ugly things look. So for today, Sojourner Truth is my inspiration. And I do think that deciding to have joy is an act of resistance.
Gucci, Meals Expeditor
Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks stood up for her rights—she actually didn’t let the bus driver tell her what to do or abide by those rules and regulations about where she could sit…she fought for justice, and that’s why African Americans are now able to sit in the front of the bus at this moment.
Maya Angelou is a very good inspiration, especially for African American women, saying that she could rise above nations.
Rosa and Maya inspire me in my work. When I’m in the coffee house [GLIDE’s dining room reserved for families, the elderly and the physically disabled] and people are sitting there still hungry, I don’t rush them out or ask them to leave. I do say you can go back upstairs and get another ticket, but I also give them all the food that’s left at the end! It makes me feel good to give back, not saying no every time. I want our guests to know that I love them and appreciate them. Sometimes people in the coffee shop offer to help me out, even though I tell them they don’t have to, but when they do help I say to them, “Hey, on fried chicken day, I got you.”
Laura, Graphic Designer
When I think about strong, courageous women passionately working to advance social justice, which inherently means they’re fighting oppression every day, I think of my good friend Catalina Correa Salazar. She is a badass!
She lives in my native and beloved city of Bogotá, Colombia, where she divides her time between teaching and working for an amazing nonprofit, PARCES. Their mission is to protect and support the dignity of marginalized individuals and communities. They work tirelessly to defend the rights and safety of sex workers in downtown Bogotá and the broader LGBTQAI community who suffer not only from social stigma but also police brutality.
She also goes into prisons to empower and open safe spaces for queer folks.
Slowly but surely she’s changing the lives of those she directly works with, while also helping to create legislation that ultimately will transform Colombia’s society into a somewhat more “just” and inclusive place.
I’m constantly moved and inspired by her passion to fight for underrepresented and marginalized people. Seeing her and PARCES gives me hope for Colombia’s future.
Ray, Community Safety & Training Assistant Manager
My mother, and three sisters: Jean Cooper, Zwazzi Sowo and Lillian Mark! These women have shown me what strength, determination, compassion and accountability look like and taught me to not take no s**t from anybody (lol)! They have always showed me how to hold boundaries but still be loving and hopeful to someone. They have always looked out for the marginalized and supported them in how to equalize themselves and not victimize themselves.
Sarah Wunning, Data Analyst
This is slightly embarrassing, but when talking about women’s empowerment the first people that come to mind for me are actually the Spice Girls. Growing up in the ’90s, they were really my first exposure to feminism (lite) with the idea of “Girl Power” and that women could do anything despite what others thought or expected. Their music and message empowered my girlfriends and me to feel that we were enough, without needing boyfriends or to look and act a certain way. Even though looking back now I have some mixed feelings on the group, at the time they did provide a new type of role model to young women and paved a path for other women in the industry by not fitting into the existing generic mold.
Since then, my ideas on empowerment and the Women’s Rights Movement have definitely changed, but I still believe it is incredibly important for young girls to have strong female role models early in life. Women like Emma Watson, Malala and Beyoncé (who thankfully introduced so many people to the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) are empowering young women through their speeches, actions and music and providing a gateway to larger feminist and social justice movements. This exposure to the idea that girls are just as powerful and important as the boys next to them is how we continue to resist oppression and advance women’s rights.
Ashley Kelly, MSW Field Work Student, Center for Social Justice
When I think about the role of women in social justice, I immediately think of Black women. At all points in the fight for equality for Black Americans, women have been driving the movement. There were incredible women like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth before the end of Slavery, the women making lunches and marching during the Civil Rights Movement, and the women of the Black Panthers supporting the social programs and keeping the organization running.
Last week I attended a dinner party inspired by Marsha P. (P for “pay-it-no-mind”) Johnson, who ignited the Stonewall Rebellion. Marsha was a performer and activist who dedicated herself to supporting the most vulnerable LGBTQ New Yorkers with clothes, food and resources. She resisted violence and oppression by asserting her existence and that of those around her. To me she was the embodiment of my existence as resistance.
Hallie Brignall, Annual Fund Manager
Growing up, male domination was this constant, hovering blanket over every aspect of life. It was how you were talked to – how people thought of you – what you could do/couldn’t do – even what you were perceived as being capable of accomplishing.
Even in the rebellious punk rock subculture, misogyny was rampant. You were an accessory. Men told you what to listen to, what to like. I remember people handing flyers to the guy I was with and not to me as if I weren’t autonomous, or men saying things to me like, “you’ve got a really good record collection for a girl.”
As I became more aware, I found myself influenced by girls and women who were challenging the existing power structure of rock n’ roll.
From the likes of Ari Up and Poly Styrene, who didn’t sing about obtaining male affection or rely on stereotypical concepts of female self-worth, to outrageously hyper-sexualized women like Wendy O. Williams and Marian Anderson, who recaptured ownership of their bodies, these women were bold, outspoken, and as the kids say nowadays, “woke”. They moved the needle forward by challenging stereotypes in a very aggressive and sometimes shocking manner, forcing important gender issues to the forefront while demanding equality in how women were seen and treated. And to push it even further, some of them just didn’t care about educating men or changing their minds.
Kathleen Hanna, like Marian, suffered from sexual abuse at a young age and used the stage to not only wrestle with her pain, but also to establish the riotgrrl movement. I never saw anyone take so much crap due to her love for and commitment to women and girls as Kathleen. She poured her heart out on stage, she demanded that the men stand back so that women could literally and metaphorically come forward as she very bluntly called out misogyny. As a result, she was verbally pummeled, berated and called a “feminazi” (a total oxymoron). Societal change always involves a lot of pain as those with privilege and power often refuse to listen or take responsibility for the suffering they’ve caused.
I see the outcome of their efforts now that I’m older. Stepping back and taking in the Women’s Marches around the world has almost been overwhelming. Suddenly it’s not scary or shameful to call yourself a feminist. It’s a mass movement. Hallelujah. Things aren’t perfect, but these bold women are responsible for a lot of change in thought around girls and women – what they are capable of, their value, their position, etc. So I thank them for being fighters and challenging the status quo – for standing up for all of us.