I Am Woman, Hear Me roar

Updated: Jan 13

hear me roar

It’s true, the older a person gets, the faster the years fly by. 2021—GONE. Zoomed (literally) right by us. Much has changed, and much has stayed the same. I’m not one for making New Year’s Resolutions, but I do kind of like to look back at all the happenings of the previous twelve months—maybe hoping to learn something, or maybe not. But then I start to feel melancholy about all the dear ones we have lost. So I try to keep focused on going forward. It’s what I’ve always done throughout my life, no matter the trial or tribulation.


Yes, pandemic exhaustion has set in. And the reality that scientists now believe COVID is here to stay. How weird is that? Masks are a common thing, even if you’ve been vaccinated. I do think they have become less of a political issue now that you-know-who is out of the White House. I keep a pile of masks by the front door as well as in my car so they’re always handy. So what do we do with this new reality? The same thing we’ve been doing for the past two years—continue to wash our hands thoroughly, mask up, keep our distance when necessary, and continue to encourage vaccines. (We’ve got it memorized, right?)


It’s true, I currently have COVID, but am experiencing no symptoms (so grateful for my two vaccines and my booster). So isolation through the holidays is happening all over again. The solitude brings contemplation, reflection and more NETFLIX. Before COVID, I didn’t have much to do with television. But I admit BritBox, NETFLIX, and Prime as well as podcasts have become my friends. (Truman, my cat, isn’t much for conversation but does let me hug him occasionally.)


Among the movies I am watching is “I Am Woman”—a film that tells of Helen Reddy’s life. And it is a harsh reminder that thirteen states have not ratified the ERA. Five of the states that ratified it are trying to rescind the Equal Rites Amendment—though it is a legal nullity. Ratified in 1972, it wasn’t until 2020 (!) that the required 38 states had ratified it—so Congress needs to eliminate the original deadline. So we wait… for some reason (and you probably know why) I have concerns about this happening anytime soon.


Where does your state stand on this issue? Embarrassingly, Arizona is one that has not ratified the ERA. (And you thought equal rights for women was a done deal?) But in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at I Am Woman.

I Am Woman

Helen Reddy


I am woman, hear me roar In numbers too big to ignore And I know too much to go back an’ pretend ‘Cause I’ve heard it all before And I’ve been down there on the floor No one’s ever gonna keep me down again


Oh yes I am wise But it’s wisdom born of pain Yes, I’ve paid the price But look how much I gained If I have to, I can do anything I am strong (strong) I am invincible (invincible) I am woman


You can bend but never break me ‘Cause it only serves to make me More determined to achieve my final goal And I come back even stronger Not a novice any longer ‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul


Oh yes I am wise But it’s wisdom born of pain Yes, I’ve paid the price But look how much I gained If I have to, I can do anything I am strong (strong) I am invincible (invincible) I am woman


I am woman watch me grow See me standing toe to toe As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land But I’m still an embryo With a long long way to go Until I make my brother understand


Oh yes I am wise But it’s wisdom born of pain Yes, I’ve paid the price But look how much I gained If I have to I can face anything I am strong (strong) I am invincible (invincible) I am woman

Oh, I am woman I am invincible I am strong

I am woman

I am invincible I am strong

I am woman I am invincible I am strong I am woman


Helen Reddy and Ray Burton (both Aussies) collaborated on this song. She wrote it because there was no other song that expressed how she felt battling the sexist music industry in the United States. Music has POWER, and she knew that.


Back in 1972, it became the unofficial theme for the women’s movement. And its words, ”You can bend but never break me ‘Cause it only serves to make me More determined to achieve my final goal” are as prescient today as they were fifty years ago. Why? We all know why. Because still today women deal with sexism. It may be covert or blatant, but we still live in a patriarchal society in most of the world. Helen’s song made feminism accessible to all of us. Music has POWER, and she knew that.


Then the words, “Oh yes I am wise But it’s wisdom born of pain. Yes, I’ve paid the price But look how much I gained—If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong.” Do you recognize yourself in those words?


I certainly do—and I think most of us can. Life is hard, and Helen Reddy knew that because she had lived that.


I have lived that.

And many of you have as well.


Let’s talk about “feminism.” What does it really mean? One thing it is not—man-hating. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous quote, I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” She made this statement when it was still believed that “it’s a man’s world”, which was simply another phrase used for patriarchal culture. Back in the 15th century, men such as Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti, Vespasiano de Bisticci, andAntonio Cornazzano all spoke out in support of women. Baldassare Castiglione even defended women’s moral character believing that it was traditions that were at fault for “the appearance of women’s inferiority.” Some (men) of that generation even felt the fault lied with men themselves because intellectual women were conveniently left out of historical records. Again-that was the fifteenth century! And in the 1800s, America’s John Neal (long associated with Unitarianism and Universalism) was the first women’s rights lecturer here in the States.

According to academics, we are in the fourth wave of feminism since the 19th century, campaigning for voting rights, the right to own property, to receive education, to work, to receive equal pay, to hold public office and enter contracts. In the 21st century, we continue the crusade for maternity leave, legal abortion, and fight against sexual harassment.

What do women want? Simply—to be treated with respect and held on the same level as men. The International Women’s Development Agency defines feminism as this: “Quite simply, feminism is about all genders having equal rights and opportunities”. Simple. And yet most (not all) men and fundamentalists continue to be threatened by feminism. " It’s about respecting diverse women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths, and striving to empower all women to realize their full rights. It’s about leveling the playing field between genders and ensuring that diverse women and girls have the same opportunities in life available to boys and men. And that goes for races as well. Being non-white is struggle enough. Adding gender inequality on top of racism complicates the situation.


The issue is truly about INCLUSIVITY. For everyone, regardless of their gender. Nothing is more hurtful than being excluded. We must learn to acknowledge the interplay between ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious persecution. Equal rights for all genders. Women are not better than men, and men are not better than women. We are all EQUAL. PERIOD. In 365 Days of Gutsy Women, you will read about the women who’ve battled against sexism and misogyny for hundreds of years. And it continues today.


So at the end of this year, 2021, let’s focus on loving one-another. And as the sun rises on 2022, let’s continue to LOVE, ACCEPT, and INCLUDE everyone in whatever way (large or small) that we can. It is the only right thing to do.


May you each experience a healthy and happy New Year.


Love and light to you-all,


Rosemary


Sources:

  • https://iwda.org.au/learn/what-is-feminism/

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism

Gutsy Woman: Barbara Bodichon


I hope there are some who will brave ridicule for the sake of common justice to half the people in the world.”


Englishwoman Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) was a feminist, women’s rights activist, educator and artist. As one of the foremost founders of the women’s rights movement in Britain, she wrote in 1854 A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women. Her publication listed for the first time the restrictions and legal disabilities which British women lived under. Not only did Barbara prove herself a competent

scholar and researcher with her writing, but her pamphlet, was “destined to be the small end of the wedge which was to change the whole fabric of the law’ [Englishwoman’s Review, 1891, p. 149.]” She also co-founded Girton College, Cambridge (1869).


Barbara Bodichon was the daughter of Anne Longden and a Whig politician, Benjamin Leigh Smith. Her birth created a scandal, as Anne and Benjamin were not married. Her father was a Dissenter and a Unitarian, thinking progressively for 19th century England. After Anne’s death, Barbara’s father continued to raise his children, sending them all to local schools where they studied alongside working-class children instead of sending the older boys to an elite school.


Headstrong and compassionate, Barbara was embraced by philanthropists and social workers. Her freedom (from an independent income) was quite unusual for the time. She and her friends began meeting regularly to discuss women’s issues and became known as “The Ladies of Langham Place,” which within a year had grown from a “little committee” to a nation-wide campaign group drafting petitions. The “little committee” became one of the first organized women’s movements in Britain. Together they investigated many causes. When Barbara’s pamphlet was published, it helped advance the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882. Previous to that, Barbara had also campaigned for the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 which allowed women access to divorce courts.


By 1866, Barbara and Emily Davies presented the idea of women’s university education. Giving it to John Stuart Mill MP, it was presented to the House of Commons to support an amendment to the Reform Act that gave the women the right to vote. Because it was defeated, Barbara promptly published Reasons for and Against the Enfranchisement of Women while J.S. Mill published The Subjection of Women.


A life-long and intimate friend of George Eliot’s (Mary Ann Evans), their shared feminism was displayed in totally opposite ways. Whereas George Eliot wrote about it in ambiguous terms, Barbara jumped into activities to assure women’s rights continued to move forward, believing women’s legal grievances be removed by legislation.


If you can find them, Pam Hirsch’s 1998 biography of Barbara Bodichon is highly recommended. There is also a 1949 biography by Hester Burton.



Did you know?

  1. Barbara studied political economy and law and art.

  2. Florence Nightingale is Barbara’s aunt.

  3. At the age of 23, Barbara and her friend Bessie Parkes were allowed (quite unusually) a walking tour of Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. They abandoned their corsets, shortened their skirts and “swanned audaciously in heavy boots and blue-tinted glasses.” Sounds like a lot of fun to me!

Sources:

  • https://victorianweb.org/gender/wojtczak/bodichon.html

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Bodichon

  • https://georgeeliotreview.org/index.php/items/show/100

And in honor of bell hooks—


Book Recommendation: Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center


Review: “a most extraordinary book… Her courage and insight are really phenomenal. And hooks emphasizes that we always need to consider class and race when we discuss gender, She has the courage of her convictions and such emotional and intellectual autonomy. And she was so young—32—when she wrote it. It’s just remarkable.” — O Magazine “Ashley Judd, Books That Made a Difference”


From the Back Cover

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center established bell hooks as one of feminism’s most vital and influential voices. A new preface by the author introduces the second edition of this essential classic to a new generation of feminist readers, while reminding seasoned activists of the need for continual, critical reflection. This carefully argued and powerfully inspirational work is a comprehensive examination of the core issues of sexual politics, including political solidarity among women, men as partners in struggle, and the feminist movement to end violence. Always engaging and frequently provocative, hooks combines an accessible style with critical insight to offer a vision of feminism rooted in compassion, respect, and integrity.


Bell Hooks


Bell Hooks was a cultural critic, feminist theorist, and writer. Celebrated as one of our nation’s leading public intellectual by The Atlantic Monthly, as well as one of Utne Reader’s 100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life, she was a charismatic speaker who divided her time among teaching, writing, and lecturing around the world. Previously a professor in the English departments at Yale University and Oberlin College, hooks most recently was a Distinguished Professor of English at City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of more than seventeen books, including All About Love: New Visions; Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work; Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life; Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood; Killing Rage: Ending Racism; Art on My Mind: Visual Politics; and Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life.

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