A Snapshot of Five Defiant, Badass Women in My Life

Don’t tell them to smile.


Megumu

Toyota Motor Kyushu in Miyawaka City, Japan produces 650,000 cars annually.

“My mother used to say my brain looked like a boy’s one.”

The company employs about 8,800 people.

“She also said I left my penis in her uterus.”

Megumu is its only female engineer.

“They see me just as a woman and think women are all the same, so they believe I will quit my job when I get married or have a baby.”

On the first day of work, her supervisor asked Megumu if she would prefer a low-level temporary position.

“No thank you.”

He reminded her that the department would have to dedicate five years to her training, and how inconvenient it’d be for them if she left on account of a husband or a child. The temporary role might be a good option, he encouraged.

“OK, I understand. Still no thank you.”

Seven years later, Megumu’s work produces bumpers and other vital parts for several models of Lexus sold around the world.

“Japanese believe men are better than women at science and engineering. This thinking can’t encourage women to gain.”

On a trip to Toronto, Megumu tours a Lexus dealership to see the cars she produced. She inspects the bumpers painstakingly, running her fingers along the plastic and peering at the detail, her eyes inches from the surface. The bumpers are perfect, and Megumu looks satisfied.

“Sometimes I wonder if I should behave like a stereotype, because it is usually easier than making someone understand me. But this is uncomfortable for me.”

Sunny

Sunny is listening to a podcast on the bus after a workout. She is looking out the window, chuckling to herself as the radio hosts throw shade at politicians and celebrities. At the next stop, a guy in his mid-twenties sits down next to her.

A few stops later, Sunny is jolted into awareness when she feels something, someone’s weight suddenly pressing on her body. Unwarranted and unashamed, the man had pressed his hand and his leg against her. She looks over at him, alarmed, repulsed, and he meets her eyes with a slimy smirk. The man holds his gaze and his body against hers. He doesn’t move.

“I don’t fucking like that!” Sunny fires.

Startled, the man recoils and acts casual, playing it off with nonchalance. Sunny doesn’t relent. She loudly insists he let her out, and he adjusts slightly to allow her past. No, she tells him, get out of your seat, stand up, and let me out.

“I know I’m being loud, but I don’t care,” Sunny recalls. “I wanted him to know he was wrong, and I wanted people to know what this fucking creep was up to.”

Amid the commotion, Sunny settles in a seat a few rows back, fuming. The next stop, through a sea of turning heads, of eyes affixed on him, the man hurries down the aisle and off the bus.


Eriko

“The way I grew up, my family, my mom especially, would keep the kids inside the house. No matter how old you are, they’re happy that you’re living in their house. They were in charge of our life. Almost in a way like you’re brainwashed.”
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“When I found dance, I found myself. That’s a rebirth. Since then my whole life changed. It was a brand-new feeling of, I’m doing something that nobody forced me to do. I’m doing something where my heart is pure. I picked it. I chose it. Since then I found me. Before it was me, but it was made out of somebody else’s decisions, somebody else’s standards and values. I used to be a little leaf on the river. Now I’m a fish. I swim and I go wherever I want.”
“When the music is good, I’ll just zone out, black out. I don’t remember what happened — but I do remember the feeling. That’s the best. When the blackout happens, it really doesn’t matter if there are people around or not. But then I hear people clapping, I hear people’s response, because they just saw my stories. I don’t really dance for people; I just dance to myself and to the music. It’s a very a personal moment, but people just get to see because they happen to be around.”

Beatrice

Beatrice is four years old. She loves writing with crayons. She also likes peeling the paper off her crayons. Thing is, when she writes with the paperless crayons, they break.

One day Beatrice’s mom walked into the living room to find crayon paper scattered all over the floor, and Beatrice diligently snapping the naked crayons into pieces and scooping them into a pile of tiny broken bits.

“Bea, what are you doing?” her mom asked. “Are you breaking those on purpose?”

“Yeah,” Bea said. “I’m makin’ a crayon salad!”


Bonnie

Bonnie’s mother, a devout Seventh-day Adventist, decided to leave the church and instead observe the Sabbath at home with Bonnie, 11, and her 12-year-old brother, Gregg. On that day, as per tradition, the family gave up technology; they rested and prayed. Bonnie’s mom also had an additional requirement.

“She decided to throw in fasting,” Bonnie says. From Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, no food.

One summer evening, with the sun still looming high in the Brooklyn sky, Bonnie and Gregg couldn’t deal. With Mom in the back room reading the Bible, the siblings snuck into the kitchen.

“My trick was, what can I eat that she couldn’t smell?”

Bonnie grabbed a large tablespoon and scooped out a heaping mound of crunchy peanut butter. Then Gregg took the spoon and did the same. Soon the siblings were thrust into a frenzy, taking turns frantically scarfing the gooey goodness and forcing it down their throats. Except then Bonnie couldn’t.

“I tried swallowing it, and it literally got stuck in my esophagus and I could not swallow it,” Bonnie says. She tried drinking water, which merely pooled on top of the clogged nuts. “It’s like a handball is in your throat, like your throat is just going to burst.”

Bonnie started gasping, screaming. Gregg freaked.

“Mom, Bonnie’s dying!” he called. “She’s dying!”

Bonnie’s mom rushed in and surveyed the scene. Were they joking? Was he telling on her? No? They jumped in the car; straight to the hospital. When they arrived, Bonnie’s face was red, panicked.

In the emergency room, the doctor took Bonnie into a room, leaned her head back, and pumped high-pressure water into her mouth.

”It literally felt like a fire hydrant went down my throat, and I was barfing up,” she remembers. “All you see is the clumps of peanut butter coming up, going everywhere. It was so bad.”

The next Saturday they went back to church.


Ben Kassoy is the Editor-in-chief of DoSomething.org and the coauthor of eight books. He’s written for the websites of Glamour, Details, GQ, Women’s Health, Teen Vogue, and others. You can reach out on Twitter or read more on his website.


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