Tonight I was browsing my Facebook feed, after reading article after article and watching countless videos about this year’s Golden Globes.
I watched in awe of Oprah Winfrey’s incredible and insightful speech. Then, I watched it again. I just felt so inspired, like I was watching and listening to history unfold before me.
Oprah told her audience of what it is like to be a young girl, watching the first black man to receive the same award that she was receiving that same night. You could hear the wonder in her voice and imagine the joy in her heart. As Oprah continued her speech, I sat in awe at the things she spoke of.She contiuned and per usual of award winners, she thanked a variety of people who helped her along the way.
Then, she said the one of many #Presidential and #inspiring things, “It is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and injustice, to tyrants, and victims and secrets and lies…Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
President — I mean Mrs. Winfrey — spoke directly to the women in the room, and they were surely listening and as inspired by her words as I was.
I will not recount for you all of the speech, but I urge you to listen to it and have included a link. One of the heaviest moments, drawing the crowd of celebrities to its feet (and gathering a triumphant “yeah girl!” from me that sent me cat skittering off the bed) was when she spoke of young Recy Taylor. Recy was a woman who was abducted and raped by a group of white men in the sixties. She is a victim who has gone through the worst of human experiences and spent much of her life fighting against such injustices. When Oprah spoke of Recy and her experience, as one that too many women have experienced, she said,
“We have lived too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men…but their time is up.”
You are right, President Winfrey. Their time is up. Women have come together to fight for what we have always deserved.
I’ve been thinking lately of my own past. I often consider my mother as a non-progressive. I know on some level of my mind that she taught her four daughters to be strong, but I often think critically of her — in a way that only someone’s child can — that she cared too much about what others thought.
I have reflected on this many times as an adult though. Why did she care so much what others thought of her? The older I get the more I realize that as a poor, first-generation student to graduate high school, let alone college, so much was riding her shoulders. She set the standard for what you can achieve for her own mother and her two older sisters.
I realize now that I have often failed to give her struggles credit. After all, I would not be where I am, nor would any of us be where we are, if not for the powerful women setting the example.
My grandmothers — and theirs before them — spent years finding their voices. Growing up in rural Kentucky, neither of my grandmothers had higher than an eighth grade education. In their time this wasn’t a priority. It especially wasn’t a priority for young women.
Despite this, both my grandmothers held and were successful at the same job for the vast majority of their adult lives. (No, literally, the same job. They both worked at the same K-Mart together and that’s how my parents met!) It was what some call a blue-collar job. However, both women took pride in it and did it well. It was never about what other people think, it was about what their families needed. Indeed, my mother’s father died when she was eleven and my maternal grandmother raised three daughters on her own.
These women taught my mother and women of her generation to use their voices. Their resilience to a society which failed to value their education and their determination to work to feed their families in a time when most women were still “supposed” to be at home is nothing short of inspiring. They taught their children to be strong and to have pride in whatever they do.
They taught their daughters to work for what they deserved.
They taught women of my mother’s generation, these Baby Boomers, to go out in to the world and carry their voice with them like a weapon.
Then, in turn, my mother’s generation has taught our generation not to apologize for these voices.
The older I get the more I realize that most of my generation didn’t fight for our voices. We were given them by our mothers. We carry the struggles of our mothers and grandmothers with us.
It is their hardships and their experiences that make our voices a little louder.
As a mother of two beautiful young girls, and as a teacher of young women, it is my hope to continue to teach this next generation to continue using and growing the voices. We have our voices, we know what we deserve because our mothers and grandmothers, women like President Winfrey, planted these ideas in us and helped them grow.