Dear Rosa

"Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground."
- Rosa Parks 

Dear Rosa, Harriet, Ida, Maya, Shirley, & every brilliant woman that has come before me, 

Sometimes I look around at the current state of things and I feel kind of hopeless. I feel hopeless that girls around the world don't have access to an education. Hopeless that men in positions of authority are constantly taking advantage of women in the workplace. Hopeless that despite the advancements
we've made for gender equality, society is still telling us we're "too bossy", "too dramatic", or just plain "too much".  I don't know how you ladies did it. You dedicated your lives to advocating for the voiceless, the forgotten, and the disadvantaged. Somehow you pushed yourself to keep going despite the reality that no one wanted you or people that look like you in their space. You fought for yourself but something tells me you mostly fought for the people that didn't know how. Women and men everywhere looked to you to show them the light. They looked to you to provide hope when there was barely a sparkle shining at the end of the tunnel. From the deepest of trenches, from the hardest of hardships, your actions became power and your power became the example we all needed to see. 

If you were still alive today, what would you think of us? I'd love to think you'd be proud. Proud of our presence in the workforce, proud of our contributions to the political climate, proud of our ability to demand leadership and respect. At the same time, though, I feel like you'd be a little disappointed. Is this the way you imagined it? Does it surprise you that we're still fighting for gender equality?  How would you adapt if you were a girl just like me in 2018?

In 2018, there's a slew of new problems that advancements in technology have introduced. Social media has taken over the way we perceive the world around us. What seems like reality is actually the farthest thing from real life. We have become incredibly skillful at cropping and filtering ourselves in a way that shows us in our best light - literally and figuratively. We work the angles to make our bodies appear slim in the right places while emphasizing the parts deemed most desirable.  We spend hours upon hours each day scrolling through images of people's lives we hardly know, wishing our lives were remotely similar. We compare our reality to someone else's without stopping to realize that the images we see as someone's reality, are actually just their highlight reel. An emptiness overcomes us the more we compare the person we see in the mirror to the people we see on the screen of our phone.  Because we don't look like them or have as much money as they do, we start to believe that we're not as worthy, not as beautiful, and not as capable. We seek fulfillment & validation in the "likes" without stopping to seek comfort in the beauty that comes from within. What would you do, ladies? How do we stay timely and relevant with your peers without letting the overwhelming effects of comparison overcome us?

That being said, a lot of our problems remain the same.  Sure, they may look slightly different than the way you experienced them, but the heart of the problem is exactly the same.  Women & girls everywhere are still dealing with the consequences of living in a male-dominated world.  Even with a rise of women in high-power careers due to more women seeking higher education, we are still making 79 cents for every dollar a man makes (and that's just white women). Our role in the workforce continues to be discredited at the hands of the patriarchy who consistently bring us back to where they feel we belong. No matter how much money we make or what position we fill, our role as a woman in our society is something we are forced to not ignore. Our voice puts us at risk of being called "bossy" or "too much". Our bodies make us vulnerable to harassment and judgement. We want to be respected for our professionalism and intelligence but that proves too difficult because of the female bodies we were born into.  We fall victim to saying yes to things we're uncomfortable with simply because making waves by saying no is just too exhausting. Whether it's with our bosses, men that are interested in us, or our friends, we fear that saying no will end the relationship or hurt someone's feelings. We fail to remember that our feelings matter too, and we risk that at the benefit of someone else above ourselves. Aiming to please is often a great quality, but many times it can be our biggest downfall. 

Ladies, I find myself asking "What would you do?" if you were in our shoes today. How would you handle it? Who would you be? Your strength and determination as the female role models we know and love is unmatched. I strive to possess an ounce of the fearlessness you had. The weight of the world you carried on your back for me to live freely in the way I do today is unparalleled. I am grateful for the path you paved for me and the women who look like me to strive for a life of equality and greatness. You have given us an incredible head start but our fight isn't over - it is only the beginning. 


**This post was inspired by the book Dear Martin, a book about a black teenager that writes letters to Dr. King for answers about the racial injustice he faces. It's a heart wrenching, but necessary story of what it means to be a black boy in America today. This letter is my version of looking for answers in the inspiring black women from our history and how we can use their impact to reflect on how we as women live our lives today. 

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