@trmugler.com

A Woman Like Me

T.R. Mugler

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I grew up in a world where most people looked like me. I watched the world change while women evolved and did extraordinary things. These women also looked like me.

I admired Barbara Walters sitting next to Hugh Downs co-anchoring the news and looked forward to her numerous one on one interviews for the infamous Barbara Walters Specials. Geraldine Ferraro was the selected VP choice of Walter Mondale while I was in high school. The excitement around the historic moment left me disappointed that I wasn’t old enough to vote, and equally frustrated when they lost.

Seeing women doing the same jobs as men, I felt empowered and believed through them, that I too could do anything.

Growing up during the ending run of the second wave feminist movement, my young and naïve mind believed we had won. We had won some long hard-fought battle against the patriarchy and women were finally equal, after all the television and magazine world seemed to be packed full of brilliant, strong & intelligent women rattling the cages of oppression and ringing in feminism.

Gloria Steinman was a household name, and Ms. magazine was often found on our coffee table. Comedian’s like Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers were in the mainstream, Dolly Parton left Porter Wagoner and struck out on her own to an unprecedented success. Stevie Nicks was leading Fleetwood Mac in sold out venues, Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court and Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State. While these women were few and far between, I believed nothing was impossible.

These women weren’t my heroes, they were my possible and they all looked like me.

I was a white kid living in the projects, on the outskirts of hope and opportunity, and I always knew I could and would get out. The young women of color around me, didn’t have this multitude of successful women that looked like them. They didn’t have this ingrained expectation of success to fill their pores with possibilities and triumph.

It’s not that women of color haven’t done extraordinary things or found insurmountable success throughout the history of the world, they indeed have. Unfortunately, you have to look hard to find them. Stories written down, yet not repeated get lost in the winds of change. History tends to linger in the stories that are told and taught in our schools, our movie theaters, around our dinner tables and on the nightly news.

If the stories of Harriet Tubman, Madame C.J. Walker, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vauhn, Mary Jackson, and Shirley Chisholm aren’t taught to the next generation, they disappear into the background noise and someone calls it progress.

While poet Maya Angelou’s autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, spoke to all women and young girls, her oration of ‘On the Pulse of Morning’, during President Clinton’s inauguration was unprecedented, and little black and brown girls were paying attention.

Oprah Winfrey rose to the top with the admiration of most women. Like many others, her story and success weren’t without hard work and sacrifice, and she soon became a long-awaited example that success doesn’t have to be measured by color or gender alone.

Tarana Burke hatched the #metoo hashtag to show young survivors of sexual assault they were not alone. It has grown to a national movement for women of all colors and socioeconomic position, the fact a black woman sits at the helm isn’t lost on black and brown girls, who are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.

From memoir writer to editor, New York Time’s bestseller Roxane Gay has not gone unnoticed among women eagerly searching for representation in the often pale waters of publishing success.

The rise of film maker Ava Duvernay for her incredible work behind ‘When They See Us’, and Pulitzer winning journalism of Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking ‘1619 Project’, women of color are finding true to life inspiration in women like them.

The nomination and successful election of America’s first female Vice President has broken a multitude of barriers simultaneously. Kamala Harris isn’t just the first female, she’s the first black, the first Indian, the first bi-racial Vice President of the United States. While this is exciting for all women, for little black and brown girls looking for role models that look like them, it’s so much more.

Representation matters. Seeing yourself in others doesn’t just sew empathy or understanding, it can weave ambition and determination into your DNA. It can mirror a future never imagined.

Held up high, by the many women who have carved a path in the hardest of stone, Kamala is that mirror. Every little girl and young woman, from every walk of life and every color can now see themselves where they once never dared to dream.

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