No, no, no, no no I muttered while fiddling with my phone. My husband who was pouring a Friday night glass of wine didn’t know what I was muttering about and tried to reassure me that though the vintage was different than the bottle we had tried a few nights prior it still tasted ok.
My daughter a little quicker on the uptake said, "I don’t think she’s talking about the wine."
She was correct. As a guzzler of boxed wine when I first met my husband in the Zambian bush, my palate had not elevated to that level of sophistication though, thankfully my social conscious had evolved.
My text box was blowing up with the news of RBG’s passing. The sorrow that flooded my being was palpable. A legendary fighter not just for women’s rights, but for human rights had passed the torch.
The problem that immediately came to mind was who is going to take the torch.
Who is going to protect us, fight for us, and demand fairness among the sexes?
Who is going to fill her diminutive yet enormous shoes, who will wear her dissenting collar, who will remind us to do push-ups at 80, listen to Opera and celebrate marriage based on equality, love, and shared responsibilities?
My daughter asked “ who is she?” as I lamented her passing. I reminded her that we had read her story in her Rebel Girls book. She said oh she’s the one on your t-shirt.
The t-shirt I sport with the slogan “Not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb” alongside RGB’s face.
The t-shirt that causes my husband to simultaneously smile while his eyes flash here she goes.
The t-shirt that reminds me vulnerability, compassion, equality, dissent and respect are the pillars of a strong and healthy society.
Growing up in the south I saw women’s weaknesses celebrated, uplifted and their fragility exemplified and put on a pedestal. I was told over and over again by words, actions, and social conditioning that women’s voices mattered but not in the same way men’s voices did.
However, I was not stupid. Looking beyond what I was told, I saw a society of women that were cunning, smart, quick-witted, and steely who hid their intelligence to keep societal norms in place.
The cognitive dissonance of this mixed messaging was confusing and frustrating.
Women were not encouraged to be outspoken or ambitious in their own right. Their ambition was tied directly to that of the men in their lives. Their status directly correlated with their husbands or sons. Women who stood firmly on their own two feet were not celebrated. They were marginalized.
In college, I met a group of women who were brash, bold, beautiful, outspoken, and ready to take on the world. While I floundered and struggled to find the strength to stand on my two legs, to stand in my truth and my power I drew strength from this remarkable Fortress of women who showed me that women’s voices mattered in exactly the same way men’s did. Not only did our voices deserve to be counted, they made the conversation more interesting, inclusive and creative.
The state of our nation is fragile right now.
We are all on tenterhooks exhausted by the discord, fear, disease, racism, sexism, and leaders who do little to heal our hurt. We are depressed that the best we can come up with is two old white men.
In a nation filled with so much diversity, the old ways are still entrenched.
The white male voice is still top dog.
The white male voice is important. I am married to a white male. I’m raising a white male.
I do not wish to see their voices marginalized.
I want to see them share.
To create a seat at the table and honor the unique voices and experiences that represent our collective.
As RBG said “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
As we move forward I would ask for more.
Not only do they take their feet off our necks, but they extend their hands to help us up and give us equal footing.
That they realize we are better together and as we work alongside each other they give weight, respect, and value to voices that are different than the traditional voice of power but are equally as powerful and interesting.
RBG fought for equality. She showed us that you can be small and powerful, you can celebrate your femininity with lace and dissent and still be a feminist, you can disagree with fury and still show respect. That one person can make a difference.
As we mourn her, and remember her, and love her the best thing we can do is to teach our daughters and our sons that vulnerability, compassion, equality, dissent and respect are the pillars of a strong and healthy society.
That kindness matters, that within fragility there is power, that push-ups at 80 are accessible to all of us.
To all strive to be as RBG so eloquently stated "Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid."