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What Woman Set a New Standard for You?
We're offered narrow models and stereotypes. Who showed you more was possible?
Next week, I’ll share highlights from your thoughts on where you keep count of women’s representation. Feel free to add to the conversation (and mention any other kinds of counting you do).
When I got married, I married into a yiayia-in-law. My husband’s grandmother is a pistol, and she received a distinctive tribute at her 90th birthday party a few years ago. I joined my in-laws and friends of the family for a boisterous meal with many toasts. Multiple women at the table credited Dorothy with “expanding my idea of what a woman could be.”
For some, it was early trips to the opera or the ballet—the invitation into a heightened world of beauty. For others, it was her unshy stubbornness. Different women saw different possibilities reflected by her life, but many of them saw something in her they hadn’t seen in anyone else.
One goal I have in running Other Feminisms is to spotlight more voices and experiences than my own. It’s why I structure the newsletter to have a Monday prompt from me, and then a compilation of your responses the next Thursday.
I’d love to go beyond that, running more guest posts or interviews with some of you, especially with people who don’t think of themselves as writers. There was a trenchant and true remark during my event with Plough on “The Case for One More Child” about assembling a group of writers to talk about work-life-parenting balance. Writing isn’t my day job, but the point about the narrowness of representation stands.
I have one guest author on her way, but I’d love to spotlight more women nominated by you.
For this week, I’d love to hear about a woman who expanded your own sense of what it could mean to live as a woman. And, if she’s still living/someone you keep in touch with, please let me know by replying to this email if you’d like to possibly interview her yourself or have me do it as part of a new feature of this substack.
I’ll give one example of my own. When I went to college, I had the advantage of already being very comfortable standing up for myself. Even now, when I do speaking engagements, I need to remind myself to make sure I’m not jumping in too quickly for every question, to make sure quieter voices can still be heard.
April, the head of the debate organization I joined, wasn’t loud and forceful like me at all. She was soft-spoken, she wore what felt like Tolkien-toned clothes (beret excepted), and (although we haven’t gone back to back) I believe she’s shorter than I am. But she had an unmistakable sense of authority and presence.
As a freshman, I was a little scared of her, and thrilled when she paid me a compliment. Her stillness was a different kind of strength than my forcefulness.
We’ve remained friends, and we’ve remained fairly different in this way—our friendship isn’t an averaging out. But I feel more prepared to raise my daughter, and offer her a fuller sense of what kind of woman she can grow up to be, because I know April.