Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I heard a story today on NPR about women in Iraq who no longer feel safe driving because of the increased violence and potential for kidnapping, shooting, or other harm if seen on the road.

It seems such a simple thing and something I realized I take for granted. Driving. And yet, there it is seen as another freedom which must be limited or entirely taken away. What was inspiring about this particular story was an interview with a woman who drives local schoolchildren to and from school. She wears no head scarf; dresses in loud, flashy colors; wears bright makeup; and sports wild red hair. The only time she wears the traditional head scarf is when she buys gas for her vehicle.

And I thought, upon hearing this story, "This woman is fearless." Which may or may not be true. But she is inspirational in her passionate pursuit of something she loves and enjoys. Something she used to take for granted and now must fight for because her culture has shifted and she is now considered less.

My friend, Rachel Claff, and I designed a series of writing and performance workshops for young women a few years ago entitled Shameless. We felt it was important to explore the ways in which women (especially young women) feel stifled or silenced in our society, as well as to offer an environment in which vocalization of taboo issues or long-buried experiences could be safe and supported by others. (We later ran a similar workshop with men; they certainly have their share of silence and repression as well.)

Although we as Western women are much more free than so many other women throughout the world, there are still circumstances within which silence, submission, and/or secrecy are still expected. Diet, media messages, body image, and eating disorders... sex, gender, and exploration of sexuality... harassment and molestation... sexism and prejudice... menstruation, reproduction, menopause, and all things uterine/ovarian... etc.

Not that there's a complete moratorium on such things... but I do think a lot of girls grow up feeling certain topics are off limits, certain ideas and emotions should not be expressed, certain events or feelings cannot be shared.

I hope we continue to find shameless, fearless, empowered women throughout the world who are not afraid to live in a way consistent with their beliefs, dreams, and needs. Women who will die for their cause, who will fight instead of flee, who will speak out and stand up and defy expectation. Women who inspire without even knowing they are inspirational... simply because they live as they believe, and they are who they are.

No comments: