I was the girl in the back of the classroom that never raised her hand. The straight A student that wasn't confident enough in her answers to speak up. Opting instead to hide in the shadows and wait until the test to show what I knew. Only visible to those teachers who cared enough about their students to see them and empower even the most reluctant to be seen. Yet, still, I was quiet. And still, I felt entirely invisible.
International Women's Day had me reflecting on the experience of being a woman—past, present and future. The experience of being invisible in a world dominated, controlled, and crafted by men. Learning, shaping, and conforming to a culture and society written by one voice with a singular perspective. An incredible herstory buried beneath history. Or should I say a story not written, simply omitted.
The experience of each woman is vastly different and wholly personal. Women of color, immigrant women, indigenous women, trans women, and countless other groups of women face disproportionate challenges and extremes due to more than just their gender. But the aspect we all have in common is our invisibility.
For countless generations, we have been silent in the face of sexual misconduct and assault by men. Choosing to bear it quietly, alone, in the shadow of a darkness driven there by fear, trauma, and pain. We took lesser pay for the same positions as our male counterparts. We were silent when he always came first. We measured success by the representative faces and stories of those different than our own. We accepted these facts of life because we didn't know about the women who had come before us. Until now.
Because representation matters. Visibility matters.
Women’s voices matter.
I was a shy and quiet girl. I grew up into an equally soft-spoken and reticent young woman, feeling shame about my body and feeling confused about what my pleasure was or even should be. I was the victim of predatory behavior in college and, if I am being real, far into adulthood. I experienced sexism in the office, always feeling diminished by episodes, behaviors, and responses shaped by men. When I created the Femme Project, it took me a while to discover my own voice. But now the voice is growing louder. Stronger. Angry.
This year it's time for Herstory. Time for the stories and experiences of women. I have come to learn that all women have something to say. That their experiences and convictions will reshape what our herstory has been, and will be, about. The history we have been taught was not the whole picture. We owe it to ourselves to highlight the stories of women that serve as the complete picture of our human evolution. Herstory has always been here. All we have to do is look.