Your heartfelt responses to Amy Ferris’s extraordinary post “I Matter” tell me I’m not alone in being moved by it. Amy’s plunge into the coldest, deepest wells of pain–her courage to swim around in those emotionally drenching experiences, then emerge to share them– and at the same time to share her liberation from the most debilitating parts of her story.
All compelling stories require an antagonist as well as a protagonist, it’s tempting to see Amy’s mother as the villain of the piece. But I’ve also been thinking about something my friend Angela (not her real name, pending permission) said to me one day last February, as we were power walking along the canal near my Scottsdale home. Basking in the desert’s relative winter warmth, I was delighted that Angela had found two days to pop over for a visit after a board meeting in California. Her distinguished career includes having led important nonprofit and governmental organizations in two countries; now she serves on 10 prestigious international boards.
Yet Angela talked about none of that. Instead, she ruminated about her lifelong struggles with weight and body image: “How can any girl feel she’s OK when her mother told her she’s not because someone had told her she wasn’t OK?”
There are patterns of cultural “you’re not OK” messages designed, consciously or not, to keep women self-negating, in order to retain “power over” women’s bodies and by extension, our lives.
What’s different and amazing and to the point of miraculous about this moment we’re living in today is that women are finally positioned to break out, to reject those negatives and embrace the positives, to declare as Amy has, “I matter.” To take the “power-to” and do anything we choose with it. Because we do matter and what we do matters.
It takes many individual, painful, personal redemptions like Amy’s to combine into an alchemy of cultural change. But even that’s not enough to create the structural, permanent change that is needed to set the world aright.
Writer and teacher Maria Clara Paulino commented on her SheWrites.com blog last week:
Everything I write is inherently political though I do not write about politics. Nothing inspires me to get political: I am political because I am human and, because I am human, everything I think, feel, and do is personal. Politics is inextricable from living and living is a personal affair.
It’s not too surprising that both Amy and I happened to spot and reply to Clara’s post. As Aletha has pointed out in a comment to Amy’s story, it takes concerted political engagement, propelled by the simple, powerful act of sharing stories: stories of courage and prevailing over odds to change structures so future generations can thrive.
With our power tools, can we do it?