The Resistance of American Women

It’s March! This means we celebrate women in history. Through the US Congress’ designation in the late 80s, this month offers a special opportunity in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities to recognize and celebrate the often-overlooked achievements of American women. 

I’ll honor seven women with this post by sharing with you their stories.

Heidi was 15 when she was molested by her friend’s father. She had stayed behind one night when the rest of the group went out to a fair because she didn’t feel well. The father took the others to the fair and then came back and entertained himself with young Heidi. He told her she’d forever be labeled as a slut or worse if she told anybody. He told her she and her family would be shamed if she spoke up. He told her she would lose all of her friends and be terribly alone and scared in High School. Heidi had no doubt he was right, but she went straight to the police anyway.

Anne was a freshman in college when she was assaulted by a boy from her chemistry class. He had cornered her behind the Student Union Building and attempted to put his hands down her pants and up her shirt. “It’s all just fun,” he mused, and said he knew she wanted this as much as he did. He warned her that he’d hurt her if she resisted or called for help, and that no on would believe her over him. She was half his size and knew she would get badly hurt in more ways than one, but she yelled for help anyway.

Emilia was 39 when a group of executive leaders, all men, told her that there was no way she could ever command respect and have credibility with their work teams. They claimed that if they, the executives,  found it hard to consider her a credible expert, that middle management would surely feel the same way. She suggested to this group of men that she had confidence in her abilities and that she was sure she would build and sustain a high degree of confidence from their management teams. They told her they’d “do her a favor.” They offered her 1/2 of what they were planning on paying someone else to do the work and told her she probably wouldn’t succeed, but she succeeded anyway.

Elaine was a senior in High School when she was pressured to have sex with a boy she had been dating for a month or so. They had gone to a dance and then down to a lake with a bunch of others. He had suggested they take a walk towards the bonfire but instead claimed he had some blankets in his car and led her there. After some kissing, he began to undo his pants and made it clear she should do the same. Elaine suggested they get back to the bonfire, to which he proclaimed she was a prude and stuck up. He told her he was doing her a favor by dating her and that no one else would ever ask her out. He said denying him that night would be a death sentence for her reputation. She believed him because he was very popular, but she left the car anyway.

Harper was enjoying a party being thrown in her honor the summer of her 26th year. Lots of colleagues and friends were there to celebrate her recent promotion. All was well until her new boss took the microphone. He had been her supervisor for only about 2 months so he didn’t have a lot to say about her work. He did, however, tell the crowd that Harper must be a damn good fuck because he had never seen so many bedpost promotions occur in such a short time. Anyone who knew this man knew of his power and influence in the organization, and knew that being on his bad side would not bode well for their career. The stunned Harper knew that too, but she took the microphone and told him to go to hell anyway.

Theresa was in her senior year at college when she interviewed with her #1 employer choice. After the interview, one of the men on the interview committee told her she wasn’t slim or pretty enough to be considered. She was embarrassed at the brazen statement, and confused and hurt by the laughter and non-verbal signs of agreement of the men and women also in the interview committee. She responded  by saying, “I don’t think my looks have much to do with my merit” to which the man replied, “that could be true, but you’re still not going to be considered.” Another committee member suggested that Theresa not bother with taking the assessment tests that made up the second part of this employers’ hiring process, but she took them anyway.

Ricki was in her 40s when she was in the lunchroom with about fifteen or so others and overheard her coworkers talking about her hair style, her clothes and her makeup. Apparently, one of them was convinced she was a man in transition; the other one believed she was a lesbian. Both of them were in agreement about one particular thing – Ricki wasn’t welcome. She wasn’t too surprised about this as neither of these two women had ever engaged positively with her, but she was surprised as how confident and bold they were being so hateful in public. Ricki learned from Human Resources (HR) that unless she was harmed or otherwise threatened in her job, nothing was really “wrong” or “illegal.” HR told her she should just steer clear from these two bullies, but she filed a formal complaint about them anyway.

Heidi, Ann, Emilia, Elaine, Harper, Theresa, and Ricki

These are the women I am choosing to honor this month. You know them, by the way, you just know them by different names. These women and their stories are everywhere – they are being oppressed, they are being hurt, they are being shamed, or they are being threatened. I beg you to recognize them.

Resistance is often a heavier and more difficult burden to carry, but the courageous resist anyway.

They resist for themselves.

They resist for others.

They resist for you.

Indeed, resistance is an often over-looked achievement of American women.

Let’s honor those who resist anyway.