For starters, there was this picture that captured my heart on the internet news a few days ago. Ohio teen, Jackie Kasburg, of Chippewa High School, not only kicked three extra points in the school's homecoming football game, she also took home the title of homecoming queen. What you can't see in this pictures is that she is wearing pink cleats. Football pads, pink cleats, an arm full of roses and a diamond tiara. That has got to be what the founding members of the feminist movement had in mind. In my opinion, feminism is not just about bra burning, and breaking through glass ceilings. It is about being free to be comfortable enough in your own skin (male or female) to pursue your dreams in whatever venue they appear. I wish I'd had a picture of Ms Kasburg on my bulletin board, school locker, or bathroom mirror when I was her age. I'd like to think her beauty and skill and "just do it" attitude would have encouraged me to shed my chicken little skin for whatever made me feel most like ME. Smart vs. popular? Goody-two shoes vs a little bit wild? Go to college or get married? The problem for me back then was not having an idea how to answer these questions and not being brave enough to explore my options. I was a go with the flow kind of girl, doing what was expected of me without rocking too many boats. I left boat rocking for others.
Today I finally watched a movie that has been in my Netflix queue for months. A Walk to Beautiful "tells the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity. Rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities, these women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame. They make the choice to take the long and arduous journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in search of a cure and a new life." One of the women in the film (talk about being brave), Wubete, was really only a girl. Like others in the rural community of Ethiopia where she lived, she was married off at a tender age when she should have still been playing with dolls, not making babies. In a few short years she was living a life of poverty because of the consequences of unassisted childbirth. These girls are too young and too small to be having babies. Many spend days, not hours, in labor only to have the child die inutero. A common side effect of this kind of labor is something I confess I've never heard of - uterine fistulas - holes between the uterine and bladder or intestinal walls. In other words these tears make the girl incontinent, which makes them smell bad, which leads to being discarded by husbands and family and having to somehow find a way to live.
The 30-bed Ethiopian hospital is a place where lives are saved, self-esteem reborn, the ability to be happy renewed. Unfortunately it is a long trek, by bus or foot for many of these women. For some it came down to making this journey or killing themselves. All through the movie, I worried that Wubete, the beautiful girl seen below, was going to choose the latter. After three surgeries, it was decided that her bladder was too badly damaged to repair. Thank the Lord and all his angels that there was something called a "plug" Wubete could insert herself to stop the leaking and begin to live a somewhat normal life.
So on one hand you have Jackie - beautiful, strong and brave with a world of options open to her. On the other, there is Wubete, also beautiful, strong and brave, but whose options are woefully limited. Yet each possesses the smile, heart and determination of women beyond their years.
Not all women are created equal. Some possess riches other cannot even imagine. Some face obstacles that few will ever know. Yet, each in her own way is a feminist. It is the goddess-given right of women everywhere to have the opportunity to grow into the very best they can be.
I say bravo to Kasburg and to all the girls of her generation who reap the rewards of the women who were not content to settle for the male version of status quo. And I say blessed be to women like Wubete who learn to live when surviving seems impossible.
With a grateful heart,