“We are a land of many colors,
and we are singing,
singing, for our lives.”
In last fall’s elections, the U.S. Congress saw a refreshing new influx of those who have been left out of the legislative process far too long—specifically, women and people of color. African-American, Native-American, Latina, and Muslim women were elected from various states across the country. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York is one of them. Since her surprise unseating of the incumbent there, she has been relentlessly criticized by nervous politicians from both parties for her outspoken and uncensored comments about the President and all those in power. Many of those criticisms show just how much public opinion panders to “acceptable” behavior for political candidates, and women in particular.
This country was born out of a revolution. Rebellious and opinionated “forefathers” are a part of American history. Women and African enslaved people, however, were left out of this version of events, unless we look underground and behind the scenes for hidden truths. Power based on sex and race formed the backbone of the new government. Whatever equalities and rights exist today (and we have a long way to go) are because of courageous people who spoke up and fought back against those who would silence them.
Whether or not you agree with her, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is standing firm in a long line of strong women who spoke their minds, “speaking truth to power,” as she puts it. Suffragists in the early 1900s and feminists in the 1970s and 1980s (myself included) stood up for a woman’s right to do just that. Because of them (and those who continue speaking out today), women are taking their rightful place in this country’s social and political structures and, in many cases, turning them upside down with new approaches to getting things done. Specifically: inclusive, circular, nonhierarchical. And by not being “good girls.”
Rebellious women always make people nervous because they threaten the status quo. People of both sexes want them to tone it down, play nice, not offend anyone by being too radical or outspoken. Well, good behavior and playing by the rules, as defined by the patriarchy, has never gotten women anywhere, not even a seat at the table (or a Presidency). Historically, they’ve been relegated to the kitchen, the bedroom, and menial, subservient jobs. It’s only in refusing to be intimidated or silenced that women have together formed a powerful alliance of intent that has challenged the old boys’ clubs and broken through entrenched traditions. They have also challenged prevailing attitudes about acceptable and “good” behavior for women.
It’s time to throw out the old rulebook and create something visionary and inclusive instead of outdated and elitist. “Subvert the dominant paradigm,” as the saying goes. Many of the world’s greatest ideas have seemed impossibly radical and edgy until they slowly worked their way into the collective consciousness, and people began to see their brilliance. Recognizing truth can be a process of opening to a deeper awareness about everything, including one’s own life.
We in this country are at a tipping point: Will we hang onto the racist, sexist historical patterns that created an undemocratic, top-heavy power structure, or will we topple the kingpins and create an alternative that truly embodies equality and freedom for all? It seems to me that in the midst of conflicting and fear-based news reporting, people—and women especially—are finding their voices and raising them together to speak truth to power. Thus is transformative change begun…and continued to its full flowering.