God Says Yes To Me
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
*Kaylin Haught, The Palm of your Hand, Tilbury House Publishers, 1995
On Friday evening, a few of my most favorite ovary-endowed friends and I attended a That Takes Ovaries! Open Mike event on campus. TTO Open Mikes are about encouraging women and girls to organize and speak out for themselves. Each individual event is linked to a larger grassroots movement of raising awareness and (hopefully) funds for girls’ needs, concerns and human rights. Women of all ages are invited to share their stories of acting boldly, bravely, courageously, and men can share a story about a woman they know who demonstrates these qualities for them.
Most of the women (and men) who spoke on Friday were in the 18-25 age group; my friends and I represented the perimenopausal crowd (we were all yawning by 9:00, felt guilty about eating a free cookie or three, and one of us had a hot flash at the end. Restless Leg and incontinence may not have been mentioned, but they usually are). We didn’t get up to say anything, but we heard some amazing stories. Here’s some of what we witnessed:
- a young Japanese exchange student who had prepared a written piece, but who decided instead to tell the story of being stalked by an American male student during her freshman year and wondering if her friends were right when they told her that it was her fault for being too nice to him;
- a young man with a lot of facial piercings who explained to me what “hook-up” culture was, and how women are claiming the right to refuse to be promiscuous despite the pressures of our “hook-up” culture; later he talked about his gratitude to his Mexican-American mother, who worked for the Post Office and fought for him to get the services he needed in public school as he was growing up;
- the soft-spoken representative of Men Against Sexual Violence honoring the courage and resilience of the women he works with, and another guy who stood up, awkward and uncomfortable, and said he was there because he knew he could walk home safely through the park at night but his two sisters might not be able to;
- the joy, pride and flat-out SASS of the female students who worked for 2 years to get space for a Women’s Center on the Illinois campus, and last week celebrated their 1-year anniversary;
- a very funny demonstration of “the Stride of Pride” vs. the “Walk of Shame”
- the female social worker who argued that sex education should include information on the pleasure and importance of sex, not just the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy;
- the pale, skinny girl with spiky hair who read a piece exploring questions about her own sexuality, including being a sexual abuse survivor, and said, “Maybe we’re all just surviving our own sexualities;”
- the female engineering student who read “Documenting It,” one of the stories from That Takes Ovaries that describes making a documentary on the sex trafficking of girls in India; at the end of the story, the woman said that she didn’t have any acts of boldness of her own to share, then stopped and said, “Well, I am a woman in a male-dominated field, and people sometimes think girls aren’t smart enough to be engineers. I always make them sorry!”
- the way Bobbi Ausubel, the facilitator of the event and contributor to the book, smiled and laid her hand gently on each speakers’ chest, and thanked them for letting their voices be heard.
The one message that came through loud and clear to me was that courage is contagious (and I didn’t make that up–it was on one of the handouts). And because it is, if we wish to see courage and resilience in the world, we are morally obligated to BE courageous and resilient and to share our stories with others. Just as fear and small-mindedness are contagious, so is hope, and ANY act of hope, or bravery, or love, no matter how small, calls, as my favorite singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer sings, “the kingdom down and all around us.”
Or, as the poet Antonio Machado wrote, “Any one who moves forward, even a little, is like Jesus walking on the water.”
And the end of the evening, Bobbi Ausubel charged each of us to “Go and do what you believe is good. Go and do what you believe is right.” One small thing that I am going to do is to follow the lead of my friend Bettina and become more educated about the global sex trafficking of girls and women.
I’ve always admired Bettina’s commitment to this cause, but have avoided learning more about it because it is so terrifying and painful, which are absolutely lame reasons not to do something. Two places where you can find out more about the work being done to end this horrific practice are: GenerateHope and Equality Now.
How about you? The point of the evening was that everyone has a story, and everyone can be bold. And as one of the young men in the audience said: “It’s not enough just to be bold on the outside; you have to be bold on the inside too.” Yes.