Women's History Month: Five Perspectives
In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month — a time to honor the extraordinary achievements of American Women. I’m so happy they did, because besides Mother’s Day when else are all your problematic male friends going to post about how much they love their moms?
To be perfectly fair and honest, I’m weary of months or days dedicated to celebrating minority or disenfranchised groups. Usually, they are not for the people they are honoring. It is for the white male majority to pat themselves on the back for their inclusivity and tolerance. As a Queer Black Woman, I celebrate Women’s History everyday. I celebrate Black History everyday. I celebrate LGBT+ History everyday — because without an understanding of the importance of the successes, struggles, and sacrifices my predecessors have had to overcome, I don’t believe I could move through this world with integrity.
But since there is a designated time for such reflections and celebrations, we got together some female creatives for a photoshoot on a cold Sunday afternoon...and it quickly became the best part of my month.
In a cheap studio in Bushwick, the five us (six including our incredible photographer Joyce Laxin Zhao) listened to Rocio Durcal, Rihanna, Brockhampton, and Fela Kuti while we told each other our plans for the future. We schemed how to manifest the life we want. There were piggyback rides and tips on how to invest in cryptocurrency. As each individual had their portraits taken we all gathered around and hyped them up.
Then it dawned on me, how being together in this physical space, engaging in discourse that was not political or academic for the sake of it but was because we live our lives at the intersection of so many different issues, was healing. I think it was healing in a way I didn’t realize it was going to be. To take time out of days and come together and celebrate strong Women of the past, but also each other as we are now and as we will be in the future, was truly empowering.
There should be a word or phrase for when you didn’t know you needed something but then you get it, and just for a little while you feel like everything in your life is in order.
Read below to see our thoughts and reflections from that day.
MARIA MARRONE (LA LOBA) - DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER / PHOTOGRAPHER
As a woman, and as a large woman at that, I have always been afraid of being too much. Of taking up too much emotional space and physical space as well. I have lost count of all the times where I've felt the need to make myself appear small so as to not overwhelm or to minimize my feelings and make myself invisible. I think that I've overcome that by realizing that there can be a lot of power in grandeur. I am an incredibly emotional and melodramatic woman (not because I'm a woman but because I'm just messy lol) but that is also my superpower when it comes to connecting to the world. Looking at it that way has allowed me to own the space I take up. You must listen to your body. It holds all of your instincts and intuitions. A lot of the time we get physical emotional responses but choose to ignore them because we don't feel like that's what we "ought to do," but your body holds all of your memories and it is your best companion in all situations. Trust it with your whole heart.
I can't help but look at the women in my life as sisters. There is a sisterhood in feminine energy. I support my fellow women by doing all that I can to celebrate them for their strength, their power, their grace, their demons, their softness, their feminine and masculine energies. My role models now are my friend Cherry, my friend Berto, my mother, the two powerful women I live with, the friends I have that are new or soon to be mothers...I have too many to name...
I’m finding a lot of inspiration in my lineage. I come from a family that has a lot of women and I am learning so much about their history and that is really inspiring me in terms of defining what it means to be a woman to myself. I want to leave this world with love.
CAROLINE D’ARCY GORMAN - FOUNDER / CREATIVE DIRECTOR, DRØME
Something that’s really important to me right now is gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for and so many incredible femmes in my life who give me hope and remind me of the beauty in the world. I am continually in awe that I to get to meet and work with artists who I have respected for years, and that I get to collaborate with such strong, intelligent and creative women every day. Making space for gratitude has helped me navigate life when shit gets hard.
It took me a long time to find a community in which I felt comfortable, probably because it took a long time for me to feel comfortable with myself. A lot of heteronormative values were placed on me when I was younger, and coming out as queer was an internally painful, isolating, and long process. I still feel that I am ‘coming out’ every day, in that I am still coming into who I actually am. Looking back, I would tell my younger self (and perhaps my present-day self, too):
Trust yourself. You know exactly what you are doing even though the world often makes you think otherwise. One day you will find a community where you feel that you belong. Until then, remember that people’s judgements don’t matter. Life is long, slow down! Place self-care first, and everything else you do will benefit. You are enough. You are worthy. Treat yourself with love and kindness and the rest will come.
EDELAWIT HUSSIEN - FILMMAKER
I wish I could tell my younger self that there are girls who look like you doing the things you see for yourself. You haven't met them yet but you will. Unfortunately, the images of beauty and success that you see in magazines, television shows, and movies are not the whole picture.
I've had men cut me off mid-sentence to speak louder and push aside my words. When I was younger, I retreated and no longer shared my opinions or thoughts. I think every year of my life has been another year of learning to take up more space in the world and take it up unapologetically.
I do not compare [myself to other women]. Period. One woman's success has no bearing on another's. If one of us eats, we all eat.
I want to leave [this world] with a collection of works that will transcend generations and say something about the state of society and the experiences of women, people of color, and immigrants.
SATCHEL LEE - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DRØME
I wish I could tell a younger version of myself not to worry so much about what people think. I would tell myself that sometimes people won’t understand you and they will try to package you and make you more easily digestible but you must resist the urge to be easily packaged when you know the box doesn’t fit. You know who you are and what you’re about. Stay true to that.
I have tolerated a lot of bullshit, because as a woman that’s what I’ve been taught to do. So now as a conscious young adult in the world for the first time I’m realizing that in actuality I should not tolerate such foolishness, at all; with work, family, friends, romantic relationships - all of it. I have some unlearning to do. I need to listen and trust in myself more and know that I deserve everything I want, exactly how I want it.
Women are the true embodiment of the Divine. It’s so painfully obvious to me. You can’t know that and look at a woman and not see vast complexities and grace and light. It’s beautiful! Unless she’s like racist and doesn’t understand intersectional feminism. Then you just pray for her and hope for the best.
I want to leave this world knowing I’ve contributed something great and made a difference. When I’m dead I want people to smile and tell outrageous stories about me that may or may not be true. I want people to smile when they think of me now too but we’re only working with 23 years worth of material. There’s still much to be done!
NABILA WIRAKUSUMAH - DESIGNER / CO-FOUNDER, NUANCE
It’s impossible for me to separate my womanhood from my roots and where I came from. The strongest women I know are Indonesian.
Many people in the Western world would probably be surprised to hear that Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, is also home to the largest matrilineal society in the world; the Minangkabau in West Sumatra, where my maternal grandmother is from. There, the women run the household, earn the bulk of the family’s income, and control and inherit all of the family assets. It is the men’s job to “Merantau,” or to “wander about,” until they make something of themselves to prove their worth to the women before they marry.
I’ve struggled with constantly trying to prove myself, with trying to earn the respect of others around me. I didn’t learn about the Minangkabau until a little over a year ago. I’ve been told, time and time again, as a Muslim woman, as a person of color, as a foreigner, to keep my head down and do the work until my value could prove itself. To not ask for too much or be too much because I had to earn it and work hard to deserve it. Bullshit. I work hard. I’ve more than earned it.
I want to evoke the spirit of the Minang women; I want to emulate their understanding that they are leaders. That they run this shit. That it’s the men’s job to prove themselves. That, as women, we are more than enough. We’re everything.