International Women's Day's got me thinking about women. Whenever I think about women I think about my time at Mills College. Attending Mills College was one of the best decisions I ever made. It changed my life in so many ways. Mills is a small, all women, liberal arts college in Oakland. I learned a lot during my time there about all kinds of topics, from sociology and religion to creative writing and vocal improvisation. However the most important thing that I learned there wasn’t ever written on the chalkboard in a classroom or discovered within the pages of a reading assignment. I think it’s common for the college experience to be educational beyond the classroom, but what I learned at Mills wasn’t something you could find on just any college campus. It was an experiential learning that was only possible in a place like Mills: the immense power of a woman centered community.
When I think about the Global community of women I am overwhelmed and amazed by the wealth of wisdom and resources that we have at our fingertips. There is so much rich diversity and beautiful cultures that we can share with one another. Though we may be of different races and we each have our own stories, we are united by the fact that we are women. We have so much in common and our differences serve to enrich us all and should be celebrated. There is much we can do to empower each other. When we empower each other we empower ourselves. When we draw on the strength of this community there is literally nothing that we cannot accomplish.
Our dominant culture has failed to inform us of this integral fact. Women have been referred to as “the weaker sex.” The biblical story would have us believe that the first woman was fashioned out of a man’s rib, implying that she was not her own person and purposed solely with serving the needs of men. The reality could be no further from the truth. Since the beginning of time it is the women who have been doing the heavy lifting that keeps our world running along smoothly. It is the women who have been birthing the children and fixing the meals. It is the women who have worked together to keep their families and the greater community healthy and strong. Centuries later, women are doing much more than that. There are capable and creative women in every professional field doing critical work. Still we have to fight to get the same acknowledgement, recognition, and wages that are automatically given to men.
Not only do we have to fight to be recognized equally in society, we are also regularly torn down on a more personal level. Regardless of everything else a woman does in her life she is also expected to look a certain way. In popular culture today there are endless images of women who have been airbrushed and photoshopped in order to appear to be “perfect.” Of course when women compare their real bodies to this false image of perfection they are going to believe that they fall short. This is a diseased dynamic that is rampant in our culture and it is heartbreaking to me. We are already so prone to being our own worst critics, we don’t need any more ammunition to use against ourselves.
Growing up I was taller than almost everyone my age and thought of myself as “the fat kid.” I considered myself out of the running in the competition for physical perfection. I learned at a young age to not care what other people thought. It worked to a certain extent, but deep down I was devastated that I was different and I felt I had no hope of ever being beautiful. It took years for me to slowly open up to the idea that these things I had always believed might not be true. My time spent at Mills with real, strong women of all shapes and sizes probably had a lot to do with my ability to begin to accept myself and even appreciate myself as I was. It’s been a long road but I have learned that everyone is uniquely beautiful and I have made significant progress in reclaiming that sense of beauty for myself.
I want to live in a world in which every woman is able to know her own beauty. This is what inspired my song Beautiful Girls. This song is ultimately a call for women to love themselves exactly as they are. I’m thrilled to be making a cinematic music video for this song that will feature a cast of diverse women coming together and impacting each other in positive ways. This video will display in five minutes what I learned in four years at Mills: that when women come together there is a very special power that is present.
“Love yourself first” is a lyric from the final verse of the song, and that is what I hope every woman can strive for. We deserve it.
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