One of my favorite quotes actually has an unknown author: "Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them."
I have low self-confidence, but I have always prided myself on being a strong woman. As I grow as a person, I continue to become stronger and stronger; I take shit from no one, I stand up for myself and my beliefs vehemently and passionately, and I use my privilege to stick up for those who don't share that privilege. With all that being said, I never would have become the strong woman that I am without the other strong women who came before me.
Representation matters - strong women will only grow when other strong women are in their lives. In 2017, we should stop demonizing strong women in the media. Language matters - calling outspoken women anything other than outspoken is an insult to strong women everywhere. As women's history month comes to a close, I want to talk about another kind of trailblazer: the women who have lead by example, the strong women who are the perfect exemplification of feminism and the way strong women can be. I would never have been the strong woman and feminist I am today without the women who came before.
I come from a family of strong, passionate, and big-hearted women. My mother is one of the most passionate people I know. She never half asses everything, putting her entire heart into everything that she does. She defends my brother and me, sticking up for us when we can't do it ourselves. She taught my brother and me how to be the best people we can be, taught us morality, selflessness, philanthropy, being a good friend and to emulate the qualities of our heroes and role models. She taught us that being ourselves was the most important thing, and taught us how to find people who would love and appreciate us, and push us to grow. She has never tried to stifle our dreams or tell us that our dreams were stupid, impossible, or not worth pursuing. My mother defends the rest of our massive family in a similar fashion, and even people she hardly knows. She will always find the positive in everything and inspires everyone around her. She is always smiling, laughing and cracking jokes. On more than one occasion, she has laughed so hard she's peed herself, which she then, of course, blames on having two children. A massive piece of who I am is because of my mother. If I become half the woman my mother is, I will be lucky. My mother paved the way for me to become the strong woman I am.
My Aunt Kerry has surpassed the title of "strong woman" and moved directly into "complete and total badass." She raised four boys on her own, survived stage four breast cancer, and then decided, at the age of fifty, she was going to have twins. Like, does that not scream badass? My aunt Kerry has never been bitter, never been negative about her situation. It is what it is. She has built this beautiful life with her four boys and the twins, who are the sweetest little babies anyone has ever seen. My aunt paved the way for me to become the strong woman I am.
My great-grandmother was an Italian immigrant who raised five children in the '40s. She was married at 19, and her first child (my grandfather) shortly thereafter. She was the matriarch of our family. She had her "throne," a massive armchair that was her chair specifically, that she would sit in and order everyone around. "Kate, go put the bread in the oven." "Joey, we're going to make an omelet in a bag. Chop some vegetables." She would tell hilarious stories and would claim that no one had visited her in days because a visit doesn't count unless you've had coffee. She was progressive for a woman in her '90s and hardly flinched when my mother told her that my Aunt Lorie had married a woman, and sent her congratulations. She passed away right before my freshman year, and I thought my world had ended. She is the largest reason that I found religion this past year because I can feel her there with me during mass. My mom told me about how proud my Nani would be that I was going through RCIA (basically how you become a Catholic as an adult). My Nani paved the way for me to become the strong woman I am.
I am a proud Gamma Phi Beta, and our philanthropic mission is to "building strong girls." We do this a number of ways, but it was what made me want to be a Gamma Phi Beta with every fiber of my being when I went through formal recruitment last spring. Like the women before me who have paved the way for me to become a strong woman, I will continue to pave the way for others to become as strong as I have become.