Everyday Liberating Forces

By Hannah McCandless

Hannah is a second year student in the Women’s History Graduate Program at Sarah Lawrence College and works as an editor for the Re/Visionist. 

For whatever reason, I was having a difficult time figuring out what to write about this week. For a month focused on “Creating a Liberated Future,” there are thousands of things I could be writing about. As much as I brainstormed, I found myself stuck. The political climate in this country sucks, the social systems in this country suck, and there are so many things that don’t feel like they can be fixed, so I felt stuck. Feeling defeated, I called my mom. (Duh.) Though kind and helpful, her ideas weren’t striking a chord with me, until she said, “Women are being revolutionary and liberating themselves everyday. Sometimes they are Uber Drivers, women wouldn’t be drivers years ago and now they can; it’s the little things.” 

Of course, my mom would help me remember my love for cultural and social history, and telling stories that make you feel positive about the future. So I took some time to think about the moments in my life where I see women making one another feel stronger simply by doing or being something they could not have been several years ago. This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it is helpful. 

  1. When I have a woman as a Lyft Driver: I know my mom said Uber, but I do my best not to use them. When I do find myself in a Lyft with a woman as my driver, I feel really safe. When I am in cars with men I immediately am on high alert. But in a car with a woman, I feel like I can relax. I feel like if I felt unsafe or needed help, I could tell her. Several years ago, women couldn’t do that. Even today, it is still dangerous to be a woman driver. So when I see one, I feel hopeful and safe. And for me that is liberating. 
  2. When my friends tell me about how they’re feeling: No matter how hard we try, the stigmatization of mental health is overwhelming and everywhere. But sometimes I’ll be in conversation with women I know well or some that I don’t know well at all, and we end up talking about our mental health. To hear someone else speak to their troubles and then listen to you speak about yours? It makes a huge difference. Feeling like you can be fully yourself even when you’re sad or overwhelmed – it’s radical. Though conditioned to believe that my emotions can be too much for others based on my assumed gender, I feel safe when my close friends share fears and anxieties because then I know I can, too. This is the type of radical love that means a lot to me, and to have those friendships is a liberating force. 
  3. Random women’s history talks with strangers: I feel like I think about history all of the time and so when it doesn’t come up in casual, non-academic settings, I wonder if anyone else really cares. But when I was recently at physical therapy, politics came up. And at some point, one of the younger physical therapists said she had never heard of Anita Hill. The women who were patients and medical professionals from all of the surrounding tables jumped in to talk about who she was and how powerful her testimony was. Everyone in that moment was passionate and angry with how that piece of history had played out, and everyone told stories about either learning about it later in life or about living in that moment and feeling disappointed. Hearing non-academics passionately discuss women’s history is absolutely liberating. 
  4. When women are religious leaders: I know this is a pretty specific example and if you know me personally, you would know that my mom is a Pastor. But here’s the thing: women who are religious leaders are seriously amazing. My mom grew up in a church which believed that women can not be pastors. As an adult, she left that church and pursued ministry in another denomination. Today she is a pastor in a tiny church in Ohio. And her sermons? They are liberating. In an effort to not talk about my mother too much, I’ll give another example. When visiting a friend out of state, she asked me to help her rip the bandaid of moving to a new community by attending a new church with her. Walking in, we were skeptical. Though initially reserved, our guards fell when we saw a woman walk up to the pulpit and start talking. After church, my friend said she would return because though the sermon was good, more importantly, she felt better about being in a place where a woman would be helping her figure out her religious journey. 

    I’m sure these examples won’t resonate with everyone. But I hope that thinking about and reflecting on the moments in life where we see women liberating themselves or others will give us strength as we move forward fighting for equity. I think sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, and so remembering the things that make us feel strong, no matter how small, are worth thinking about.

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