Being Phenomenal Women

by Melissa Brunner


It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman

These are just a few of the many words for which poet and author maya Angelou is being remembered. As I reflected on this particular poem, it occurred to me how pertinent it is that women be celebrated for who we are and all we have to offer.

This is not about feminism. It is about appreciating all people and giving equal respect to all that makes us unique individuals. Have women achieved this? Consider a couple recent events.

Over the weekend, a California man went on a killing spree. He left videos and a written manifesto that offered insight into his motives, namely that this was a day of retribution on which women had to pay for rejecting his advances. He sought out a sorority house as one of his targets. He reportedly had mental illness, but, in comments online, some people applauded him and said his actions were justified. Crazy? Consider this - one in four women have been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. In 2007, 10.1 percent of adult women in Kansas reported being victims of domestic violence. Nearly one in five women has been raped in her lifetime.

The California shooting incident and the reactions from people supporting the attacker's stated motive gave rise to a twitter hashtag, #YesAllWomen. Search it and you will find stories from women sharing the ways, large and small, in which they have been victimized. Whether it was unwelcome groping, cat calls on the street or not being allowed to speak up in a meeting at work, the message is that yes, all women still are encountering challenges because of their gender. A few examples:

It is not only about boorish behavior. In the workplace, for example, the latest White House report on the issue showed full-time working women earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts make.


Meantime, in Nigeria, the search continues for more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped by an extremist group. The group opposes the girls receiving a western education and has threatened to sell them into marriages or the sex trade. Is this far-fetched? Sadly, perhaps not. Each year, more than two million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. In Kansas, the attorney general's office formed an anti-human trafficking task force to combat the occurrence of such crimes right here at home.

I think about my own profession. I am blessed. My bosses have not denied me any assignments on certain topics because of my gender. They see no reason why a female journalist shouldn't be able to speak intelligently about politics, crime or sports. But I know not all people feel that way. I know some people judge women differently. When Katie Couric prepared for her Evening News debut, whole articles were devoted to what she might wear for the big night. I don't recall seeing that same speculation about the tie Scott Pelley might choose when he took her place.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a woman. I appreciate when a man holds the door for me, but I don't think twice about doing the same for him. I like to wear heels and makeup, but you'll also see me in a ponytail, helping clear brush. When I say I need to ask my husband before making a purchase, it's because I respect his opinion as my partner, not because he is the only one who can make the decision. I celebrate the things that make me a woman, just as I celebrate and respect those things that are uniquely male. They won't be the same for all men and women, either. That's the beauty of being human.

I strive to be a woman as phenomenally as I can be. That's me.



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