When I was little, I made decisions about my appearance based on how it affected my ability to play. I cut my long hair off because it got in my face when I was wrestling with my brother, I wore mostly t-shirts because they didn’t stick to my skin when I got sweaty from running around and I never wore dresses because what if I wanted to hang upside down from something or climb a tree?
So when I heard Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad speak about having to hide her voluminous, curly hair in a hijab since the age of seven and having to stay inside while her brother played freely in the river and rode his bike, I was shocked, outraged and incredibly saddened. As an adult, she protested the unjust law that women must wear hijabs and was thrown in jail. She started a social media campaign called “My Stealthy Freedom” encouraging girls and women to post photos of themselves without their hijab on their social media profiles. She now lives in the U.S. in political exile from her home country of Iran. She said that she missed her country and her family, but not the unjust government.
Alinejad was one of a handful of inspiring women who spoke at an event called Women in the World which took place at the Pearl Stable earlier this week. The event, which was in association with the New York Times, brought together women from around the world to discuss women’s rights, breaking social norms and share their unique and inspiring stories. I was sent to cover this event for my internship. When my supervisor said “You’re going to really like it,” that was an understatement.
As the lights dimmed, the first topic that came up was the one of obvious relevance “” the recent election. Whether it was because she was a woman or not, the news that Hillary Clinton did not shatter the “highest and hardest glass ceiling,” as she called it, by becoming the first female president of the U.S., was discouraging to girls everywhere. But as Clinton said, “Some day someone will [become president] and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”
Knowing that, as a woman, I might be held to different standards than the men I compete against professionally, as Clinton was, made me feel discouraged. Witnessing Clinton work so hard over the course of her entire career to be defeated by a man less qualified than her was disheartening.
But listening to these incredible women tell stories about how they broke the glass boxes in which they were put inside, was encouraging and inspiring. Seeing these women on stage reminded me how glad I am to be born a female and how much I value the other females in my life that inspire me.
My mother, of course, was the one who instilled in me such pride to be a girl. I might not have been girly in any way at all but I sure took pride in my identity as a girl. I knew that that identity wasn’t defined by general all-encompassing norms for girls but by my individual norms. My mother inspires me not only in her words but in her actions, as she works and runs a family without error among a thousand other things.
Everyday I am inspired by my female friends. My fellow opinion columnist Sarah Haley is one of the most fearless girls I have ever met. She sticks up for what she believes in and is unabashedly herself, no matter what. My dear friend Anne Ferguson has so much passion for good and walks this world with incredibly rare humility. My roommate and one of my best friends Bailee Manzer is independent and strong. She takes on life with an open mind and unbreakable spirit. With each minute I spend with these girls and other strong women I am inspired and made stronger myself.
Women in the World also featured Patricia Cornwell, one of the world’s top best-selling crime authors; Lorena Chambers, CEO of Chambers Lopez Strategies LLC; Emily Ramshaw, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune; Sandra Uwiringiyimana, activist, college student and author of “How Dare the Sun Rise,” a memoir on surviving the infamous Gatumba war massacre in Burundi and navigating America as a refugee; Randi Gavell, a retired Army Staff Sergeant; Sarah Rudder, a Marine Lance Corporal who became the most decorated athlete at the Invictus games; and Sarah Evans, Founder and Executive Director of Well Aware.
Mia Garza is a senior communication and business double major with a minor in creative writing. Find her on Twitter @lbutter95