Martha Michael: With women controlling the volume

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It wasn’t the DACA speech by singer-songwriter Camila Cabello at the Grammy Awards Sunday night that perfectly illustrated the power behind the current wave of the women’s movement. It was support from 6-year-old Blue Ivy Carter, shushing her famous parents, Beyonce and Jay-Z, so their clapping wouldn’t drown out the speaker’s voice. And then there was singer Kesha onstage, “praying” with the Resistance Revival Chorus that delivered a message of solidarity that was music to the ears of many American women.

A newspaper column cannot contain the volume of voices coming from women all over the world. And thanks to the #MeToo movement, it’s the number and decibel level of their voices that’s getting attention – not the volume of their hair or lashes.

No, that train has finally left the station, the same way Metrolink cars filled with Santa Clarita residents pulled away from Via Princessa as early as 6:50 a.m. on January 20 so their voices could join the 500,000 others at the second annual Women’s March in Los Angeles.
Santa Clarita resident Harriette Knight attended both last year’s inaugural Women’s March and this year’s event in downtown L.A.

“Last year, we were so sardined we were unable to physically march, but found it to be a safe haven being around those whom you could speak freely (with) about important issues,” said Knight, a master healer and author. “This year, we listened to all the speakers, marched proudly, and participated in all the festivities. When we took the train home at the end of the day, we felt uplifted and exhilarated.”

Signs held up at the march show how broad the issues are for participants. Many urged the public to vote, while others had messages about immigration or reproductive rights.
“I feel an enormous sense of kinship with those who marched,” Knight said. “We are a mutually respected, supportive, and passionate group of women and men, who are fighting for our country and its rights.”

Why size matters
Like famed Peruvian author Isabel Allende recently said, “For real change, we need feminine energy in the management of the world. We need a critical number of women in positions of power.”

We got a global example of the changing world for females earlier this month when the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was chaired by seven women. A first for the collective, made up of experienced, powerful, government, business and civil society leaders, it reflects the sentiment of the #MeToo movement, bringing to the fore the treatment of women in the workplace and their share of corporate power.

A huge women-supporting-women moment occurred early this month when, like a perfectly choreographed routine, more than 150 former gymnasts united against a powerful abuser. Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for two decades of sexual abuse of girls. It was a female judge and a female prosecutor who hammered the final nails in the coffin when addressing the convicted pedophile.

Calling his abuse “nearly infinite,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said, “Right now, he would be at his office … abusing children, had it not been for the investigative reporters and Rachael (Denhollander) who brought this case.”

A 20-year Santa Clarita resident and former collegiate gymnast said she saw similar behavior in the ‘70s. “This case is a perfect example of victims feeling like it’s their fault,” she said. “They don’t tell parents, or even each other, because they think they’ve done something wrong. They were too traumatized to come forward, but as a group they felt they could without terrible repercussions.”

Rush to judgment
While in downtown L.A. marching for the right to be judged by something more than gender or physical appearance, one Santa Clarita woman was struck by the irony of her daughter missing the Women’s March to go through sorority rush. This recruitment process involves collegiate sorority members making judgments about university women as to their personal fit for membership, while aspiring recruits also choose from the sororities.

“Recruitment requires a lot of small talk and shallow conversations,” said a college student from Santa Clarita who helped launch a sorority on a university campus last year. “After each round, we had to rate the women and decide whether we could see them fitting in with us. The process felt outdated and definitely needs improvement.”

Like an audition experience, pageant participation, and even in the corporate world, women have to get past the competition phase to reap the benefit of the cooperative relationships found on the other side. For many sorority alumnae, it matches the spirit of the movement at large.

“My sisters bonded as a group, yet all of us were very different and unique,” said a Saugus resident, describing her experience during college decades ago. “I felt connected, cared about, and accepted for who I was. Those are the women I am still in touch with.”

‘I underestimated you’
They were the first words Bobby Riggs said to Billie Jean King in 1973 after she beat him in what could be the most pivotal tennis match in history. Though King had already won nine Wimbledon titles and spent years pointing out such inequities as the 750 British pounds she won versus her male counterpart, who took home 2,000 pounds, it took an event that would draw 90 million viewers to make the message loud enough for society to hear – that women were equal to men.

Once again, it was accomplished when King banded together with fellow females, who launched their own tennis tournament. Their sponsor, Virginia Slims tobacco, underscored their statement with its memorable tagline: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

Voices don’t have to be in unison to be heard. In fact, memorable songs typically involve different notes, sometimes dissonant in tone. And if you look at history, it’s the musical blend of poignant messages communicated in rich harmonies that wins awards.

If you have ideas for the Women’s Column, feel free to email [email protected].

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal and serves as editor for three local publications. She has been writing professionally for decades and is the author of “Canyon Country” by Arcadia Publishing.

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