I watched an episode of Dr. Oz in which he debated with another guy. As I watched this, I wondered about authority. Both of these men spoke with intelligence. Each was confident of his authority on the same topic, however, they differed in opinion. A silly question entered my mind as I watch them counter each other: would this debate be different if it were between women? Would it be the same kind of debate? Would the audience be able to stand watching two women act like this? My mind then turned to Oprah Winfrey. She is one of the most important people on earth and she is cherished by millions of people. But is she considered an authority in anything? My answer to my initial questions lead to further bleak thoughts.
Later that week, I was chatting with a friend about International Women’s Week. My friend asserted a frightening, yet sincere question that she was thinking about. She felt like she could nearly give up. She stated something similar to “we women make up 52% of the world’s population, if we are not leaders of most things, then perhaps we are indeed the weaker sex.” That comment really threw me off. Yeah, what if? It reminded me of talks I had with my great grandmother some twenty-odd years ago. Granny Short would tell me to look around and see for myself: men are the best at everything. She observed that most women at that time cooked for their families, and yet how is it that it is the men who end up being the best cooks in the world? Why are men the chefs? I think she said this to me to protect me, since she was never one to limit me. I understood what she was saying, but I am glad this is not the end of the story.
So, I asked myself, where are women acting as authorities? Where are these women in my life? It is funny, because I asked that question to no one but myself. All of a sudden, a host of seriously authoritative women came out of the woodwork. A friend on Facebook spontaneously reminded me of a singer I used to listen to a lot, Ani Difranco. Ani is a talented musician and poet that has influenced many, many people over the years in terms of music and politics. She has caused me to think a great deal about my experience. She has also inspired a great deal in me, like she has for many other women too. And she is still involved in her craft, authoritatively.
And then there was a brief blip in thought on the subject when another friend sent me the Rebecca Black song, “Friday”. My friend sent it to me thinking I would appreciate “this really deep song” (heeheehee). I did enjoy it, however not the earworm. But it made me realize that some women end up becoming great, even if they are young and lacking in authority. This is not the worst thing, I am okay with her being lucky with success.
Then another good example came to life while I watched Sarah Kay’s skilled and authoritative TED talk. Once again, I was hopeful for women and the future.
And last but not least, I read a story of tragedy and then triumph. Liz Murray was raised on the streets by drug-addicted parents, sometimes eating chap stick or toothpaste as food, missing a great deal of school and ends up beating all of odds and gets into Harvard.
If I can put aside my need to perceive what is weaker or stronger, and if I look into my own life, I see many examples of women who are authoritative. It is extremely obvious that women are kick’n it in many different realms. I am almost embarrassed that I even asked the silly questions in the first place! But, it was a good exercise for me. And I am sure I will enjoy exploring this topic further.
Tammy Schmidt, Montreal.