I grew up thinking it was a matter of course that women can and should lead nations. In my home, we discussed and debated the policies of Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, and Margaret Thatcher. All women prime ministers during my lifetime. It never ocurred to me that this was something remarkable. Until I started looking at the history of Canada and the US. In the entire histories of these nations, both the US and Canada have never had a female leader - especially ironic to me, as I grew up with media stereotypes of the submissive, demure, exotic Asian female.
I understood pretty early how important it is to SEE role models - images and actual sightings of folks who look like you taking up space, speaking up, making decisions, holding seats of power.
Yesterday, Coe Booth, Sarah Darer Littman, Maryrose Wood and I read from our books at the Bronx Library Center. The auditorium we were in held over one hundred students from the Bronx. Over eighty percent of them were brown. Maybe even closer to ninety percent. I thought of how important it was for them to see two brown women on the stage, reading from works that focused on experiences these students could relate to - expressing worldviews these students knew well. Whether they knew it or not, we were creating a window for them to what was Possible. They could then see *themselves* up on a stage, where there was room for their expressions, their words, their image.
And I thought of how important it was for them to hear us voicing into reality the things they struggle with, real issues they face - particularly with the flurry of questions Sarah got over her upcoming book on a girl's relationship with an internet predator. These young men and women were hungry for what is REAL. What they know in their bones.
I wondered how many times these same students would sit through similar readings with absolutely NO reflection of their realities. No recognition that they exist at all. And that, of course, is precisely what they experience when they watch TV, or open a mainstream magazine, or peruse many of the books in large chain bookstores.
Still. Yesterday, they got to see and hear a diverse panel of women authors. And that, at least for now, is something.