I am my mother’s daughter, as she was her mother’s daughter. In an age when women stayed home, my grandmother took nontraditional jobs like welding.
My mom embodied the fight for women’s rights. She also believed education to be the great equalizer. When I was in elementary school, my mom earned her master’s. While I entered college, she completed her PhD. Her checks read Dr. Sandra D. K. Kelley.
She could shred me with one look of disappointment and shoot me into unwavering determination with five words: “Honey, you can do it.”
I rose as a national sales trainer just as she lost her job. We lived together in Denver while I travelled for work. She made sure I got to the airport on time and picked me up when I flew in. She took my car in to get the oil changed, ran untold errands, and made the mundane easy for me.
My mom set aside her pride and took jobs that were beneath her, like doing administrative duties on an oil tanker and selling encyclopedias.
Sandra Kelley was a woman warrior, but even warriors succumb to cancer. She died on April 28, 1995 at age 56.
For years, I danced for the affections of a woman now gone from this world.
It took me decades to see what my mother sacrificed in the name of women’s rights: her femininity. She couldn’t afford vulnerability. All that pushing down of emotions—propelling forward when two marriages fell apart and her only son died—ravaged her on the inside.
In many ways, I’ve marched behind my mother—two marriages in my wake, a couple of degrees earned late, and grief that threatened my desire to fulfill my destiny.
I carry my mother’s strength and I’m meant to be, do, and own more. Be more at peace in my own skin. Do what’s right for me, not just to prove my power. Own my feelings and truth.
Own this moment in history—mine and the collective. We’re our mothers’ daughters, but we’re so much more.
A friend of mine told me her mother wasn’t on the front lines of the fight for women’s rights. In fact, she advocated for no change and thought women like my mom were insane for trying to shake things up, jeopardizing the sweet position her mother held at home with the kids. She loved being a housewife. What?
I’d never considered that mindset. I didn’t know this friend when I was a child in the 70s.
I believed every woman felt the calling to rise out of her current circumstances.
I also couldn’t fathom that my friend’s mother would feed her scraps of judgement on homosexuality and therefore invite my friend to hide hers—even from herself—until her mid-30s.
We’re our mother’s daughters, but we’re not our mothers.
Every movement, every step of progress, brings challenge.
To compete with and find our place in the workforce dominated by men, we often became like them, never letting them see us sweat or struggle or cry.
That “never send a boy to do a man’s job; send a woman” still implied the job belonged to the man.
We’ve journeyed far enough down the historical line to prove a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be and works her way into.
However, along the way—maybe as backlash to the women’s movement or maybe a salute to Disney’s influence—little girls weren’t told they could be President or queen, but that they were princesses. Pink became the perpetual color of a generation of women who could be my daughters.
Too many either didn’t know or forgot the lessons of our mothers. I heard young women in my own family laughing off flirting bosses and other men who were clearly crossing the line.
I know educated women in their 30s and 40s who chose to vote with their husbands and invested less time researching issues and candidates than researching their next vacation or home decorations. Because their husbands knew better?
Use it or lose it applies to our voices and our votes. Just because you showed up doesn’t mean you voted your conscience or what’s good for your kids, especially your daughters.
The Me Too Movement was born after we individually and collectively tried to brave the worst of circumstances.
Here’s the sickest truth I know: the man who raped me likely raped my mother.
I can’t prove it and since she’s deceased I can’t ask her, but I’ve never seen my mother shaken like I did after the night she went out with him.
She was a woman warrior—the kind who would’ve sworn before that she would make sure a rapist would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Many years prior, she’d won a discrimination law suit in my hometown when a less qualified man was hired into a job she’d applied for with the school system.
In 1988, I continued a friendship with my manager and continued working for him after the night I tried to forget—the night he raped me.
Shortly after my brother died on December 10, 1989, this man—let’s call him Dick—called my mother’s house to speak to me and ended up talking to my mother for over an hour.
I didn’t know then, but I can see it now. Dick began grooming my mom in the way a career criminal and master manipulator grooms a grown woman who’s fresh into the storm of grief over the death of her only son.
I can’t go on with that story because even now I want to deny what I know is true—how my trying to be strong was wrong.
I did my best. Still, I think: what have I done?
What have we done? Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too.
Men are the culprits (typically), but have we, at times, been complicit by keeping quiet?
No longer. This is our time. I applaud Andrea Constand, Victoria Valentino, Ashley Judd, Dr. Ford, and too many others who share all-too-familiar stories.
Every voice matters because truth matters.
Because Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby, and other men who abuse their power can’t be taken down by just a few women.
However, the collective rising is a mighty force.
We’re feminine and fierce. We’re vulnerable and strong.
This is our time. We collectively call out the BS so the Me Too Movement can move us into honest, challenging, and courageous conversations that pave the path forward.
Now, we’ll scream if we must. We will be heard. The daughters of future generations will be treated with respect and dignity.
Women have the power to change society. Like the women who came before and the women who came before them.
We say Me Too. We call BS. Enough. Times up.
No more princesses. Now, we rise as warriors and queens.