“Being a strong woman means that I am willing to stand up and speak out.”

Name: LeeAnn

Age Group: 60

Race/Ethnicity: Irish, French, Mexican, Spanish

Career/Profession: Psychologist in Private Practice and Full-time University Professor at Dominican University of California

1. Have you ever been told something you don’t think a man would ever be told?

Yes, many times and it usually was about appearance. Since I came of age in the 1970’s political correctness was not common. As one example, when I was in my mid 20’s, a male supervisor told me that the hiring manager did not want to hire me because I was “too pretty and too sexy.” The supervisor argued with him and luckily I was eventually hired. This was for a psychological intern position in a community mental health center.

2. Has anything changed about your idea of what it means to be a woman since you were a teenager?

Of course, I had fairly traditional values in high school. I discovered feminism as a senior in 1974. That changed EVERYTHING.

In your 20s?

I read a lot of feminist material in my late teens and 20’s. I began to see how traditional roles for women often oppressed them and limited their potential. I also began to discover a wonderful area of discourse in the area of women’s spirituality. Removing the male idea of a god was a liberating idea that opened me up to many new possibilities about life and living and dying.

3. What does being a strong woman mean to you?

It means that I am willing to stand up and speak out. It means that while progress has been made in the U.S. for women we still have a long way to go. We have even further to go internationally. It means that you do not hold back and let others do the work. You must jump in and work for change to happen. I have given a lot of time and energy to women’s causes in the U.S. and internationally. I have always believed that there was no other choice.

4. What is the most frustrating/challenging thing about being a woman today?

Seeing that some women and many men still do not get sexism. The fact that Donald Trump could still be elected to the highest office in this country after the release of the “pussy” tapes still astounds me to no end. This clearly illustrates the lack of progress in terms of how we collectively see women in this country.

5. Have you faced any personal or professional struggles because you are a woman?

The whole issue of motherhood is a challenge for professional women. I always knew that I wanted children, but the support for raising them while working is not present in our institutional settings or in government support. The early years were very tough trying to balance work and parenting.

6. What/who/which events have inspired you to become the person you are today?

My parents provided a wonderful foundation of love and support. They both tolerated and changed because of my embrace of feminism.  My sister was born with a physical disability due to Spina Bifida and growing up around the challenges she faced made me a fighter. The early deaths of my sister and mother in my 20’s and my own confrontation with deep grief further developed my compassion for the human condition.

7. Have you ever had any moments of self-doubt?

Rarely…and this astounds some of my female friends and never about my belief in equality for all.

8. When did you start to feel comfortable with who are you as a person/in your own skin?

Senior year of high school. I realized that I had my own life to live and that what I did was never going to be dependent on or for a man. I have been married for 35 years to a man who understands this about me. Also, I have worked hard to accept the changes my own body has gone through as a result of the natural aging process and to celebrate the “new me” every step of the way. There are so many pressures on women to look a certain way – from other women, from men, and from the media. It takes real strength to not buy into the trap of the “beauty myth.” If you do, it undermines the belief we have in ourselves and creates self-doubt which allows others to be in the driver’s seat where you actually belong.

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