I know that for many of us are experiencing a countrywide sentiment that times are changing. Some of us see a better future but for most of my close friends and family, changes that are on the horizon for the United States seem bleak.
As a woman, I am even more concerned. As a university educated woman, I am concerned about my outlook for jobs, further education, and equal pay for equal work. As a daughter, a sister, and an auntie I worry about my family.
Four years ago, when I was last at a cross roads, I went to a professor for a letter of recommendation for graduate school. She asked me to come meet with her and tell her a little bit more about myself to facilitate the letter writing process. After a long conversation about who I am, and where I want to go in my future, my professor told me one of the most important things someone has ever told me in my life. It was more than just a piece of advice. To this day, whenever I think about how lucky I am to be who I am, a young, educated woman born and raised in the United States, I always can hear my professor saying to me “[T]ake comfort in being one of the first generations of women that can make your own choice.”
Let’s think about this word choice. What does choice really mean?
Choice is not simply opportunities. It’s more than that. It is about what choices are available and to whom. Whenever I think about choice I always think about the way my life is totally different from the life of my mother. My life, my socioeconomic status, my privilege, has provided me with more choice than women from my mother’s generation.
My mother is an American but only in the Geo-Political sense of the word. My mother comes from a community that has been over looked by the federal government, and the people of the United States, for many years. My mother is Hawaiian. Coming from the island, life was different. My mother is the product of her environment. This isn’t a bad or a good thing, it’s just how it is. From what I know from my mother, life was very different for her. Expectations of her as a girl were prescribed to match her gender. Her opportunities in life were distinct from those available to her brothers’ because they are male. Although it was not widely talked about at the time, my mother became pregnant at a young age, and for her this made the trajectory of her life’s choices narrow; from a young age she had to put her children and family first (I believe that at this day and age, a young woman with children is not prescribed a certain life, as it was the case for my mother).
My life, in comparison to that of my mother’s, has been the life of privilege. I am privileged because of her. All of the opportunities that have been granted to me in my live are the result of my privilege. Not only have I experienced an abundance of opportunities but every opportunity that I have encountered I have also had resources available to me to pursue them.
You’re probably wondering what my life, and the life of my mother, has to do with current political events. Our story shows how choice can change in a generation. It also shows us how privilege shapes those choices. What does the future entail for young girls in the United States? If we take a step backwards in time, I am concerned that opportunities and resources to pursue all dreams and desires will be taken from the next generation. Even more girls who identify socioeconomically as anything other than upper middle class white will be striped of choices just because of who they are. I am not sure how we can hold the titled of one of the greatest nations in the world when choice (opportunities and resources) for our future generation will be limited to one class of people.
In conclusion I would like all of us to think about the women in our lives. About our mothers, sisters, aunties, nieces, and daughters. We all know them. It is our responsibility to leave the future more beautiful for the generation to come.