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In 1974 when I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:

M A N

Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see what he wrote, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:

woMAN

I recently turned 50 but I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children.

I think about this more often than I would like to admit; it still irks me beyond reason. I have been told more times than I can count that I am too independent – what is too independent? And has anyone, anywhere, ever told a man he was too independent?

Innovators, explorers, scientists the world around and for generations back have been told they can’t do whatever it is they are pursuing. And, yes, many have failed at achieving their goals but many more have succeeded and some have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

To be told that your very existence is entirely dependent upon men fundamentally undermines all that we intuitively know to be true about ourselves, our place in the world, and all that we think ourselves capable of doing.

For many years everything I did was an act of defiance. I was told girls don’t do these things; I was told I couldn’t; I was told I shouldn’t.

Imagine a world where all genders, orientations, colors, and religions are celebrated and every one of us is told, “You can.” What an amazing world we could create.

 

Photo: me in crow pose; credit: photographer unknown

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