International Mommas: The Women I Know

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While a surge of females are hashtagging themselves into the history books for A Day Without A Woman (#ADayWithoutAWoman) on International Women’s Day (#InternationalWomensDay) I celebrate those who stand strong in the shadows.

Everyday, I’m thankful for my momma and all of the strong, Appalachian women who came before her or stand beside her; the women who guided me and, together with my dad and grandfather, helped me become the man I am today.

I’ve never known the women of the wage gap, those who feel unequal or unheard, the bra burners, the disenfranchised, the devalued, the Middle Eastern and Third World voices who are never heard behind the veil; who can’t vote, drive, dance, or be a woman.

The only women I’ve known were stronger than most men, and they don’t or never would have put up with misogyny.

The women I know have a gentle spirit with hands that know how to hold on and love with all their heart, or smack and grab to make you mind.

The women I know? They know how to mend your cuts, tend your bruises, till the soil, lead the people and win their run for office, love their God, respect their family, shoot a pistol, ride a horse, instruct a classroom, mend a shirt, cook a mean pot of chicken and dumplings, and do most any job a man can do. … And they know it.

The women I know have always known it.

Knowing the women I know fills me with pride. It also makes me sad for women marching today; those who live lives so devalued, who feel so degraded either among themselves or their peers, that they believe it takes more than one voice to be heard and more than one body to be seen.

Trust me, if you see my momma coming at you with purpose, you don’t need a mob to tell the world we need strong women.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always known the women of the world are the glue that holds us all together.

Not only did my momma show me so, but The Bible does a fine job telling me, too. From my point of view, you could argue its finer points depending on your religion or lack thereof, but Proverbs says, “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

That’s where I stand and this is my honor, to my momma and the women like her—the real feminists—whom I choose to praise today and always, because it’s difficult to show the world how valuable you are by taking a day off.

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Vagina Couture & Arranged Marriages: 21st Century Feminism at the Women’s March on Washington

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Donning pink “pussyhats” and dressing as human vaginas, participants in the Women’s March On Washington (WMOW) last Saturday ensured their place on Wikipedia while pro-life women across the country expressed disdain and discrimination from fellow protestors who devalued their beliefs.

In fairness, WMOW maintained a pro-choice platform in the days before the march, inviting anyone to attend as long as they kept the Skull and Crossbones credo in mind.

With that in mind, the organization’s website womensmarch.com states it “will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society” and will “work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”

Sounds like a plan or at least it was until, according to the New York Times, WMOW removed pro-life women’s movement, New Wave Feminists, from its website then allegedly ignored Students for Life of America, a pro-life student group.

Knowing these facts, and how Americans love a good prequel, I couldn’t help but wonder why pundits aren’t talking more about Women’s March Co-Chair Linda Sarsour.

Despite Sarsour’s growing role as a 21st Century feminist and civil rights leader, a 10-year-old news story, “Arranged marriages ‘alive’ in Brooklyn,” published by Dubai-based Al Arabiya News, presents a square peg in her fight for “justice and equity.”

Painted by mainstream wordsmiths with a gentle brush, Sarsour is depicted almost ethereally despite her Brooklyn-born frankness. New York City is her home, where she’s well noted and highly respected from all accounts. And who could disagree after reading her tweets about sisterhood and the rights of women?

Sarsour was even a little self-deprecating about WMOW’s decision to include pro-lifers in its march, telling the NY Times it was “a mistake,” and back on Nov. 11, 2016 from her Twitter handle @lsarsour she tweeted, “We can disagree & still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression & denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

That sounds like an all-inclusive outlook, right? What could possibly be oppressive?

Let’s take a longer look at her Al Arabiya interview on Dec. 21, 2007.

In it, Sarsour is so vehemently against the “oppression and denial of [her] humanity” that she was wed through an arranged marriage.

She’s okay with that though, because most marriages formed from love don’t work.

“Like most girls in her community, Linda always knew her husband would be chosen for her, and she accepted it because it is the norm,” Al Arabiya wrote.

Wait. What?

“‘They don’t really force you into it,” Sarsour told the reporter. “‘They convince you. And for me, it was normal. I expected it to happen that way.'”

It’s okay. Arranged marriages are normal—widely accepted among independent, American women. She expected it. Besides, Sarsour’s husband “spotted her at a wedding ceremony when she was 16 years old.”

“‘And in that community, this is how most find their spouses,'” Al Arabiya noted. “‘They come from all over the United States to attend weddings and engagements, and meet single girls who they could potentially marry. Then, the traditional steps are taken.'”

“’First, the guy sees the girl. It is physical attraction that draws them,” she said. “Then, he tells his parents about it.’ And the process is launched.”

March on, ladies.

Liberated “women like Linda accept being set-up because they don’t really believe in ‘love story weddings.”

Besides, Linda replied, ‘If I fight with my husband, I can always run to my father because he is the one who chose him for me.’”

Al Arabiya thought it was important to note, “‘In the United Sates, most people marry for love,” but Linda believes “that marriages based on love are the ones that usually end up in divorce.”

‘When it is an arranged marriage,’ said Linda, ‘I think you develop a tolerance…. Love comes after the wedding….”

Sarsour liberated herself from marrying for love though. She got permission from her husband to go to school and make something of herself.

“‘Linda made herself clear: she wanted to go to college, get a job, and have enough independence to feel like her own person. And when he agreed to her terms, she asked to get it in writing.'”

I’m assuming that “get it in writing” was for “parity and equity,” per the Women’s March mission statement. Because obtaining written permission from your husband to go to college, get a job, and have [just enough] independence to feel like [your] own person” is definitely not “rooted in [Linda Sarsour’s] oppression & denial of [her] humanity and right to exist.”

“‘My parents aren’t even that religious at all,'” she added. “‘It’s mostly about the culture, the reputation, you know, what people will say.'”

Weird. I guess a woman’s right to be Pro-Life has nothing to do with her body, nor her “culture, the reputation, you know, what people will say.”

There is some light at the end of this liberated uterus though.

Sarsour was clear. She “will not ask her own daughters to go through an arranged marriage.” All she wants is for them to choose someone who is from their religion, cultural/ethnic background “and that will be traditional enough.”

So, if you’re an emancipated American woman who marched for your rights on Saturday, but you’re still looking for that takeaway moment while you seek “parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society” don’t forget to ask your husband before you march anywhere again.

If he disagrees with you, you can always run to your father. He chose him for you.