In Praise of Wild Women

April 9, 2019

 

Knowing I'm a feminist, you may be surprised to learn that I'm conflicted about Women's History Month. I'm grateful that we have dedicated a time to focus on celebrating women's accomplishments, but are 31 days enough to feature the success stories of 50% of our population? While we should continue to highlight the stories of remarkable women like the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) or Amelia Earhart, aren't we forgetting the women who challenge the system in their own small ways? It's easy to look at Oprah or Sheryl Sandberg and not see how we could ever live up to their examples. This caused me to think back on the women that had the most influence on who I am today. It wasn't a celebrity or historical figure like Eleanor Roosevelt or Maya Angelou.

 

It was my Aunt Liz, who drove me around on her motorcycle in the parking lot of the high school behind her house which she let me steer when no one was looking. She shared my love of Halloween and made my costumes from scratch. She taught me I could be anything, from Mr. Peanut to the Energizer Bunny (complete with fuzzy pink drum), or even a biker chick like her.

 

It was Ms. Wiedder, my high school humanities teacher. On Fridays she set aside time for the entire class to paint while listening to classical music, which was an oasis of calm in the high-stress world of college-prep Catholic school. She would stand on her chair and lead us in reciting E. E. Cummings' "i thank you God for most this amazing" and made sure we all leapt for joy at the "YES!" part. This was well over 17 years ago and I can still recite that poem from memory. She taught me to pause to appreciate the beauty in life.

 

It was the women I met spending summers in Colorado as a kid. I don't remember their names but I was in awe to see them guiding groups on horseback or taking us on fly fishing expeditions. I wanted to be them, living in a cabin in the mountains and spending my days exploring nature. They were living on their terms and taught me I didn't have to have a corner office with a view to be happy.

 

It was the characters from the books and movies that fascinated me. Idgie Threadgoode (TOWANDA!), Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O'Hara, Karen Blixen, and of course my princess, Leia. I was lucky to be raised with the influence of women who valued education and reading. My mother and grandmother ensured that our shelves overflowed with books and never discouraged any of my adventures. The phrase "that's just Megan being Megan" was their go-to instead of advice to follow a more traditional path.

 

The women who had the greatest impact on the woman I am today shared a wild spirit that I hope to carry on. We don't have to be the smartest, most talented, or perfect at whatever we do. Girls are watching us and remembering the little things- the walks in the woods, the trips, the encouragement, the moments that break the mold. We make leave a legacy through our own small acts of subversion, like standing on chairs or letting a second grader drive a motorcycle. 

 

Want to be inspired by more wild women? Here are some amazing stories they probably didn't teach you in history class.

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