I am Woman

One of the first albums I ever owned was Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits. I remember my twelve year old self, singing my heart out with Helen on “I am Woman” in my parents’ living room. I loved that song. I believed it. I believed that equality was now, it was happening all around me and that when I went into the world as an adult I would never have to deal with the harassment and discrimination, the oppression and second class citizenship, that my mom did, because women are powerful and change was happening. Years later, I found myself not taken seriously, being treated differently than men around me. Objectified. Overfamiliarity, leering, sexual license were part of “normal” life and work.

I told my mom one day that I thought her generation had fixed all of that. Why hadn’t she told me? She said “It’s too depressing. I was afraid you might give up.” So, of course, instead, I walked into an adult world I was unprepared for – something I don’t want my twelve year old daughter to do. Maybe we can assess in twenty years and see which approach was better, I don’t know. But this morning, we were listening to “I am Woman” together for the first time. I told her it was one of my favorite songs, a feminist anthem, and that it was about her. And me. Her grandmother and aunts and cousins. And you. All of us. The groundswell of feminist activism in the wake of 2016 is the very physical embodiment of the song. It has taken far too long, and the fight isn’t over, not by a long shot. But the ERA is on the point of passing. Women have had the vote for 100 years. Women of all backgrounds and differentiations are running for office and winning. We are within striking distance of having our first woman president. I still believe. Helen was right, it’s poetry, lived truth, and prescience, as much as song:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible

I am woman