#GirlsWriteBack: "And Here I Am, A Woman"


#GirlsWriteBack is a summer writing project hosted by the GirlSense & NonSense Blog.It features weekly essays, poems, and fiction by young women writers responding to news headlines.

And Here I Am, A Woman

By Lauren Bramwell

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The other day while browsing the depths of twitter, I came across an article that lit a fire in me. It was titled, “The uncomfortable truth of working as a woman on capitol hill.” In summary, the article walked through the inequalities that are hidden in every corner of the White House’s sacred halls.

As I read the article, and toured these corners of discrimination, I quickly became discouraged, exhausted by the number of barriers that exist for women in a place that should be modeling and creating policy to help eliminate such barriers.

To our left:unequal representation.  The notion of a female president puts the media in a frenzy, because after all, who would fulfill the role of “first lady?” Meanwhile, 4 out of 5 Congressional representatives are men. 68% of legislators’ top staffers are men.

And here I am, a woman.

To our right: unequal pay. In 2012, female Republican congressional staffers were paid an average of $10,000 less than male staffers. Democrats- don’t get too excited. While you are consumed in party politics and jeer at Republicans for shortchanging women, don’t forget that you too, perpetuate an endorsement of the wage gap. Women working for Democrats in the Senate made nearly $5,000 less than male equivalents. Both parties have contributed to the exploitation of women’s labor, talents, and skills.

And here I am, a woman.

Straight ahead: unequal opportunity. Aside from unequal pay, women face a variety of other barriers that prevent them from moving up in the ranks. Here, the glass ceiling is alive and well. Congressmen refuse to work one on one with women behind closed doors in a desperate attempt to stifle rumors. Senators warn that they cannot drive alone with female staffers- they have a reputation to uphold. A woman’s presence in too many photos is deemed as “unseemly” or “inappropriate.” These examples all show how women’s opportunities are minimized, as they are quite literally advised to become invisible.

And here I am, a woman.

Overwhelmed and anxious to leave this tour of inequality, I turned the corner only to be bombarded by the article’s comment thread.

Today’s comment forecast: cloudy with passing showers of discrimination.

They called it “sensible sexism” - and it weighed heavily on my heart. One man chimed in, “At least it’s less stress for female staff”- and I cringed. “I can’t blame Congressmen, I would do the same,” another man said.

And these comments hurt. I felt trapped in every corner of inequality, tangled in deep and complex cobwebs of discrimination. I felt imprisoned by the sticky threads of structural and cultural oppression, and I realized just how heavy those cobwebs can be.

I realized just how exhausting and menacing those cobwebs can be --

Because my female body does not warrant exploitation. My female body is not an apology or a scandal.

It is not meant to disappear for your convenience.

My female body is not unseemly or untamed.

It is not a liability.

My body was not designed to tip toe.

It was not meant to occupy space any differently than my male colleagues.

So together, we will fight these “uncomfortable truths”, and inch by inch, story by story, we will use our anger, our strength, our resistance, our voices, to break free from these cobweb shackles.

Because my body is a professional body. A smart body. A capable body. Read. Rinse. Repeat. My body is a determined body. A dedicated body. A strong body. Read. Rinse. Repeat. My body is a courageous body. A fierce body. A sensible body.

Read. Rinse. Repeat.

And here I am, a woman. 

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