Finding our Voice Again

With attendance numbers topping three million, the inaugural Women’s March held in January of 2017 was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Celebrating the power of women, this peaceful movement grew quickly to advocate legislation and policies for all human rights. This year, the marches took place again throughout the world and closer to home in Kalamazoo.  Friends, sisters, grandmothers and daughters; all ages of women finding their voice again after too long.

Most young women today have little understanding of the battles their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers fought throughout history in an attempt for equal footing, or even just a step in the right direction for equal rights. While quite young, I had the pleasure of seeing feminism explode wide open with the actions of activists like Gloria Steinem. But somewhere along the way, the movement lost its way—pushed aside to make room for Barbie dolls and castles in the girls’ toy aisle at the department store.

And then our country became politically polarized to an extreme not seen in decades.

If nothing else, the rise of extremist viewpoints also gave a voice to a segment of the population that thought status quo was good enough. Women are again standing up and finding their voice.

H and SAnd girl, this time the world is listening.

Change often comes when the voice of many find a common cause. The #MeToo movement started with the courageous stand taken by a group of women in Hollywood—a change that has grown to include all occupations and situations involving sexual harassment. While the Time’s Up movement has resulted in career casualties and will no doubt bring more, it is the unavoidable consequence of a swinging pendulum that will bring real change for young women today and tomorrow.

During the telecast of this year’s Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey received the annual Cecil B. Demille Award for lifetime achievement. She gave a powerful acceptance speech, and wrapped up with the following…

…I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again.”

~~ Heidi McCrary





Why Can’t Barbie Drive a Blue Car?

Barbie in carJust an ordinary day at a local department store, shopping for my niece, who happens to be turning three this summer. Walking into the Young Girls area, I am suddenly smacked with an onslaught of PINK – pink T-shirts, pink shorts, pink socks, underwear, dresses and sneakers.

Really? Pink sneakers? As clothing designers and retail executives are sitting around conference tables discussing next season’s go-to-color for young girls, are there any actual women in the room?! Do products aimed at girls ALWAYS have to be pink? While we’re telling young girls that they can be ANYTHING they want to be in life, can we pause for a moment and tell them that they can also wear blue – or green, or red.

Whether you’re walking down the so called Girls aisle at Meijer, Target or Toys R Us, the look is the same…pink, pink and more PINK. We can all blame the marketers of toys and clothes for taking the lazy way out when targeting young girls and their mothers, but the simple truth is, when parents stop buying pink toys and clothes, retailers will stop stocking them in their stores. Retailers only mirror what the public is asking for, and what is flying off the shelves.

A young mother recently lamented that her 2-year-old daughter would only wear pinks clothes, leaving the child’s dresser and closet full of never-worn beautiful sweaters, dresses and shorts that had the unfortunate luck of being red, blue, yellow or green. This mother laughs it off and chalks it up to her daughter being bull-headed. This rambunctious and clever toddler may be that, but she is also the product of her upbringing. And it all starts innocently enough at the baby shower when the mother-to-be is showered with a rainfall of incredibly cute outfits, toys and necessary baby stuff. And if it’s going to be a girl, it’s all pink, with the exception of that rogue lavender outfit. And new parents build on that color scheme so the cycle never stops, and young girls and boys learn from the very beginning that colors are a gender thing.

So after stumbling out of the department store in a pink-induced haze, I made my way to a wonderful, small store in the downtown area, and purchased an adorable t-shirt for my niece – a little shirt that championed our city with “Kalamazoo” splashed across the front. The color? Beautiful bright yellow!

Stereotypes and preconceived notions of what girls should wear, and what girls should be when they grow up are the side-effects of a world that tells us that, pink is for girls. Here’s a thought… While we’re telling young girls that they should embrace who they are, and that they can be whatever they want to be, and whoever they want to be – let’s also tell them they’ll look fabulous in orange sneakers. Or red, or blue…

Heidi McCrary / Author

Who’s the New Face for Women’s Rights?

GloriaThe woman who helped define the women’s movement recently paid a visit to our great city as a guest-lecturer of the Raise Your Voice series at Western Michigan University. As Gloria Steinem spoke before a packed house at Miller Auditorium, the energy was high with girlfriends and sisters, along with mothers and daughters – all celebrating Girl Power.

A self-described feminist and activist, Steinem has been the voice for generations of women and the face of women’s liberation. But ask your average 20-something who Gloria Steinem is, and you’re apt to be met with a guess that she’s one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta or somewhere. Not only does Gloria Steinem not represent the voice of most young woman today, she’s being trampled on by the next generation of Kardashians.

In 1970, a woman was not allowed to keep her job if she was pregnant, couldn’t report cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, or even apply for a credit card. While great strides have been made in the last 40+ years in the quest for equality for women in the workplace and in life, why does it seem like we’ve stalled? Or are we just not looking in the right places?

Following are just a few rays of hope that indicate that the quest for equality might not be dead after all. Maybe the power of one strong voice is simply shifting into the voice of many.

Patricia Arquette – As she took the stage at the Academy Awards to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress, Arquette gave a passionate acceptance speech that reminded all of us that women have a long way to go – even in Hollywood. “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” Arquette said in her speech. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Other Hollywood women leading the charge include Reece Witherspoon whose film company pushes for female-driven material, and Jennifer Lawrence, who fights for equal pay alongside her male counterparts. And the credits go on…

Sheryl Sandberg – Many people credit this powerful business woman as being the driving force behind the continued success of Facebook. When she’s not tackling the massive job that comes along with being COO at the world’s largest social networking site, Sandberg is busy sharing her wisdom as a business and motivational speaker in the promotion of her book, Lean In. This New York Times Best Seller provides practical advice to help women achieve their goals – and to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do

While we may never have that one woman who can pick up the torch from Gloria Steinem, I’d like to think that we have grown in power, requiring many more faces to carry the message. And as we go further into the year and elect our next President of the United States, that president could very well be a woman.

How ‘bout them apples, Gloria?

Heidi McCrary / Writer & Advertising Goddess