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Throughout my entire life, I have been lucky enough to have several strong women to inspire and influence me as I’ve grown up. My experience within my small little bubble led me to assume that women in positions of power are a normality. Constantly, women would encourage me to reach high. I had been sheltered enough to be unaware of the extreme lack of women in power in my own country—a country that prides itself on inclusivity and opportunity. I guess I never knew that I was missing some sort of strong female leader to feel truly included in the place I call my home.

Watching Vice President Kamala Harris give her speech on election night dramatically changed my perception of women and in turn, myself. I couldn’t help but tear up just watching her speak and question my previous thinking. Sure, I may have women to inspire me at home and in my community, but isn’t that just reinforcing the glass ceiling? Women can be powerful but with limits. Not to mention the fact that other young girls inevitably will not be as lucky as I have been to have powerful women in their home lives. I realized that I have been conditioned to be okay with not seeing people like me (i.e. women) on a large scale and to not view that as a problem.

I have started to become much more aware of these degrading thoughts that I must have been subconsciously taught to think growing up in a primarily patriarchal society. I recently started reading Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. Elizabeth Lesser explores the traditional roles of women in classically referenced texts like the Bible and Greek epics and analyzes their roles from a different perspective. The book has forced me to understand that a hindrance to feminism and progress has perhaps been my own mindset. Just like so many girls I know, occasionally, I don’t participate in class, speak up against injustice, and feel subconscious about my worth. Lesser quotes Carol Gilligan to begin a chapter about the biblical story of Cassandra, a woman who was all knowing but never believed: “The hardest times for me were not when people challenged what I said but when my voice was not heard” (53). I have inevitably held myself back from small chances to break through the glass ceiling, even if just for a moment.

Watching Vice President Kamala Harris lead the nation was not only a wake up call for the historically white male political system of the United States, but also for all of the women who doubt themselves. Harris reminds me to question myself as well as the system. She begs us all to ask ourselves how we may be contributing to our own lack of power and leadership. Ultimately, I am inspired by her example and excited to be a part of an era of change.

Lesser, E. (2020). Cassandra speaks: When women are the storytellers, the human story changes. New York, NY: Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Lilly Doninger is a member of the class of 2024 at William & Mary from Louisville, Kentucky. She hopes to major in International Relations. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, watching movies, and journaling. Lilly also writes weekly for her personal blog, Ridiculous but Respectable.
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