I have been so lucky to grow up in this era and in this part of the world. But I am far from complacent. There is still a lot to accomplish for women to become equals. Gender equality has always been very important to me.
I am a sculptor, which happens to be a very male-dominated career, but I never shrugged off a challenge. I faced impossible tasks with more tenacity than my male counterparts. Even in athletics, I competed against men and women alike for I always worked hard to be strong, fast, adaptable, creative, and able to endure. I have found that my entire life I needed these skills in order to stay at the top of my field, treated as an equal.
Some days it was pure fight—but those were the most memorable and most rewarding. I especially loved the moments when, in the company of all men, they would choose me to lead, give advice, or make the final decision. In big factory-like settings where I was the only women with 30 + men, I wanted to make a difference. I was motivated to take on any challenge and I would never allow myself a lesser task or assignment than any of my male colleagues.
With my art, I try and empathize with people through honest experiences from my own life. I often focus on empowerment of the female in my sculptures. Life is not always easy, so I capture the struggle of the journey and simultaneously show the tenacity and strength when the binds finally break. My work is about the triumph of living life to the fullest. I feel successful when my sculptures connect with another person’s soul and lifts them to a higher and more powerful place.
It bothers me when I see a woman who thinks she is weaker, who is apologetic for the space she takes up, or the way she is in the world. Equally sad to me are women who feel they must be overly loud, dress or act a certain way to be seen and heard, as if being their own real selves is not enough. I try to find a middle ground and teach young women that they need not be apologetic and stand in shadows, nor be a spectacle of sex or brazen to gain attention. What I want every young girl to know is that they each have a special mark that needs to be made, a voice that needs to be heard, and we only have this one lifetime to do it in. We need to shrug off all oppression, stand up and deliver.
If professional men and women could listen and share more with the less fortunate girls and women in our communities, it will ensure that more children will be raised happier, better adapted, with their needs met. Women are linked to the planet in a unique way and our society will grow and flourish when women can hold equal chairs and ranks around the world. The next generation needs this shift just as much as out planet does. And it is urgent. It must happen NOW.
I have been so lucky to have a daughter of my own. I admire her as she makes her own choices and increases her sense of self. She is truly a miracle to me and I am baffled and angered at why she might not have the same choices for careers or why she might be paid 40% less than a male colleague. I know my daughter will also be responsible for creating and nurturing her family. I hope she finds a partner like I have; one that gives back support in equal measure, a partner who allows time and space for her to develop into the best woman she can be, and someone who simply loves her and thinks she is amazing.
I envision a world where each woman and girl can exercise their choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an (EQUAL!) income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination (PEACEFUL!). We are all human beings first, and we need to treat each other the way we all want to be treated. Gender does have its differences in the way we go about things, and a harmonious world is one where the gender differences are appreciated and valued equally.
We need to make each parent, government officer, and educator accountable to support gender equality; equal pay, equal access, equal choices. When a man steps up to help a woman or girl find their voice, it truly gives me a sense that not all is lost; and we may get beyond this someday. But women alone cannot make it happen, and the past 20 years have shown that. We need highly-evolved men to help the females move forward to find a fairer and more peaceful world for women.
Everyone has a social and moral responsibility by empowering women and empowering all of humanity. Picture It!
My Kite by Paige Bradley – Bronze