Although I’m only a junior in high school, I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my life. In activism, in classrooms, I always come away with a feeling that my voice, my opinion, has been brushed aside or ignored. And I have a strong sense that I am not alone in this. That’s why I love this shirt so much: the design, “Run the Room”, really speaks to me. Some of my greatest fears and worst nightmares center on powerlessness and being disrespected, and I’ve reached a point where I simply cannot tolerate that anymore.
In 2020, I am aiming to do things that scare me, to do things that I wouldn’t have considered before. I am aiming to make my voice heard, regardless of if anyone is willing to listen. To “Run the Room”, so to speak, is my goal. To be given power and respect for the person, the woman, I am, is my goal and my victory. Because, no matter how long it takes or where I will be when it happens, I will be heard.
A few weeks ago, my fortune cookie read, “They will be grateful that you call.” I taped it up over my desk, where I see it each and every day. I want to live that maxim to its greatest extent – I want my words, my call, my writing, my voice, to hold weight, no matter who I am speaking to. I want to walk into every room with confidence, knowing I run the room. And in this, I know I am not alone.
Today, more women than ever are empowered and are choosing careers that make them happy. More women are running for office, and more women are winning elected seats. There are more young women, more women of color, running businesses, directing movies, winning elections. More prominent women are openly queer, and there are more of us campaigning for change for the good of ourselves and our communities than ever before. I am proud to count myself among those women. I am proud to say that I am a young woman boldly involved in politics, doing what I can to help myself, my friends, and my community. I am proud to be a young, queer, woman, and I am proud to extend love and support and kindness in a political environment that seems to foster divide and resentment.
I was at a meet and greet for the then-candidates of Chester County in the early fall, and I was speaking to a local man – not a candidate, but an active member of his party - about women in office. I had made a comment about exactly what I mentioned above – that there are more women than ever in office, but it’s still monumentally harder for a qualified woman to be elected than a competent man. And this man I was speaking to, he shook his head. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Sweetheart, 9 times out of 10, a man goes into that ballot box, he votes for the woman. Just to have something pretty to look at for four years.”
I glanced at my smart watch, at my bag, and then said “Excuse me, I’m getting a call.” I walked over to my friend, and I told her to stick with me the rest of the night, because I did not feel safe in a room full of men who thought of me as an object for their pleasure. And I am sure not every man in that room felt that way. In fact, there were many candidates I spoke too who were lovely and respectful and encouraging to me as a young journalist. But I did not feel safe with my back to a man who would not only think such a thing, but say it to a 16 year old girl, having told her his name, knowing she was a reporter. I could not feel comfortable surrounded by people so safe, so secure in their own privilege that they can have full confidence to think that such a comment would not affect them in the slightest.
This is what I mean when I say I am not respected. As a person, as a writer, I may be treated like an equal to my face. What they say to my face, though? That doesn’t matter to me. No, I care about what they say behind my back. I want to know, and then disprove, the things men think and don’t say when they encourage me and pat me on the shoulder in a way that’s meant to be reassuring. And in that regard, I do not run the room. They do. That “they”, that endless, undefined patriarchy of older, conservative men, runs my country. Runs my state, runs my county, and for a long time, ran my town. They are the only thing that scares me.
But regardless of that fear, they will not break me into a mold of what they would like to look at. They will not even so much as bend me. I am proud of who I am. I may not be entitled to each room I walk into. I may never have that entitlement. But I will also never assume myself to be greater than another, and I will strive to never elevate myself on the back of privilege the way so many are comfortable doing. And by doing that, I hope to earn their respect, their honest respect. I hope one day to be self-possessed enough to be listened to, simply for speaking. Owning this t-shirt, knowing the cause it supports, I could not be more proud to wear it. I could not be happier to tell all the equally powerful, equally proud young women I consider my friends and sisters about such a company.
In an age of deep strife and conflict, women must rise, must come together, with the strength and unity history has worked so hard to strip us of. We are the stuff of legends, of queens, of goddesses. In the right shirt, I can run any room. With the right support, I have no doubt that any woman - no matter her age, her color, or her identity – can create the change she needs in the world. Just as I am trying my best to do.
My hope for every woman is for her to feel like she is every inch a queen, empowered and rooted in thousands of years of history of powerful women.
My hope is for us all to live in power and receive much deserved respect and compassion. And my wish is that I will reach such a level of empowerment and confidence, leaving me the ability to run any room.
-Althea Mae HutchinsonJunior, Henderson High School
Member of GirlGov