Overalls and Pencil Skirts

Congressional Secretaries, 1920 Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Congressional Secretaries, 1920
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I was born in overalls, or more accurately, I was raised in them. The moment I had the ability to think and move for myself, I ran full speed ahead to the most functional, albeit fashionable, OshKosh pair.  They fit unbelievably.

Like the quintessential poster child for the South, I climbed magnolia trees and caught lightning bugs in them, and despite my mother’s pleas, I snuck snails into the pockets for later examination underneath my covers with a flashlight. In junior high, I wore a white pair of overalls with pink stitching to the movies & was kissed slowly against the musty, butter-soaked wall. I felt invincible.

Recently someone told me that I romanticize most moments in my life, and I suppose my blue jean memories echo that sentiment, but in my mind, my overalls were perfect. Being in them didn’t camouflage my parent’s difficulties with their marriage or our less than affluent upbringing, but they made me feel able to accomplish anything, fearless even.

Fast-forward twenty-something years, through my parent’s divorce and into my current life, forging through congested city-traffic and wearing pencil skirts in planes amongst politicians. As the political liaison for the Commission on Women, I’m not only honored to help represent the women in Georgia, but also to address the inescapable truths that come with being a female in this decade.

Nearly a century ago today, on August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment was made an official addition to the United States Constitution. Women’s inability to vote, a concept difficult for most millennials to grasp, was changed by a small, boisterous, group of rebel gal pals that came together in an effort to make America great.

As of late, being a woman tends to tastes bitter, not sweet like honeysuckles, and the slimiest thing I have been stuffing into my pockets for later examination is self-doubt, along with an inexcusable amount of receipts for half priced Pinot Noir from Trader Joe’s. In 2016, the pressure that women feel to be enough is at times, all consuming. Hollywood’s unrealistic perception of what is beautiful and social media facades are only a portion of the influencing factors that bind women to the notion that they have to be something other than authentic in order to be desirable.

I write this, not as a skeptic or a judgmental surveyor of the major flaw women have with comparison, but instead as someone who can feel diminished with insecurities daily due to something as fleeting as vanity. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul, the foremothers of women’s voice, were not consumed with what would be lauded as beautiful, but instead what would be accepted as just.

Today, on Women’s Equality Day, I can’t help but wonder what incredible things could be accomplished if women refused to let unrealistic standards and comparison be the thief of joy, and instead let differences bind them together to accomplish goals yet achieved. What if the women who fought tirelessly for women’s rights were reduced to how many ‘likes’ they obtained, or what filter camouflaged their tireless efforts? What if instead of teaching our daughters to fit into a glass slipper, we encouraged them to shatter a glass ceiling? What if we found freedom in the confidence within ourselves to be wholly our own, possessing power in the belief that by just being us, we have the power to speak up when someone judges based only on appearances?

When I was a little girl, clumsily running around in Georgia red clay-stained overalls, I didn’t wonder who would be looking, I was too focused on the genuine freedom and confidence I found in being completely myself. Happy Women’s Equality Day, ladies. I hope you can find the strength to put on your own pair of overalls today and feel capable, strong, beautiful, and able (because you absolutely are.)

 

Emily Bowers was appointed by the Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler, in 2015 & serves as the liaison to the Georgia Commission on Women.  Begrudgingly a Millennial, Emily is passionate about travel, loved ones, and all things policy.  She lives in Atlanta.

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