Role Models.

Any feminist can attest to the strong influences that powerful women hold in their lives and beliefs. Over the course of my life, I have had the privilege of knowing so many brilliant, passionate, profoundly beautiful women, and having them shape and mold my outlook on life. It would be simple to dote on my female family members, as they are undoubtedly all of the adjectives listed above, yet I feel my strong familial attachment to them hinders my ability to separate their impact on me as a whole rather than my perception of feminism as it stands today. That being said, I’ve decided to speak of two women who have taught me invaluable lessons in empowerment, strength, and fraternity: my second mom Billie, and my eleventh grade history teacher, Mrs. Humphrey.

Billie, or as we’ve all come to lovingly call her “Dolla Billz”, is my best friend’s mother. She is without a doubt one of the strongest women I have ever met. In all of my emotional distress, she has been there to offer me kindness and advice, whether it be “kick his ass, who needs him?” “ice cream will fix this,”or what have you. She pushed me to never settle for less than I deserved, to always seek out the best life I could achieve, and to certainly never take shit from anyone. In all she’s seen in her life, she is still one of the most vibrant, goodhearted women to ever grace my life. She’s raising four fiercely brilliant young women to be as strong and fearless as she, and doing a spectacular job at that. For personifying girl power and constantly encouraging passion, I hold Billie to be one of the greatest personal influences in how I view womanhood.

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Me and Dolla Billz on Graduation Night.

I started coming into my own as a vehemently opinionated – while undoubtedly timid – young woman around the same time I got into Mrs. Humphrey’s dual credit U.S. History class my junior year. She had such an amazing reputation within the walls of my small high school: you were seriously hard pressed to find a single soul that didn’t at least admire her, if not adore her. Everyone spoke of her kindness, her compassion, and her genuine love for each of her students. I have never met a person more perfectly fit to be a teacher. It didn’t take long in her class to learn that. The thing about my hometown is that, as I’ve mentioned, it is largely conservative. However, she wasn’t, and she quickly saw that neither was I. She saw the insecurity I had in speaking up for what I believe in and in her own little way, she encouraged me to no longer fear what anyone has to say about what I believe to be right. It was from her that I developed one of the governing principles of my life: speak nobly about what is right and true, and speak it loudly. She pushed me to participate in class debates and from her, I found my voice. Walking out of her class, my heart was broken with the knowledge that she was retiring, but also full for knowing her and for her touching my heart as she did. She pushed me to do and be better, and from then on, I’ve owned my bold outspokenness with pride, empowered by the knowledge that my passion is an asset rather than a flaw.

These are just a couple of the bold, strong, passionate women who have taught me valuable lessons in empowerment and standing together, which are some of the strongest foundations of feminism itself. I have so much to owe to them; more than I could ever express in a simple blog post. I know that now that they’ve helped raise and nurture me in their own different ways, it’s now my responsibility to make something of these lessons they’ve taught, of this love they’ve given, and make them proud of who I’ve become from all they’ve done for me. Dolla Billz and Mrs. Humphrey, this is for you.

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