Arranging the Pieces… What women carry

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By Tabitha Bozeman

March is Women’s History Month, and as we wrap it up, I have been thinking about what that means.

My girls and I often spend time reading about these women, talking about their stories, their accomplishments and the challenges they faced or are facing. It serves as a reminder that we can all do hard things. We have “100 Famous Women of Science” books, and “Women Who Changed History” books. We have playing cards decorated with trivia about influential women. A few years ago, my husband took our girls to see “Wonder Women” to celebrate.

Recently, though, I came across a set of short videos online titled, “Women Holding Things.” Intrigued, I clicked and watched for several minutes of seemingly random clips of women who were indeed holding things. One woman was holding a child’s hand. Another was juggling bags of groceries while crossing a busy intersection. Two women were chatting while they each carried items down a sidewalk. No two women looked alike and no two women carried the same things. The title of this video collection reminded me of the title “The Things They Carried.” The connection between soldiers carrying things to war, in the trenches, day in and day out, is a striking one for many women.

Women do carry a lot, but often the things they carry are not visible and physical items we can see. A lot of the things the women around me carry are invisible, like the emotional weight of trying to hold relationships together; single mothers holding the weight of parenting day in and day out on their own; the weight many women carry of knowing that if something is going to get done, they have to be the ones to do it. I have had multiple women in my life I have loved and admired and looked up to as mentors, and as I’ve age, I’ve started to realize just how much they carried. They held worries, hopes, fears, dreams, and so much more that was invisible, or expected or taken for granted.

There is a song I heard for the first time just a few months ago about the things women carry called “Labour” by Paris Paloma, who sings about all the invisible things women often find themselves carrying, and how the mental, emotional and physical work they do is often taken for granted. Paloma muses, “It’s not an act of love if you make her/ You make me do too much labour.” I wonder about the weight I haven’t noticed women carrying that I have taken for granted.

I love reading about famous women with my girls, the women who have changed the world through their art, writing, work and strength. They are the inspiring stories that remind the rest of us what can be accomplished in spite of challenges. They serve as lessons for young women who need encouragement, direction or purpose. But the stories I find myself sharing more and more frequently with my children often are the ones about the not-famous and the not-world-changing. I share stories with them of the brave young women who have passed through my classroom, changing the entire trajectory of their lives by continuing their education. The stories of the women who amaze me with their strength and resilience when faced with delays and disappointments.

I hope my daughters see the labor I do, but I hope even more that I never make them feel unseen or unheard as they do the work of building their lives and futures. I hope I am never so caught up holding my own things that I fail to notice the things the women in my life are holding.

One of my favorite writers, Ursula K. LeGuin, said about women, “We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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