WORDS: CHAY RODRIGUEZ | ART: FAYE ORLOVE

To the Feminists Before Me and Currently for Me,

Unfortunately, many of you whom which I am addressing this letter to, will never get the pleasure of seeing the progress that many women have made on the backs of your careers and personal stances. However, I am still honored to write this to you, because as I sit here typing this I am comfortable. Comfortable in my career choices, comfortable in how I play the political game in my various side hustles, comfortable in my distressed jeans, open toe strappy heels, and oversized off the shoulder sweater. All of which came at a price that I never had to pay. I realize how much I, and possibly some of the readers of this letter, take these luxuries for granted. And, fortunately, there are ladies currently opening doors for me who can read this as I write their praises to be etched in time for as long as the internet allows.

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The lack of effort in my ensemble would probably cause you, Marlene Dietrich to smile. As a great German actress and then international star, you probably did not consider that becoming an American citizen would be much news to generations of American women to come. Nevertheless, your fight to wear tailored trousers and what was considered menswear at a time when you were at your peak as an actress and an influencer was everything but effortless. I know you that you would be proud to see what the Rihanna’s of the world can do without a second thought. Your masculinity charmed women, both peers and fans alike, and your sexuality made men fall to their knees. I want to thank you for taking on roles like Lola Lola in Blue Angel and indirectly giving me the confidence to rock a boyfriend cut jean without caring if it would be considered too virile.

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Gloria Steinem, as a writer I am almost petrified to call myself that and have your name in the same sentence. Through both New York and Ms magazines you have created platforms for my work to be seen, heard, and felt. It amazes me that in the 1960’s you were so aware of your striking look that you not only embraced it, but you made damn sure that everyone knew amidst your aviator glasses, hip hugging jeans, and poor boy turtlenecks that there was also an intellect that was unrivaled. You set a standard and taught women something that I still struggle with today: you can be taken seriously and be beautiful. Our gratitude towards you can only be displayed every day in the workplace where we continue to fight for our femininity and our equal pay.

You set a standard and taught women something that I still struggle with today: you can be taken seriously and be beautiful.

Mrs. Coretta Scott King, femininity, equal pay, and equal treatment is not only something that your husband fought for, but it is something that you demanded as well. As a woman of color, you stood on the front lines for not only me but for the other writers and owners of this site. And when your husband became a necessary causality of this war that we are still fighting today, you not only held your family down but you took on his causes as well. While fighting for the human life using peaceful tactics your life negated every stereotype imagined. Including the “angry black woman” pigeon hole who rides on the backs of many women of color. Not to downplay your role as a wife and mother, you showed women of all colors what the definition of balance was. When women allude to “having it all” they imagine everything that you successfully accomplished: loving vigorously, pouring into a purpose unstintingly, and raising your children to serve under your legacy and further your legend. To you, we owe more than we care to admit because you gave us your life asking us to do nothing but evolve in return.

C:\Users\crodriguez\Downloads\IMG_4064.JPGMrs. King when I acknowledge your sacrifice and then I think of a woman like Oprah Winfrey I know that we have not failed you. Ms. Winfrey, I must tell you that although the story of your come up is MeMe worthy and repeated on social media repeatedly, its impact is not lost on us. Being fired from your first job as a news anchor and now owning your OWN television network makes it hard to believe that the playing field (you can now buy) was ever uneven. Nevertheless, when you speak of your most memorable moments you do not speak of the Oscar de la Renta gowns that are hanging in your closet. You speak of the moments where you were still. You speak of the moments when breathed the same air as legends the likes of Nelson Mandela and President Obama. You prove what you preach. From you, I have gathered that it is not about the award that you get once the work is done, but it is about the reward that you obtain as you work.

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Conversely, Mrs. Clinton after witnessing your journey to become Madame President we learned together that when it comes to awards and rewards nothing is as we planned. Time and time again you have made it known that perseverance is the only way we will succeed. Your colorful pantsuits make your wardrobe stand out in the boys club, and your extremely large hair ties held your hair back when you were ready to get down to business, creating policies and steering the direction of this country. Your success came when you got us to the glass ceiling. I know you will cheer the loudest when it is finally broken. Thank you for your service then and thank you for your willingness to continue to serve.

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Together we stood with Hillary. And although you do not know me, Beyonce you have taken many stands for me as a young black woman. When you got on the biggest stage in America during Super Bowl 50 in a Black Panther uniform and let the European-driven beauty industry know that my nose and textured hair was enough for you to love and celebrate, you let America know that black girl magic was HERE TO STAY. In the past two years you and your sister Solange have stood with and for your sistahs in arms. By using your individual platforms you let your multicultural audiences know that although the African American woman was not always included in the fight for women’s rights and equality we will be from now on. Point blank. Period. Your role as a mother has made you more vocal and given you a crown of confidence that is only to be worn by a queen. Thank you for representing us in a royal light.

We will never be able to repay you women in full. However, as I sit here comfortable, in my career choices, how I play the political game in my various side hustles, comfortable in my distressed jeans, open toe strappy heels and oversized off the shoulder sweater; all which came at a price that I never had to pay…I will pay it. I will pay it by influencing the next generation of women who come after me. Hopefully, this letter of appreciation and gratitude is a start.

Love,

Chay Rodriguez

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