by Melody Holloway
As we celebrate women’s history this month, we celebrate women who have made leaps, bounds, and strides within the grassroots organization woven together by threads of advocacy, mentorship, guidance, support, friendship, and the commonality of vision loss that brought our community to fruition. How and why these women contributed to the mission and core values of the American Council of the Blind is as diverse and heterogeneous a spectrum of events, experiences, and personal stories as the contributions themselves. Whether new membership, membership in good standing, annual, lifetime, at large, chapter, state, or special-interest affiliate, board or committee member, elected official, host, facilitator, or community participant, each woman has value and benefit in simultaneously giving and receiving.
When reflecting on true or perceived role of a woman in society, one question persists. Has either role changed much from historical eras to today?
We were once appointed to role of wife, mother, caregiver, maid, housekeeper, and quiet, obedient, decorated trophy serving the needs of men at their beck and call.
Our true role became that of suffragette, crusader, trailblazer, advocate, protector, and ambassador within life’s pivotal, groundbreaking forward marches only men were once permitted to trot. These include voting rights, education, choice of career, medical care, loving who we love, rights to decide what happens to our individual bodies, the basic human right to speak up regarding our own lived plights as women with visual impairment and/or other disabilities and chronic medical diagnoses, and visible proof that we are worthy, valuable, essential, equal members of society.
Today, women are known for a wide variety of mental health, neurological, chronic pain, dexterity, and autoimmune health conditions. As blind women, many of us schedule our own transportation, use a collection of technology, manage finances, cook, clean, do laundry, sign petitions, contact legislators, travel to Capitol Hill, attend, facilitate, and host meetings/webinars, conduct TED talks and motivational speeches, join and oversee organizations specific to a cause, condition, or experience personal to our lives, and provide for our true families no matter how and for whom. If questioned, denied, or told “no we can’t,” many emphatically reply, “Yes, we can!”
With assessments for late-in-life diagnoses of autism, ADHD, and the relatively novel complex form of post-traumatic stress disorder, I ask all members of ACB to consider two in-depth questions.
- Can we all love one another and ourselves in order to understand oppositional positions concerning common disagreements, define one another by qualities which make us unique, listen to each other’s experiences, get to know one another, request clarification if judgment and misunderstanding arise, and pass around a kettle of acceptance, purity, generosity, compassion, patience, forgiveness, differences, and commonalities while seated at the table which is each community with whom we engage?
- Can the true role, the true purpose of a woman override our perceived role even more this year if each one of us takes a dip from our communal kettle?
Let us toast to rest, relaxation, fun, safety, peace, love, and cultural acceptance in 2023!