When my sister was in the 6th grade, she entered an essay contest at Hebrew school. The assignment was to write about your Jewish hero. The winner of the contest won a financial prize, had their essay published in the congregation’s newsletter, the Messenger, and had the privilege of reading her essay at a Friday evening Shabbat service. No surprise to me, my sister won the contest. (She's a great writer and you can read her blog here. You will need a box of kleenex.)
I remember sitting in the chapel at a Friday night service listening with a lot of pride as my sister addressed the congregation and shared her words.
When I entered the 6th grade and the essay contest was announced, I, of course, felt compelled to participate.
I chose to write about Moses. Impressed by his enduring faith and obedience (neither of which are strong suits for me) I wrote about how difficult it must have been for Moses to never step foot into the promise land despite all he had overcome to get there.
This week I’ve again been thinking about Moses. Moses may be responsible for the single greatest mic drop in history.
Stay with me.
Remember how Moses returned from Mount Sinai with two huge tablets containing the Ten Commandments? After sealing the Israelites covenant with God, he returns to find his people dancing lasciviously around a golden calf. Committing sin, idolizing materialism. Sounds a lot like a modern reality show.
So what did Moses do? He dropped the mic! Calling on the Israelites to stop worshiping idols, he shattered the commandments from the mountain top.
Lately I have been feeling emboldened. Hell, If Donald Trump can be president, then the sky really is the limit.
My tolerance for intolerance, racism, and passivity is at an all-time low. My belief in myself and my ability to be a change agent is at an all-time high.
That being said, there have been a couple of incidents lately where I felt my voice diminished. I have worked in spaces where a young woman’s voice was not accustomed to being received with the same level of respect and consideration as her male counterparts. We women know this happens all the time. It happened to me recently in a fairly public setting and I’d like to take a few words here to share the incident.
Here’s what happened.
Two weeks ago I attended a Boulder county democratic party coffee event with Nick the Intern. Nick, a 1L at CU Boulder and the very best election watcher in the front range, (that’s Colorado lingo) decided to run for county chair. (spoiler alert, he lost the race but is winning at life).
A sweet older couple organized a coffee at a neighborhood coffee shop for area residents to meet the candidates for office.
It was the Saturday just after the Administration issued its unconstitutional and discriminatory travel ban. I had spent the last 2 days watching as chaos broke out in airports across the world. Worrying about how fearful our immigrant neighbors must be feeling. Heartened by leadership of local elected officials standing up for their community and their values. And struck by how critical local government has become in protecting its citizens from massive federal overreach.
Sitting in the back of the room listening to the candidates and pondering all of this, I raised my hand.
“As chair, do you believe it is the party’s role to encourage your local elected officials to speak out in critical times like now when American values are under siege? And do you believe that Boulder should be a sanctuary city? “
Much to my shock and discomfort, a white-haired man sitting behind me interrupted and sternly admonished me asserting that my question was improper.
“Pardon me, sir?”
He explained to the room full of people that it is not the role of the chair to make this call but rather the executive council as a whole weighs in on such matters. Therefore, my question was improper and should not be answered.
“OK,” I said. “ Let me rephrase. Would you be inclined to encourage the executive committee to urge local elected officials to speak out?”
Again, he attempted to cut me off and drown out my voice. Again. And. Again. Making the same point.
I stood my ground and asserted that my question is worthy of an answer.
Each candidate kindly proceeded to address my question despite being told by the man that the question should not be answered.
At the end of the event the gentleman approached me. He, again, reiterated his point. Mansplaining the exact same argument he had made earlier.
Meanwhile, two young men I did not know walked over to us. They confronted the white haired man; affirming my right to ask the question and validating my feelings. I am grateful for this reminder of how supportive it feels when strangers act as allies.
I do not tell this story to vent. Or to make a bigger deal out of a fairly minor situation. And I certainly don’t share this to demonize one man. I share for illustrative purposes. Women know how innocuous these moments can appear. That the intent is to diminish you.
Talked down. Talked over. Not heard.
Would this gentleman have spoken in such a disrespectful manner to another man? My sense is no.
Today, I say no mas. No thank you. Sure, we aren’t Moses calling on an entire civilization of people to check themselves. But we can each partake in a mic drop. All it takes: the words, a megaphone (not literally) and the courage to speak.
If you’ve stuck with me to the end of this piece maybe you are wondering if I pulled off a win in the essay contest. I am happy to report that I did bring home the first place prize. But I don’t remember it feeling nearly as special as it did when I witnessed my big sister taking the mic.