Rebellion lives inside all people regardless of ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, age, or gender. It resides deep in our hearts, minds, and souls waiting for us to accept it, ignore it, or embrace it. Rebellion is patient. It waits for the moment we decide we need to change our lives. Then it’s ready and willing for our use.
I felt that rebellion inside me when I was growing up. I tamped it down the best I could, but it bled through. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. As a teen, I was often considered a goody two-shoes. I had little interest in the things my peers were doing. I spent a lot of time studying, reading, and writing. I didn’t drive around aimlessly on the weekends honking my horn and hooting out the window at friends. I spent most weekends at home or with my family.
On occasion my rebellious side would expose itself through the clothing I wore or the way I styled my hair. I remember one particular instance where I sprayed my hair with temporary hair paint in pink and purple to match the stripes in my jeans. ‘” Hey, it was the eighties!
My rebellions rarely screamed rebellion though.
At the Homecoming Dance my Freshman year of high school, I danced solo on an empty dance floor to Madonna’s Lucky Star. I didn’t think of this as a rebellion at the time. I liked the song, and there was no way I was going to let the empty dance floor keep me from dancing. I really thought people would join me on the floor. Instead, they watched me, and several even applauded. Afterwards, people remarked how brave and/or crazy I was to dance like that in front of everyone by myself. In those days in our school, crazy was almost the same as rebellious. I just wanted to dance.
Early on I realized I didn’t want to live in that small town my whole life. There’s nothing wrong with the town. It’s filled with good people. I just didn’t want to live my whole life there. Not a new story by any means. Every decision I made from the time I was around nine or ten was influenced by the desire to live somewhere else.
When you grow up in a farming community, people encourage your dreams while simultaneously preparing you for them to never happen. They compliment your talents one minute. The next they’re looking for a husband for you and asking how many children you’re going to have. They teach you to preserve food from the garden because that’s more practical than learning to write beautiful prose. You learn to work the fields to ensure crops will yield because that’s a skill that’ll serve for a lifetime. The expectations are that you’ll have dreams while you’re young but fall in love, get married, and start having children before you’re legally allowed to drink a beer. Most self-respecting people never admit that’s what they expect but the message is there. It’s an undercurrent in the way life is lived.
I learned the expected skills but also read books, and wrote stories and poems whenever I could. I rarely complained about what was expected of me. Instead I daydreamed detailed plans for changing my life and living the kind of life I wanted. I studied hard and got good grades. I never apologized for it.
When it came time to apply for college, I chose one most of my classmates weren’t interested in attending. I thought it was my best chance for a scholarship, and it meant I’d have a good reason to not live at home like my parents wanted. My parents weren’t thrilled, but I pursued it anyway. When I got a scholarship, they couldn’t really say no because I needed the scholarship to attend college.
My dad thought I should study to be a teacher, but I had no interest whatsoever in teaching. When I signed up to study Corrections & Juvenile Services, he asked me why I wanted to do “work best left to men”. I thought of my decision as taking control of my life. After all, I had to live it. Looking back, however, I realize there was a bit of rebellion in my determination. I was more interested in psychology ‘” the why of criminal behavior ‘” than in the behavior itself. When a good daughter takes control of her own life, it often is a rebellious act. When a son does the same thing, he’s growing up.
Rebellion is usually equated with negative behavior. On a personal level, it can be smoking, drinking, drugs, and sexual promiscuity. More seriously, gang behavior and other delinquent behavior is often rebellion. This is only one very limited view of rebellion.
On a larger level, rebellion can be when a group of people rebel against the traditions of society. Those wishing to keep the traditions of society will view rebellion against those traditions as negative or even criminal. However, without rebellion, the world would never change at all. There would be no growth of any kind because someone somewhere had to stick to their beliefs, and rebel against the norm to instigate change.
Whenever a girl, or a woman, embraces who she is and refuses to live according the expectations of others, be they parents, grandparents, teachers, or even friends, she rebels. Living as one’s true self shouldn’t require rebellion for anyone.
Many women have rebelled against convention throughout history. Because of them, girls have equal access to education, women have the right to vote, women own businesses, women work in careers once believed only men could do, and women work to make a difference in the world. It’s the responsibility of all of us to support one another and continue to rebel against injustices in the world. Whenever one person is mistreated, we are all lessened. So look around and find a way to contribute to the betterment of all the citizens of the world.
Together, women are stronger than separate. Women are and always have been in a position to influence the world. Long before women started working outside the home, they raised the children with the core values and ethics that have moved the world forward. Women need to embrace the role of influence, put their talents to work, and continue the work of all the rebels who came before them.