Girl With The Bold Mind: As Women Do We Give Ourselves The Power?

Writer: Sarah McKinnon

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“Perhaps they kept her plain because they knew she was lethal.” It was the first thought in my head when I stumbled upon the infamous portrait. [Pictured Left] Girl With The Pearl Earring, an oil painting created in 1665 by Johannes Vermeer during the Dutch Golden Age, is a reminder that as women we must not just fight for equal power, but give ourselves permission to empower ourselves.

It was believed, if at any point they contoured the edges of her smirk with deep red gloss, or highlighted the lift of her eyebrow in her moments of intellect, she could be a force of “destruction.” This does not just deal with appearance, but to receive the attention she deserves. The word itself, destruction, has such a weight to it. The same heaviness that gazes in our eyes when observing the pearl earrings, out of place, with intent. It was her way to rebel. 

It’s as if when speaking of the word “destruction” you can hear the clashing of concrete; the shards of glass flying, representing the sign of our apparent evolution. But in destruction, in the tearing, we find discoveries. It is not about the makeup or the fabrics that line her skin, but how those pieces give her a sense of power, to be noticed. Every woman should be seen. Every trans person should be noticed. Every man should be noticed — all humans; regardless of their background, should be noticed. Therefore, I want to challenge you, today. I want you to ask yourself a question that you may not have had the opportunity to ask. This question isn’t just for women. But I speak on behalf of women because that is what I am, and that is what I understand.

We hear a lot of news, we read many articles, and we speak upon many conversations regarding feminism. Progress has been made, undoubtedly, and for the next generation, I am proud to say that. However, are we forgetting one fundamental question: “Do I give myself the power?”

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We forget about this power, as women. We get caught up in politics. We get caught up in the body comparison and putting another woman down. We get caught up in how we should educate ourselves, and how to act on dates, how to raise our children — in the way society wants us to. In that way, we forget that we can empower who we are, and what we want to do. For a long time, we’ve lived in a society that supports dualism. The idea that two things must and will always be contrasted and divided. Women and men. Apparently, created, to be opposite. We are designed, according to dualism, to have specific roles based on their biological nature. Sure, an extent of this is true. But what we are designed to do in this life should have nothing to do with the value we are worth. Here is the hard truth; some people still believe that, and many will continue to believe that. However, we can change the construct in our own homes, within our own families.

We have this illusion with technology that because we now can reach millions, we can change millions. Can we educate and plant a seed? Of course. But turning someone and their perspective is a compound of events over time. Not just in an Instagram comment. The true shift happens in the few hearts we can touch in our schools and small communities. Paving the way is much more than a tweet on Twitter — it’s how we treat ourselves every day. It’s what we choose to believe about our own importance. I’m not undermining the power of social media — I’m using it right now. 

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The message is a woman can pave the way — and the iconic figures of our past have, such as; Rosa Parks, Jane Austen, Marie Curie — to name a few. They were once called the “destructive ones.” But like explosives to a mountain, a new road was formed. But these women made a difference in their own communities, in their jobs and abilities. There are even more names buried under the cement of progress who aren’t known by celebratory name except in the confines of their families stories. Such as the scientists, nurses, teachers, caretakers, and engineers, to name a few. These women looked away from the power society held on them and decided they had what they needed under their own skin. They utilized a vision in their head, and through that, made a new society, a new era. The harnessed their skill and put forth the most positive empowerment of themselves that they could, and they created vast change.

Both the voice and voiceless women were a collective movement. Our past generations were creating a sword, knowing in the sacrifice that the time to utilize it would not be in their lifetime. One woman finds the environment where there are dry twigs and coals. Five more start the fire with a spark. Twenty get together and find the right steel. One-thousand twists the rods of iron. A million hits the hot metal and forms it into a mold. 

But we’re not in a war with just everyone. Despite what media implies, that we have to “rise up.” Yes, going to protests is essential if you believe in it. Giving speeches is so important to give people digestible message. Sharing and posting on social media is useful. But the only rising we can do is ultimately within our own lives. We only have a war going on within ourselves. How we treat ourselves will be the prequel to how we treat each other. Each word that comes out our mouths, is a thought we already had in our minds.

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How we process information, what we read and the environment we decide to put ourselves in, with most situations, is our choice. Decide who to put in your circle. We can choose to take insults from others, shaming from others, and channel that information into empowerment. We can decide what we listen to, what posts we read, and self-expression. We can stop labeling what is “beautiful” and what is not — such as a waist line or makeup. It’s not easy, and that is not what I am implying. Nothing worth doing in life is easy. 

We can support our female counterparts. We can show up in our own lives when others believe that we are weaker; because we are not. When we raise girls to believe they deserved to be noticed, they are empowered. They are free. They hold a sword now, their own, and they can decide what to do with it. 

So now, we have bright pink lips. We have beautiful and intelligent women of every color, and sexuality, walking the streets with shoulders that have become stronger from carrying the burden of having to race against privilege. The shards of glass, from the aftermath of our wars, are not just the nails of our working hands, but the collarbones are pressing against our skin. The collarbone that supports our stance, our power, and gives freedom to the arms that rise in protest to the inequality — Liberty to the arms that hold the sword. We are lethal — not because we want to inflict harm, and swing the sword. Lethal because now that we are seen, we will bring change; and change, has horrified the many who are currently comfortable.

About Sarah McKinnon:

Sarah McKinnon is currently the Editor in Chief of Lemon Theory Digital Magazine. You can read more about her, and Team Lemon, at https://www.lemontheory.com/team-lemon. You can follow her photographic work on Instagram at @awol_artist.

“Girl With The Bold Mind” Photo Shoot Credits:

Photographer: Sarah Mckinnon, @awol_artist

Subject: Fatima Turay, @the_renaissancegal

Hair and Wrap Design: E.H. Petropulos, @eh_petropulos

Makeup Artist: Jennifer King, @touched_by_aking

Face Paint Artist: Chun Park, @chun.park.7

Studio: FD Studios, New York, New York

Slideshow of Additionally Photography: