Natalia Naman Temesgen: Local women set a standard

May 24, 2014 

A recent New York Times article discusses feminism, considering, among other things, the slow-to-die stigma surrounding the term "feminist."

Some women find it carries a negative connotation; some wear it as a proud badge; and others wonder why the label must carry so much importance. There's also the ongoing confusion over what is feminism. The article defines it as the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities.

I'm becoming less of a fan of labels all the time. But I am deeply moved to witness bright, ambitious women achieving in arenas that have historically boxed them out.

Luckily, I've witnessed just that at least three times this month.

My sister recently received her master's degree in public health from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Graduations are never interesting until your loved one walks across that stage. And when her name resounded through the gym made famous by Michael Jordan, I was ecstatic. She worked her butt off academically while simultaneously growing spiritually; the legacy she is building is one to be proud of.

Upon coming home, we headed to the RiverCenter for Patty Taylor's Academy of Fine Arts dance recital. This was a special recital, as it was Taylor's last as director of the academy.

The group of 50 or so former students comprised grandmothers, college students and folks of all ages.

We spent the afternoon learning a short dance to be performed that night as a send-off for Taylor.

As we stood backstage that night getting in a final practice, I became flooded with a different emotion -- awe. I looked around at all of these women, from cities as far reaching as Manhattan and New Orleans, with jobs and pastimes running the gamut, and saw that our respect and love for the immensely talented, no-nonsense Taylor was what drew us all together that night.

Where I used to somewhat fear this woman as a pre-teen, I felt only gratitude for the example she was leaving us to follow in our own ways.

Then, there is Teresa Tomlinson. A swarm of residents were congregated at her headquarters Tuesday night, awaiting the results of the mayoral race. When the news of her win arrived, the DJ began to play Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?" without missing a beat.

The crowd, which varied in age, race and gender, erupted in enthusiastic applause.

And I caught Mayor Tomlinson, watery-eyed, wearing a grin that seemed to betray the slightest hint of surprise. It didn't look like surprise at having won, per say. It was the relieved, affirming surprise that American women still often feel when they are recognized for their merit while fighting on the same playing field as their male counterparts.

One I'm familiar with myself.

To my husband: I would like to wish you a happy anniversary. I love you, Pete. Song of Songs 2:5.

Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at or on Twitter@cafeaulazy.

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