“My name is Emma González. I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual.”
2018 is turning out to be ‘the Year of Women’.
Women everywhere are rising up and refusing to stay silent, taking the issues which are affecting them daily and not only speaking out about them, but actually finally being heard.
The world is standing at a tipping point of women’s rights – and women are taking the lead.
The #metoo movement which began in late 2017 is continuing with more fervor than anyone could have possibly imagined, with more and more women adding their voices and calling out sexual harassment and assault. Alongside this, the Hollywood-led Time’s Up movement continues to make headlines, with more celebrities speaking out about the sexual misconduct they’ve experienced at the hands of powerful men.
In a never-before-seen move, the Judge in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse trial allowed more than 180 survivors to give their victim impact statements at his sentencing hearing, sparking a shift in how sexual assault is handled in the Olympics, and giving the survivors a cathartic chance to heal.
Millions of women, again, marched in Women’s Marches across the globe to protest and fight for the issues that matter most to them, and now, as 2018’s International Women’s Day approaches, there is a fire burning inside women of all different backgrounds and experiences which is getting impossible to ignore.
Three days after the deadly Parkland school shooting which left 17 people dead, an anti-gun rally was held in Fort Lauderdale. Speaking to a crowd of thousands, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior gave an impassioned 11-minute speech calling out pro-gun politicians, the NRA, and demanding change.
That student was Emma González.
“Every single person up here today, all these people should be at home grieving, but instead we are up here standing together. Because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it is time for victims to be the change we need to see,” she began.
Wiping away her tears and publicly mourning her classmates, González led all attendees at the rally in a battle-cry which would propel her from a student who had experienced incomprehensible trauma to becoming the face of a movement which challenges the American status quo in a way we’ve never seen before; a new teenager-lead youth movement advocating for gun-control laws so children no longer have to fear for their lives in their learning environments.
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS.
They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.”
She publicly pulled up politicians and lawmakers at an age where she didn’t even feel comfortable cursing in front of her teachers and parents. And she didn’t stop there.
González, alongside other students from the school, have become organized, creating the March For Our Lives movement – a series of rallies to demand a change to gun laws, which will take place outside the White House and across the US.
And the march she is orchestrating is not a small or insignificant protest; celebrities George and Amal Clooney, Oprah, and fashion house, Gucci, have all donated $500,000 to the event – and momentum just keeps growing.
And through all of this, it’s easy to forget that until a few weeks ago, Emma González was just a normal teenager.
“My name is Emma González. I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual. I’m so indecisive that I can’t pick a favorite color, and I’m allergic to 12 things. I draw, paint, crochet, sew, embroider – anything productive I can do with my hands while watching Netflix. But none of this matters anymore,” she writes in an essay published by Harper Bazaar, listing the hobbies and identifiers she had before she was thrown into the public life she now leads.
González only became the face of the anti-gun movement because one of her teachers noticed she’d been speaking on the news and giving interviews about the shooting, and so invited her to write a speech for the Fort Lauderdale rally.
And now, she’s publicly challenged NRA spokespeople and Senator Marco Rubio in the most watched Town Hall debate on CNN, appeared on talk shows to spread the word about the March For Our Lives movement, and has amassed more followers on Twitter than the NRA. All in less than a month.
Because Emma González doesn’t want any other children to have to hide in closets, text their parents with their goodbyes or attend the funerals of friends who’ve been shot down win their own classroom.
“We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again,” she writes in her Harper Bazaar essay.
And González – as well as the other students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been leading their movement – has been organizing and speaking out at the same time as living through extreme trauma and mourning the loss of her schoolmates. She’s been called an attention seeking, ignorant child and has repeatedly been accused of being a crisis actor who is lying about what she lived through,
It’s a lot to deal with. And she’s done so with grace, nerve, and unwavering strength.
But even before she was one of the teenaged leaders of a political movement against unrestricted gun laws, she was an activist.
Openly identifying as bisexual, González is the head of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. And she was – and clearly remains – tenacious, fighting for what she wants – the story behind her now-famous buzzcut proves this fact.
When she decided to shave her head because hair “is just an extra sweater I am forced to wear,” she even created a powerpoint presentation for her parents to help convince them to agree to her decision.
“I decided to cut my hair because it was a pain in the neck, if you’ll forgive the pun. It was really hot all the time; it was very cumbersome and very heavy, leading to a lot of headaches. It was expensive to keep it up, and as prom time came around, I figured it would be cheaper to not have to worry about doing my hair. The more my parents said no, the more I wanted it. Actually, I even made a powerpoint in order to convince them that I should do it. I figured I would look really good with it, and I do. So, it all worked out fine.”
A post shared by Humans of Stoneman Douglas (@humansofmsd) on
While some people have interpreted González shaved hairdo as a statement against conformity and as an indicator of her feminist stance, she says it was mainly a functional choice. She has, however, embraced the political statement which has been attached to her hair, hashtagging tweets of herself with “When you got work to do but your hair’s gettin’ too long #StonemanStrong #BaldiesGetTheJobDone.”
Emma González, a young, queer, woman of color, represents the diversity of America and the political progressiveness of millennials and Generation Z, which is part of the reason why she’s an ideal face of the current anti-gun movement.
But she’s also more than that.
She embodies and represents the desperate calls for change which have been reverberating for months among women in the US and across the globe. She’s a student, Latino, and part of the LGBTIQ community.
She’s passionate, loud, brave, intelligent, and stands up for what she believes is right.
She’s not afraid to call BS, and that’s why she’s our 2018 Woman of the Year.
Media via youtube.com and instagram.com.
Comment: What do you think about Emma González? Who is your 2018 Woman of the Year?
Kassi is SHESAID's Global Editor, a passionate and opinionated tea-drinker and cat-lover. She's always sleepy, loves politics and lives for writing about social issues. Follow Kassi on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.