It’s mostly women who give a voice to other women who don’t have one, or whose voices are drowned out by war, violence or power. Being the weaker sex has its share of advantages: we can be annoyingly accommodating and too adept at peacekeeping, but we also have innate empathy and sense of justice, and both serve many professions well.
When I read that Alissa Rubin of the New York Times had won this year’s Pulitzer for international reporting, first, I smiled and rejoiced, not because I know her, but because I have been following Alissa’s courageous reporting for the last twenty years. The Pulitzer committee stated that she delivered deeply reported, moving articles about the struggle to improve the lives of women.”
The piece of writing, in particular, that caught the Pulitzer’s attention was the voice Alissa gave to Farkunda Malikzada, a bright, young woman who, a year ago, while going about her business in Kabul was falsely accused of burning a Koran and brutally killed by an enraged mob while onlookers took cell phone videos. The meticulous, minute by minute, reconstruction of Farkunda’s last few hours is painful to read although the point was not just to memorialize but also to underscore the moment in which Afghani women rose up, demanding justice, and carried Farkunda’s coffin on their shoulders, an unprecedented act in one of the most patriarchal societies on earth.
I remembered we profiled Alissa Rubin here, at C&S, three years ago, in a blog post titled: 5 women we admire.
Among the five women we picked was also Hillary Clinton, at the time Secretary of State. The reason sofagirl gave for picking Hillary was that “without apology or explanation, Hillary shows up” (we also mentioned we were hoping she would run for the Presidency in 2016, and here we are).
Showing up is something else women do well: we show up for our children, for our families and for each other, a by-product of having to for centuries, when showing up was all we could do.
And we still show up; maybe it’s what most of us do best. Whether reporting from the front lines, legislating for women’s rights or simply catching the back of our neighbor when she falls, doing what needs to be done and getting on with it, sometimes to the point of self-sacrifice, comes second nature to women.
A couple of years ago, Alissa Rubin was on board a helicopter that was ferrying Yazidis to safety from the side of the mountain where they were trapped, chased by ISIS. The helicopter crashed. 48 hours later, with an astounding amount of broken bones but alive, Alissa dictated her story from a hospital bed in Kabul- not for any self-aggrandizement but out of concern for the pilot and the fate of those around her. She showed up so that the story could be told.
On those days I am a bit down, or unmotivated, or the blues is hitting the lower notes, all I have to do is look around: at my girlfriends, female colleagues, writers I admire and female politicians I am choosing to trust. There is no shortage of women to lift my spirit and to remind me that showing up is often half the battle.
And who are the women who lift your spirit?
Alissa Rubin, portrayed in Iraq in the top photo, is currently the New York Times Paris Bureau Chief. Many NYT stories cannot be embedded, as is the case for the two I mention here, but can be easily found online (the NYT lets you read 20 stories a month for free).