Nicknames show up in funny ways. Some may spring from characters in music, books, or movies, but others, perhaps, from the times in which we live.
I’m pretty sure that’s the case for the moniker that recently came to mind for my granddaughter. You can count on one thing with certainty when it comes to Sis, who is now a Large Four Years Old: Force of will shows up at the front of the line ahead of reason or other emotions, insisting on precedence.
So, I started calling her Sister Resister.
The first time I used this title out loud, proof of veracity arrived faster than a Prime package at the front door. She scowled and muttered darkly, “Don’t call me that.”
Yet in hardly any time at all (and with the help of her creative mother), she had re-imagined the title completely, anointing herself with the status of Super Hero.
“Look, Evie!” she shouted exultantly, striking a wide-footed, super-hero stance and planting fists at her waist, elbows bent. “I’m SISTER RESISTER!!” This was followed by a triumphant cackle, head thrown back, decidedly worthy of the Wicked Witch of the West.
And there, I confess, I hope the idea roots firmly in her heart. It’s enthralling to watch a child so bold, so determined, so insistently fearless. Maybe that’s because when I was her age, I was the complete opposite. They called me Fraidy Cat, and there was plenty of evidence: I sobbed on the back of our pinto pony during the Christmas picture photo session, even when the poor animal was held tightly in place and motionless. I cowered in the seat behind my father in the ski boat, clinging tightly to his back when the boat thumped merrily over waves. Meanwhile, my braver, carefree sisters perched madly in the far front bow, hoping to be bounced as hard as possible. I can’t for the life of me see, looking back, why I was like that.
I don’t think I chose the nickname to egg on this child who needs no encouragement to assert herself.
Or did I? Doesn’t matter. If she sees those qualities in herself, that’s everything she may someday need. For me, circumstances were the great modifiers, many, many years after I feared bouncing boats and ponies. Life took certain turns that called for certain responses, and fear, by default, became something that could be considered later, at some other time. I’m not sure it’s accurate to call that courage so much as a predisposition for action. My dad used to voice a simple credo for difficult situations: Do Something, Even if it’s Wrong.
Who knows what adversities may someday require super-hero strength from Sis? In the public arena, a recent parade of examples has marched past, flags waving.
Maybe someday she’ll need to resist like Taylor Swift, who stood up to a powerful music industry personality who abused his position and degraded her in public. Taylor stood firm all the way to trial, and when the court ruled in her favor, she asked for $1. The real victory, she said, was the opportunity to publicly encourage other women to speak up and refuse to be silenced by mistreatment.
Or maybe she’ll need to persist like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was forced into silence on the floor of the Senate for the letter she was reading about the civil rights track record of a key presidential appointee. Justifying his procedural action in the face of subsequent criticism, the Senate majority leader ignited international response with this statement: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” (Thank you, Senator, for the deeply inspiring call to action for women everywhere. T-shirt vendors are still counting money as I write this.)
And then there was Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who resisted attempts to derail her questioning on the House floor on the basis of procedural time limitations. She responded by persistently invoking a procedural proclamation of her own: “Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time.”
Our Sister Resister is too young now to understand the momentous impact of these women, who are facing down the renewed adversity and conflict in our tumultuous contemporary times. Those of us of a certain age watched first-hand the earlier footsteps of women who fought 50 years ago for equal pay, an end to gender discrimination, and other protections. History is, of course, full of earlier examples, and I hope someday she’ll learn about and honor them. The famous Resisters, as well as the countless women who persist in the face of private adversity in daily life–all surely called on super-hero strength to stand tall when needed.
So I say: Onward, Sister Resister. Start learning now to stand up and speak out. Refuse to be derailed if you believe you are right. You might be mocked like Warren or groped like Swift, or even bounced out of a motorboat, but you have what it takes to carry on. I can see it as clearly as the blue in your eyes.
Because scripture may foretell that the meek will inherit the earth, but She Who Resists, and Persists, can change it forever.