A couple of weeks ago, I launched the I Am Syn project and thus far, I have been really encouraged by the response. The variety of women who have reached out to be a part of it is widespread in terms of life experience, demographic and location. I am excited to see that women from all around the country are considering participating in this fundraiser aimed towards empowerment, activism, and the refusal to normalize abuse or disrespect of women.
I also feel I would be remiss if I didn't provide some context for why the I Am Syn project is so important to me and so vital to my heart space right now. I have written about this election and the results of the election elsewhere on the blog. I think it comes as no surprised to you to know that the election of Donald Trump impacted me intensely. There are 3 major aspects of my identity that I hold very sacred: I am a woman, I am a teacher, and I am a creative.
My femininity and my teaching of high school are perhaps the two critical ones that this election most challenged in me emotionally. Both of these identities were challenged significantly by the election of Donald Trump. To me, Trump represents disrespect of women and disrespect of intellectual thought--thus, calling into question two major aspects of my identity. Therefore, I am left with a third major aspect, my creativity, to figure out a way to cope.
That is how I came to the I Am Syn project. I found myself talking with women from all across the city, and country, and finding that so many of them felt just as I did--gobsmacked and terrified. I am Syn became an outlet--a way for me to channel my beliefs that women are independent and strong and powerful and creative and intelligent and WORTH IT.
Further, the 53% of white women who voted for Donald Trump confounded me. In the days following the election, I found myself looking at women around me out of the corner of my eye, with suspicion. Did my yoga teacher vote for him? My good friend and teaching colleague? The woman in the checkout lane at the grocery store? My waitress? I found myself retreating into my head more and more, becoming more and more suspicious and less and less open. These were, obviously, not great feelings to live or deal with, and I found that I needed something to bring me around towards action--I Am Syn was that catalyst for action.
I've spent a lot of time, too, reflecting on myself as an intellectual. In no way do I consider myself particularly intelligent or super smart--I remember strongly being in high school and feeling like one of the less sharp tools in the drawer, so this isn't about how smart I am or how I have it all figured out. I think it is more about the fact that I have been raised by two parents to be an outspoken and opinionated woman, and I think, sadly, that is something that is rare in our society, particularly in the Midwestern area where I live and was raised. Every day I am overwhelmed with gratitude that somehow I managed to marry a man who looks at my voice as inspiring rather than threatening and a man who encourages me to stand for what I believe to be right.
I think, though, that this is the exception to the rule for many. For women to speak out and to question the status quo or to question men, can be extremely unusual and extremely rare. For the past several years, probably since I started this business, and maybe before, a significant thing I have kept in mind is speaking my mind when it is the right time to do so.
I feel that this is the right time. I have no shame in believing as strongly as I do that the election of Donald Trump is a step backwards for our country. I do not mince words when I say that I believe he will execute the downfall of integrity, kindness, and acceptance of those who live on the marginalized edge of society. I fear he will make great changes for women's health, LGBTQ rights, public education reform. I have intense worry. I tell people about that worry, not to change their minds, but to be on the side of history that was standing and was talking and was questioning and was challenging. I want to be on that side of history and I want the I Am Syn project to do some of that work.
Women standing together can be a force. Simply consider so many of our Native American cultures who used women as the primary leaders for years to sort out conflicts and difficulties. To go to a group of women and ask for a solution or for an audience is a very powerful moment. I believe that the I Am Syn project can be that moment for women in West Michigan (and beyond). We have lived in a culture for so long that tells women we are not worth listening to, we are "a bitch" if we question something that others have already accepted, that we are "shrill" if we wonder aloud at injustice, but then also that we are weak if we cry or we are hormonal if we have vacillating ideas. I Am Syn is about women working together to change some of that narrative that maybe we have even fallen victim to believing from time to time. I know I have. I know there are days when I judge myself and my fellow women more harshly, and I hate myself for that, but it is real and it happens. I hope that I Am Syn can be part of changing that reality for me and for the women who participate.
As I said earlier, I have had many women get in touch and are excited to participate. But I have noticed, too, that many of those who have said they wish to participate have also expressed nervousness or anxiety about their participation, and mostly that anxiety comes from fears of "needing" to lose weight or of feeling unattractive.
I get that. I understand that.
When I had Ian shoot these pictures for me, I had anxiety too--and that is with my husband shooting these shots. I found myself gravitating towards the ones that were slightly blurry and thinking, "Oh good, then you can't see my wrinkles as well." And it took a LOT not to airbrush or correct these in Photoshop, but I didn't. I restrained myself from doing that, because I think a huge part of I Am Syn is about refusing to fall victim to these unrealistic expectations our society has of what a woman is or what a woman looks like. We are all different. We are all beautiful. Regardless of our scars, our pounds, our wrinkles, our grey hairs, our mismatched breasts, our abilities or disabilities, we are all women. And that is what I am Syn is about--embracing that women are strong and amazing and powerful in their own way--and there are hundreds of ways to show that.
So, I am Syn.
I am Syn because I am refusing to accept that voting a man who obviously disrespects women the way Donald Trump does is what our country stands for.
I am Syn because I am denying the feeling of helplessness that has plagued me for weeks.
I am Syn because I hold the boundaries to my heart and my beliefs.
I am Syn because I am totally imperfect.
I am Syn because I refuse to normalize rape culture.
I am Syn because I an denying the feeling of chaos I have in my heart when I think of the next four years.
I am Syn because I am powerful.
I am Syn because I am in control of myself and my mind.
I am Syn. Are you Syn?