As she walked in wearing a self-proclaimed “Barbie-outfit” with knee-high boots and hair bleached to ultimate blondness, I knew it was going to be a long talk. I immediately scrutinized her based on her all-too-common, “girly” outfit, abnormally chipper voice, and political views. I thought to myself, “Wow, there’s no way I’m ever going to connect with her.” But I have never been so wrong.
Sometimes, a powerful person unconsciously projects their impact; the way they carry themselves positively exudes greatness. But other times, things can be a little unclear. Their listed achievements are admirable, but there is something about their appearance, voice, titles, and purpose, that somewhat underscores their repertoire.
Before I had even heard her speak, I was judgmental of Dr. Caroline Heldman. I thought she would be phony and fake, and that she would not practice what she preached. When I heard that the Girls Varsity Soccer team was spending “practice” with Dr. Heldman, I wasn’t sure how the conversation would go as I was not familiar with her work. I assumed she would be very controlled and fake with rehearsed answers; answers that meant nothing. But that actually wasn’t the case.
As our questions turned into conversations, I grew more and more fascinated with the woman sitting right in front of me. I learned that she grew up in a town in the middle of nowhere, raced cars, and was homeschooled, only to go on to live a huge life in the spotlight as a professor, activist, and author.
When asked about why she presents herself in a traditionally feminine way, she said it was all strategy. If someone who is about to speak on a shocking topic begins their presentation in a familiar, unassuming, and kind way, then the audience is automatically more open, and less defensive to what the speaker has to say. So, Dr. Heldman wasn’t decked out in a pink suit because she was unaware that she may not be taken as seriously, or even because she preferred to. She knew that simply by dressing in a more feminine way, she could break the boundary of unfamiliarity with her audience, ultimately allowing her to reach her audience more effectively.
As a public figure, every action she takes is heavily weighed, analyzed, and criticized. I respect her so much for that. It must be terrifying for someone to speak out on such polarizing issues, or to hide parts of their identity just so one of their ideas can be heard, all while people beat them down for it.
I only received ninety minutes of her time. But in those ninety minutes, I realized how wrong my assumptions were, and in reality, how much of fighter she is. Every single day, she faces people who threaten her because of her political identity. She repeatedly has to present herself as an image that pleases the majority, an image which may not represent who she truly is.
Women make up around half of the general workforce, according to “The New York Times,” but extreme scrutiny towards their accomplishments and credentials is still common. Women who are bold leaders are labeled with derogatory terms, and women who assume a more quiet leadership approach are thought of as ineffective. Fitting these demoralizing guidelines requires an incessant amount of effort and self-suppression.
Especially in politics and the media, women are subjected to more negativity, and therefore, have a thinner line of right and wrong to walk on. Although her media personality is simply a projection of the few things women are “allowed to do” and may seem fake, I learned that because of how much she understands the intricacies of her profession and her public image, she is one of the “realest” people out there.
When Dr. Heldman came to speak, I was not very educated on the topic, nor was I extraordinarily interested in it. At first, I thought it would just turn into political propaganda, presented not because she cared, but because it was simply something that paid the checks. After meeting her, I realized that there can still be heart behind a media-centered political approach. The power, strength, determination, and love needed to outwit yet fit with the entire political nation is simply immeasurable and incredibly rare.
If you didn’t take away any facts or anything else really from Dr. Heldman’s visit, I hope you’re now able to see what I eventually came to understand: people in her field have to give up and go through a lot just to get to where she is now. Though their fake and rehearsed nature may deter you from their passion for their job, don’t let it. If you do, you’ll never be able to admire the strength and intellect people like Dr. Heldman posses, which can only give hope that there are strong people like her, fighting for their causes.
Mackenzie Lucas is a New Lower from Upton, Mass.