Sheroes

Erin Lynn Nau, PhD, LCSW
5 min readDec 3, 2019

This time of year, gratitude is everywhere. It’s in the grocery store reminding you to be grateful for your abundance and the amazing prices. It’s during the mediation of my yoga class, more than usual. It’s in emails from nonprofits telling me they are grateful for my donation. I even use it with my counseling clients asking them what gratitude looks like for them.

When considering what I am grateful for, I thought of the usual things: My privileges, my husband, my family, my education, our tiny furbaby (she is about as cute as they come), my health. Then as I was scrolling through Twitter, as one does, I saw some of the women I follow tweeting about issues important to me. I thought I am really grateful to the sheroes who influenced my life. There are so many well-known sheroes: Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai. I am especially grateful to some sheroes who you may not know.

My first shero, before I was even calling her that, was Tori Amos. I remember driving down Austin Bluffs in Colorado Springs, when I first heard her singing. She was speaking to me (and every other 16-year-old girl who had the privilege of hearing her). She saw me and my insecurities. She normalized my feelings. I was not alone. Her music spoke to me differently at different times in my life. It was like receiving a card in the mail with just the right words at just the right time.

My sister-in-law (long before she was my sister-in-law) and I bonded over her music. We saw her together in concert more times than I should admit. She gave us an unbreakable bond.

Me and my shero Tori Amos in Rome.

When I studied abroad in graduate school, Tori was playing in Rome, where I studied. Her concert was my souvenir. This trip changed my life, Tori was a part of it. Not all of my loves from my teenage years continue to live up to my shero standards. Thankfully, Tori Amos does. When I recently saw that she is releasing a book next year called Resistance: A Songwriters Story of Hope Change and Courage, my eyes welled up. She still sees me. Thank you, Tori, for being my shero.

By now everyone knows about the #MeToo movement. Many people think it was started by Alyssia Milano speaking about Harvey Weinstein’s formerly unspeakable acts. However, it was started by Tarana Burke.

When I was speaking at professional conference about the forgotten voices of the #MeToo movement I dug deeper into its origin. Tarana Burke became a shero to me in that moment. Tarana was working with girls, mostly girls of color. At a girls camp, after an empowerment group, a girl sought out Tarana to disclose her tale of terrible abuse. Tarana says she was not able to listen to her story and directed her to someone else. It was too close to home for her because the girl’s story was her story. As she walked away, she thought, “Me too.”

Tarana took this moment and turned it into a movement. She took her worst nightmare and gave girls and women a place to talk about their trauma. Since the surge of the #MeToo movement, she has been interviewed by various news outlets and even attended the Academy Awards with Michelle Williams. She was absent from the Time Magazine Person of the Year cover, and many people still do not know her name. She has listened to countless stories since the first one she had difficulty listening to and started a movement.

Thank you, Tarana, for being my shero!

At times in my life, running felt like my most feminist act. When my grandmothers were the age I was when I ran my marathon, they would have been denied entry. I don’t look like a runner, and people said to me, “You ran the marathon?” Running has given me so much including leading me to phenomenal sheroes. Kara Goucher is an unbelievable runner. She is an Olympian. She has set records that stand for years. She was an amazing, fun-to-watch marathoner and is transitioning into a badass trail runner.

But what makes her one of my sheroes is that she speaks up when she sees injustice. She called out Alberto Salazar years ago, continues to speak her truth, and asks to be called on to tell the truth. I listened to her interview Mary Cain on her podcast. Mary said she would not have had the strength to come forward if Kara had not led the way.

Thank you, Kara, for being my shero!

Me and my shero Lauren Fleshman at the NYRR Mini 10k

Lauren Fleshman was one of my first running sheroes. I met her at the Boston Marathon expo in 2014 and was shaking after we spoke (I met Kara there, too, but my admiration for her had not yet developed to full-on shero level). Lauren also speaks her mind about everything that is wrong with this beloved sport, especially for women. She sits on the USATF board and advocates for athletes even after she has retired. She proudly coaches a group of badass runners for Oiselle’s Little Wing.

She is a feminist, she lifts women up. She gives them the mic. She created a writing and running retreat, Wilder. She hosts the retreats, she writes, she runs, she plays the guitar. She is a badass. She is honest about what she thinks are her shortcomings and fails. I, for one, don’t see them as fails at all.

Thank you, Lauren, for being my shero! I will always be a little dizzy after speaking with you.

Writing about my sheroes allows me to think about women who I do not know that impact me as a woman, a feminist, a runner, a social worker, a human. So many more people have influenced my life but they are not vocal about their small acts of sheroism.

So tell me about your sheroes. I especially want to hear about women of color. In writing this, I was reminded of my daily work to become a better intersectional feminist.

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Erin Lynn Nau, PhD, LCSW

Feminist. Social Worker. Researcher. I am a PhD candidate whose research focuses on self-worth and early adolescent girls. www.erinlnau.com