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Mansplainin' 

The Observer has always been partial to strong women. Strong people in general, of course, but strong women in particular. Strong women get our highest praise, though, because it is, in our betesticled opinion, oh so hard to be a strong woman in this world. It's so much easier to dodge the bullet of "bitch" or "shrew" or "ballbuster" by not doing those things that would get any he-man worth his testosterone an attaboy and a slap on the back, if not a cigar and a raise: showing initiative and ambition and drive, instead of settling for the living death of being wholly ornamental. Speaking up and sharing your ideas, instead of not speaking unless spoken to. Seems like there's a hell of a lot more strong women these days than there used to be. Or maybe it's just easier to see them now, glowing in their outrage, here in this benighted age after a woman managed to win the vote for president by 3 million ballots plus, but still had to watch a man unfit to run a Burger King restaurant claim The Big Chair. So it goes, but hopefully not forever, Goddess willing.

All this comes to mind because of the women we're profiling in this week's cover story: a group of tough women who grew tired of watching politicians, mostly men, sit around with their thumbs up their keisters, firing hollow-point promises of thoughts and prayers every time a lunatic with an assault rifle decides to walk into a public place and end as many lives as he can in a minute or less. The people who know what it is to plant and grow and tend the seeds of this nation also know that while thoughts and prayers may keep the preacher in patent leather loafers and monogrammed Bible covers, a short ton of them is not nearly as good or as valuable or as world-changing as a single drop of earned sweat. And so they march. And so they make signs and presentations. And so they start uncomfortable conversations, seeking common ground. The Observer intends no condescension when we say we're proud of them, one and all. They are trying to change the world for the best reason humanity has ever tried to do anything: out of love for those they will never meet.

All this is not, by the way, Yours Truly fishing for the biggest piece of chicken from Ma come Sunday dinner, or an extra spoonful of sugar from our loving Spouse (both of whom are, in case you're wondering, just the kind of strong women we're talking about). Our admiration is genuine, and probably sprouts directly from our DNA, a genetic fondness for those women who are solid as opposed to liquid, the same all the way through as opposed to always ready to fill any vessel into which they find themselves poured, no matter how shallow or narrow. On our mother's side, The Observer's people are hardy mountain folk, and almost wholly matriarchal. One-room schoolteachers abound in our maternal line, as do women who shooed away the tax collector and took in washing to somehow hold on to Ol' Rocky Top after their men grew tired of harvesting only thorns and hungry mouths to feed and lit out for the Territories. As far as The Observer can tell, we are the product of a whole passel of drunks and wife-beaters, guitar-pickers and layabouts, cigarette bummers and shameless hucksters, fellas who grew old waiting for a wealthy relative to die or died young after too many bottles of Four Roses. Them sumbitches, and a hell of a lot of good women who refused to go down with the ship. We might be an XY, sons and daughters, but that X in there? That sucker is as strong as Detroit iron. As a package deal, it came with a bit of hard-earned wisdom that we have been reminded of again and again in these troubled times. We are spreading that wisdom as quick as we can to any male ear willing to perk up and listen, and we shall do so here again: If you only respect women when they are conforming to your idea of how a woman should behave, you don't, in fact, respect women. Put that in your johnson and smoke it.

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