i have your back: a message of empowerment for girls and women.  one for you and one to give.  

I have your back

The day before the 2016 Presidential election, my son and I were visiting the University of Central Florida. He had just been accepted and we were taking a tour. Before the tour, we stopped by Hillel, the Jewish student organization, and I noticed in a bowl they had yoga hair bands printed with a hashtag of an Israel trip they were promoting. I took one, put it on my wrist and we left. Next, we went to the student union and because it was the day before Election Day, there were tables with campus Republicans and Democrats campaigning. I loved this because my son was and is a politically engaged person and I was glad to see the activism. But something was gnawing at me.


Exactly a month earlier, the Washington Post had leaked a 2005 Access Hollywood tape with a lewd conversation and the innocent reporter unaware of the disgusting talk about her.


A month later, as we walked around this vibrant college campus, I stared at the hair band on my wrist and an idea came to me.


I did not want the young woman on this campus, nor my daughter, nor her friends, nor my colleagues nor my friends to ever be put in an uncomfortable situation just because they were a woman. And then an uncomfortable memory popped into my head.


When I was 14 years old, we were at my aunts for a family gathering. I was relaxing on the couch, lying on my stomach with my legs crossed in the air. An adult male came and as a joke snapped my bra and said “I snapped your snap”, laughed and left. This one moment I have never forgotten. I was ashamed and embarrassed. Other memories came too. Of uncomfortable situations in the workplace - a boss talking about sexual exploits in one of my first jobs out of college. And the countless times my appearance, weight, relationship status, outfit or hair color preceded any ability to deal with me in the professional realm. Or the unkind, passive-aggressive behaviors that would never be experienced by my male counterparts. Or the ignoring of my voice around the table.



I ordered 700 pink yoga hair bands, with “I HAVE YOUR BACK” printed on them.  And I sent them to all the women I knew and loved and to some famous women too with a letter.  I sent each woman two.  Once for themselves, so they knew I had their back, and one for them to pass on to some other girl or women so they knew someone had their back too.   

-Jessica Spitalnic Mates and Shira Brockman