It seems insane that we even need a day to honor women. We're freaking awesome! However, as we find ourselves reverting back to fighting for the basic civil rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for in the 60s, it is important to pay tribute to women and all that we do to make this world a better place.
For International Women's Day, I've comprised a list of 15 women who have not only made huge strides in our community, but who also inspire me to be a better woman everyday. These ladies taught me what it means to be a feminist.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better."
As someone who grew up in Nigeria, and currently lives in both Nigeria and the United States, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has an interesting perspective on feminism. In a very misogynistic country, she argues that feminism equates to equality, and that both me and women should embrace being a feminist. She also emphasizes that women don't need to dress a certain way to assert their feminism. If you want to wear a skirt and heels to work, you go for it girl. Just do it for yourself. I highly recommend her essay, We Should All be Feminists.
"There are some people who still feel threatened by strong women. That's their problem. It's not mine."
My love for Gloria Allred is only mildly because she is a nice little Jewish girl my hometown of Philadelphia. But in actuality, the Harvey Weinstein takedown may not have even happened if it wasn't for her. The attorney became famous for being outspoken in the feminist movement, as well as taking on high-profile civil rights cases, most notably representing the women who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. Although she wasn't always well liked, often accused of being money hungry, or simply trying to steal the spotlight, she never kept quiet. She paved the way for legislation in favor of women, as well as allowing them to legally confront their harassers. If you'd like to learn more about her, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary Seeing Allred.
"In my generation...middle-class women didn’t have careers. You were to marry and have children and be a nice mother. You didn’t go out and do anything. I found that I got restless..."
Growing up, I absolutely adored Julia Child. I looked forward to hearing her distinct voice and watching her licking her fingers and dropping bowls on the floor while making jabs at Jacques Pepin on PBS. Her eccentricities were perfect for children, and I fed right into it, no pun intended. She introduced me to food I'd never heard of from the comfort of my couch. She inspired me to experiment with cooking, and I don't think I'd have the love of food I have without her. For more about her, read her autobiography, My Life in France. If that's not your thing, Julie and Julia is a really fun read as well.
“I think that we need women role models everywhere. I think that it's really hard to imagine yourself as something that you don't see.”
Chelsea Clinton has really come out of her parents' shadow and blossomed into an amazing role model for girls, something she's always understood as being important. She even wrote She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World and She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, books in which the sole purpose was to inspire girls to fight the adversity and be anything they want to be (plus the illustrations are so adorable). Additionally, the way she responds to her Twitter trolls with kindness and compassion shows how she doesn't let social media negativity get the best of her. It seriously takes a strong woman to do that.
"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept…"
Watch any documentary even remotely touching on the civil rights in the 60s and you're bound to come across Angela Davis. This fierce woman has been very outspoken about prison reform. However she never wanted to be forced to choose between the black movement or the women's movement, and encourages others to see how both movements work together. I think this is important to keep in mind while we face these same issues in today's political climate. Neither one is more important than the other, and coexistence of both is necessary.
“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses―pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”
Roxane Gay is, in a word, amazing. She is the unapologetic feminist that the movement needs. She is a constant inspiration to me. Whether fiction or nonfiction, her writing is always beautiful, articulate, and above all, powerful. She's lived a tough life, and is still experiencing ramifications from it. However, she has used that to her advantage, learning from it and encouraging others to do the same. She empowers me to move forward in the face of challenges, and fight back against what is unfair. Everyone needs to read her, because no doubt inspiration will follow. Highly recommend adding Hunger and Bad Feminist to your booklist.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
"My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent."
Maybe I'm being presumptuous, but the name Ruth Bader Ginsberg seems synonymous with feminism. Before she was the second woman to be appointed as a judge on the US Supreme Court, Ginsberg was a cofounder of the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU. As someone who has always supported women's rights, gay rights, and minorities rights on the bench, we all owe her one for helping to eradicate the injustices in this country. I'm frightened to think where we would be without her. If you'd like to learn more about her, read the Notorious RBG. It's amazing, like her.
Laura Jane Grace
“Don't let them break you... don't let them tell you who you are”
Sometimes the women's movement ignores, or even condemns, transwomen, forcing them to fight their own fight. However, I embrace everyone who identifies as a woman to fight the good fight alongside with me, and encourage all women to do the same. One of the women making a splash is Against Me!'s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace. To put it bluntly, she kicks ass. She's given a voice to people in the trans community who felt silenced. And for the most part, the music community has embraced her with open arms. Her strength and eloquence is everything the women's movement needs. Her book, Tranny, outlines her struggle with gender dysphoria, and how she worked to accept herself. Even if you're not an Against Me! fan, it's an incredible read.
"Women - all women, trans women - are roughly 80% of the people who were staring down the terror of Ferguson, saying 'we are the caretakers of this community'."
Khan-Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Live Matter movement, looked at the way she and the people around her had been treated and said "This is not ok." As a queer, black woman from Van Nuys, she has faced her share of adversity from all angles. But instead of being silent and sinking into the life the world expected her to have, she rose above and created a movement that will not be silenced. A movement that demands accountability in the senseless killing of unarmed, black children. Her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, is both eye-opening and awe-inspiring.
"We're not going to stand for it anymore."
Alyssa Milano has been extremely vocal in the #MeToo and Time's Up movement. Though she didn't start the #MeToo movement, that credit goes to Tarana Burke, she did make the call for everyone who'd been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet #MeToo following the Weinstein allegations. In doing that, she started a community of women who felt connected through awful experiences. She used her celebrity to be outspoken for vulnerable people, and continues to do so today, now lending her voice to the gun reform movement.
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
I know you all miss having her in the White House as much as I do. Michelle Obama used her power to encourage little girls in America to be whatever they wanted to be. She empowered women, standing up for education and health, and demanding that men just be better. She consistently addressed the issues of rape and the treatment of black women in this country. And even though she is no longer the First Lady, she continues to do all of those things. She has earned the rights of being the feminist icon she is.
"Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think."
They say it's impossible to be a Beatles fan and a Yoko fan. Well I don't know who "they" are, but they'd be wrong. I absolutely adore her. She has always been vocal about women in the art world, a traditionally male-dominated industry. Additionally, her art is very feminist-focused. She always seems to encourage love and respect above all else, and that may be the first step in making this movement work.
“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.”
Gloria Steinem is one of the original 60s feminists. As a journalist, political activist, and organizer, she's inspired me to be involved in social and political activism. She is one of the people who made it possible to be the feminists we are today. Living her life on the road, she was able to meet women from all places, backgrounds, cultures, and classes, allowing her to cultivate a movement that was beneficial to all women. She continues to be an outspoken activist today, writing and delivering lectures that light the fire under our collective asses. While she's written several books, My Life on the Road is her most recent, and is a great collection of everything she's done for the movement.
“If one man can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?”
Starting at a young age, Malala Yousafzai was an outspoken supporter of educations for girls in Pakistan. And then she got shot for it. At 12-years-old. And survived. And went on to continue to be an activist for girls' education. Even when faced with death, she didn't back down from her mission. She continues to be an advocate for girl's education today, and shows amazing poise and bravery, especially for a girl of her age. I Am Malala is a must-read. We are all lucky she is alive to tell her story.
I owe who I am today to my mom. Always my biggest fan, she never let me feel like there was anything in the world I couldn't do. Even as I am a 28-year-old woman, I know she still thinks I can be whatever I want to be when I grow up. She has lifted me up at my lowest points, and kept me high at my highest. The pride she has for me encourages me to do whatever my passion is, whether it's writing, baking, or being an activist. She is my mother, my best friend, my world.
Bonus: My Friends
I know everyone says they have the best friends, but they're wrong. I have the best friends. Like my mother, they've been there with me through everything. They encourage me to be the best woman I can be. From laughter, to tears, to heated debates, they constantly keep me thinking about how to be better, about how to make the world better. In turn, I'm always so proud of them and their accomplishments. We hold each other up. I feel bad for women who say they don't have a lot of female friends, or that they don't get along with other women. I think it's really important for women to have other strong women in their life. And I'm thankful as hell for all the strong women in mine.