From a young age, we women are taught how a ‘proper lady’ should behave. Whenever you go out with your hair in disarray or with nipples blazing through your shirt, clucking tongues are sure to follow. It’s not ‘ladylike’, we’re told. No matter how much our world has evolved, so many of us women still haven’t fully recovered our equal rights. We are bound by limitations, expected to look and act a certain way. Heck, I’ve got a full bush, hairy armpits and a mane that is always in shambles but this doesn’t imply laziness or bad hygiene. It’s a statement. I won’t conform. These body hairs don’t define me and I have never felt more comfortable with my sexuality.
So in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, here’s a list of 9 brilliant and audacious women warriors from across the industry spectrum who are not afraid to grab the megaphone and voice their opinions, break gender barriers or stand up for what they believe is right. Each deserves to be honored today and every other day.
1. Jacinda Ardern
Aside from being New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister and the youngest female PM ever, what we admire about Jacinda is how she embraces multiple roles and is unstoppable. Can you imagine running a country and doing everything else too?
Here’s just a list of her achievements: she recently ended a strike by nurses, announced a new mental hospital for acute patients and, sometimes during interviews, brings her newborn to work and breastfeeds her child first before answering political questions.
This female powerhouse also recently declared banning single-use plastic bags in New Zealand. In a country with just 4 million citizens, they use billion plastic bags in a year, so this deserves a round of applause! According to Ardern, “Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastic pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations.” Spoken like a true mother and a citizen of the world.
2. Michelle Obama
We have nothing but respect for the former first lady. Her first major campaign under the Obama Foundation is the Global Girls Alliance which focuses on creating a remarkable change among adolescent girls around the world. Currently, about 98 million girls worldwide are not in school. Each one of these young ladies has dreams and the first step to getting there is going to school.
Michelle Obama is fighting on behalf of these girls, for their right to an education and create her own destiny.
Global Girls alliance is working with GoFundMe to start a fundraising campaign so anyone from anywhere around the world can help support grassroots leaders to fulfill their goal of sending adolescent girls to school. Through this project, a huge number of girls from South America, Asia and Africa have been given education.
‘When you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.’Michelle Obama
3. Emma Watson
Our beloved Hermione Granger has grown up. In 2014 she was appointed as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. One of her duties as part of this role is to campaign for the HeForShe Movement. The HeForShe campaign is a global solidarity program devoted to gender equality and improving the status of women by inviting men to help be a part of society’s transformation.
Emma delivered a speech at the United National. An excerpt from it is this:
“Why has the world become such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain, and I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”
It isn’t as magical as Wingardium Leviosa but it is definitely powerful.
4. Jill Kristin Vedder
I feel better with Jill Kristin Vedder around. My children are in California and the countless news segments on gun violence and school shootings paralyze me with fear since I am an ocean away from my family. Knowing that Jill is out there doing everything she can against gun violence gives me hope. That she encourages people to stand up and fight against the current pro-firearms administration gives me a sense of security that she, along with millions more, will not stop fighting to make a change.
Jill is a passionate campaigner. She is the Vice Chairman at the EB Research partnership, a non-profit organization committed to finding a cure for a skin disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa. She is also an ambassador for Global Citizen, an organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty.
In her free time, she seems to be the coolest mom and has been shaping her two girls to stand up for what is right (gun reform) and is also an active supporter of the Every Mother Counts campaign to end preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth.
5. Isabella Rosellini
The invisibility of older women is still a problem up, even now. Which is why when Isabella Rosellini was asked to return to the cosmetic company where she was given the elbow 25 years ago, she said yes.
The face of Lancôme for 15 years, Isabella became one of the highest paid models in the industry. She was beautiful and perfect but when she turned 42, she was replaced by a 33-year-old Juliet Binoche who looked like a strikingly similar, younger version of herself. This was a time when even corporate offices of cosmetic companies were male-dominated and the message behind the ads was one of female seduction, not female empowerment. “Your look should make the men respond to you,” the advertisements seemed to say. “It’s the only way to let them know you exist.”
When Isabella was ousted, she started her own make-up brand called Manifesto where she could be the muse and the genius behind it. Twenty-three years later, at age 65, she was approached by Lancôme once again, a modelling contract she has agreed to, despite her strong feelings. With women making executive decisions at the cosmetics company, the message they want to convey is different to that of men’s: you are beautiful no matter your color, age or size. And that’s a message Isabella will gladly communicate to every woman struggling with feeling and looking good as they age.
6. Christiana Figueres
The former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change gets things done and one such achievement is the Paris Agreement, a pact between 197 countries that focusses on a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and provide assistance to developing countries affected by climate change.
Christiana Figures continues to be a climate change advocate and persists in influencing people to take action to protect the future for everyone.
“We don’t become mothers to hand over something that is diminishing to our children.”
7. Nadia Murad
The first Iraqi to win a Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad was captured in Iraq by the Islamic State and was raped and forced to be a sex slave for three months before escaping in November 2014. Since her ordeal, she has fought for the freedom of her fellow Yazidis and has become the face of a campaign to end human trafficking.
Nadia was named the UN’s first goodwill ambassador for survivors of human trafficking later that year.
8. Alicia Keys
Being a huge celebrity or TV personality comes with lots of demands especially with how you present yourself. Being confined to societal expectations of how they should look, what they should weigh, being judged for gaining a few pounds or looking less than perfect at all times can take a toll on one’s self-esteem.
That’s why Alicia Keys is a hero – she wants none of that anymore and she’s going (mostly) makeup-free. Going against the use of make-up doesn’t have anything to do with make-up at all. For Alicia, it’s about stripping off the bullshit and just being open about everything – baring her truth, her mind and her soul.
9. Dr. Lulu Reyes
Maria Luisa ‘Lulu’ Torres Reyes is currently a Scholar in Residence at one of the oldest universities in the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas (UST). She is also the editor-in-chief of UNITAS Journal, founded in 1922. UNITAS is an international online peer-reviewed open-access journal of advanced research in literature, culture, and society, published by UST.
Her book, “Banaag at Sikat: Metakritisismo at Antolohiya” won best in literary criticism by the National Book Award in 2011.
She is the founding editor and is a Professor Emerita of Kritika Kultura, an international e-journal of literary, cultural and language studies published by Ateneo de Manila University where she taught for several years until her retirement a few years ago. Through Dr. Lulu’s vision, Kritika Kultura was conceived in 2002 and has sustained its relevance by being the only academic e-journal of its kind in the Philippines today. It is a platform where scholars and critics from across the globe discuss and debate on topics about literary, cultural and language studies.
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Title image of Emma Watson at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Beauty And The Beast’ held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, USA on March 2017. Credit: Shutterstock.