Once again it is the 8th of March, and just like any other year the vast majority of social media consumers are posting all sorts of inspirational quotes to celebrate women for being.. women. Nonetheless, we do believe there is much more to say and that, if we really want to commemorate this day, we should at least try harder, instead of simply reposting a ‘Girls should never be afraid to be smart’ or ‘There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish’ and calling it a day. There are reasons, backgrounds, feelings, connections. With the arduous intent of tracing the map of the women our community believes to be the most influential, we asked some simple questions. And we have the answers.
First place on the podium: Kamala Harris. Without a doubt, she marked a turning point in the history of the United States. She is THE first: the first female, first black and first Asian-American US Vice-president. As Camilla pointed out when answering our question, her courage and determination are the drivers of her success. During her acceptance speech she said something that will probably be remembered forever: ‘While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities’. And with the simplest words a powerful person like her could pronounce, Kamala opened that world of possibilities to all the girls and the women in the world, because she allowed them to dream big and showed them that accomplishing one’s goals is not a hopeless fantasy.
And speaking of powerful women who managed to create a strong and positive image of themselves, Michelle Obama was another popular choice in our survey. Ilaria tried to explain how she kept that image intact through the years: ‘Being strong means being consistent. And she is consistent’. But that does not suffice. Her true secret is probably being able to give a piece of herself to those who meet her, and also to those who don’t. The word to describe her is ‘relatable’, down to earth, because Michelle was raised in such a humble context and still she attended the best universities and had an enviable career ahead of becoming First Lady. And she deserved all of it.
Malala Yousafzai. If you don’t know this name, you probably never stepped foot in a bookstore. Her autobiography ‘I am Malala’ has been sitting on worldwide shelves since 2014. That is also the year she won the Nobel Peace Prize. What Dionysia wrote has all the information you need to know:
‘What does it mean to be a woman? If Malala's courage is not the heart that pumps life into the defiance that a woman, or simply a human being, must have to fight for their freedoms, I don't know what is. A bullet left Malala unconscious in 2012, and most likely dead, when she was targeted by the Taliban at the Pakistani city of Swat. Of course, that was the capital punishment for the ultimate sin: going to school under Shari'a law; tilting your chin up to the face of fundamentalism and screaming to the world "my education is my undeniable right". By a miracle she survived. Her story was the first drop in a domino reaction of the world condemning Taliban rule in Pakistan. She started from her anonymous BBC blog covering the evolution of Taliban influence in Swat, whether it was the battle of Rah-e-Haq or the eventual banning of women from school. She continues her activism with her advocacy for human rights, with actions like opening a school of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, speaking against the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, raising awareness on the fragile peace in Kashmir or through the Malala fund which fuels her efforts to provide millions of girls with quality and free education’.
The name of Simone Veil also came out. She was a French politician, and she battled herself for women’s rights all her life. While she was in office as minister of health, she fought to give women the right of abortion, showing just how ahead of her time she really was: it was the year 1975 when the Loi Veil was enacted.
The artistic fields offer a number of names to praise: from Beyonce to Frida Kahlo, but also Monica Bellucci, Isabel Allende, Lizzo. What brings these names together is the courage to express oneself, and the audacity to carve out one’s own place in the jungle that is life.
We can find inspiration in the most famous and powerful women that ever existed, but also at home. A special mention goes to Sara’s grandma. Like many others in her time, she came from a humble background and was not able to finish school, but she pushed her children to study hard and go to university, allowing them to shape the life they wanted to have.
Overall, it’s safe to say that what we really find inspiring in a woman is her strength. The strength to be who she truly is when others say she should be more of that and less of this, the strength to keep working against the odds, to follow an intuition, to succeed and still keep fighting for those who can’t.
Being a woman, throughout history, has never been easy. Be it corsets, forced marriages, vile medical experiments on women of colour, the supression of our political rights or just phallocratic ‘80s commercials, women have been for centuries designated as the weaker sex. But, women have also irreversibly marked history. That change could be found in women like the mathematician and philosopher Hypatia in the 4th century AD, Ada Lovelace, the first female programer in the 19th century, Raicho Hiratsuka, a co-founder and activist of the first all-woman run magazine in the 20th century, or Doria Shafik who breathed life into the women rights movement in 1950s Egypt, storming with 1500 fellow suffragettes the parliament demanding full political rights. The names are endless and often little-known. This is a day to remember those names, remember their fight, because it has allowed us to enjoy more freedoms and rights than ever in history. And it is a day that should remind us that there is still such a long way to go.