Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day about celebrating the economic, social, political, and cultural achievements of women. I feel that this particular International Women’s Day is significant because of some of the events that took place over the past year. We saw a woman direct a female starring superhero movie, arguably the most successful D.C. comics movie in years in Wonder Woman. We saw the movement of #MeToo of women standing up against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. I believe that 2017 was just the start of women standing up.
Some discrimination that women face just blows my mind. I have never understood why people think that women can’t do certain jobs. Don’t get me wrong. Men are ridiculed too for doing “women’s jobs.” But when a guy is ridiculed for being a “male nurse,” it’s not because they think he can’t do the job. It’s because they think he should have aimed higher and become a doctor. When a woman is ridiculed for a job, it’s often because people don’t believe she’s smart enough or strong enough. I have heard so many horror stories of harassment in the fire service, including one suicide. I am so lucky to be in the department I am, and I have never had issues because I am a girl. Gender has never mattered in my department, and I am grateful.
I believe that a woman should be whatever she wants to be. A girl’s dreams shouldn’t have limits. If a woman wants to be an engineer, go for it. A fashion designer? Good for you. A stay at home mom? I hope she can! But we should never put down a woman for following her dreams. What works for one woman might not work for another. We are all unique and all have our own dreams. And I think that’s wonderful. One of my favorite sayings is “BeYOUtiful.” There’s nothing better than being who you are.
Throughout history, there have been women who have gone against the standards. There have been women who haven’t been dealt the easiest hand and been successful. There are many women in my life I admire – my mother, family members, teachers and professors, and sorority sisters. But today I’m going to talk about some famous women in history and present day whom I admire.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth ruled as the sole ruler of England from 1558-1603. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Her mother was beheaded when she was a baby for accusations of adultery and witchery. She spent her childhood being declared legitimate to illegitimate and back again by her slightly crazed father. Her half-sister, Queen Mary, locked her in the Tower of London for being a Protestant under a Catholicism regime. When she became queen, she stayed unmarried as to not have to give up any of her power to her husband, who would be seen as superior to her. Her armies defeated the Spanish Armada, and before the battle, in her speech she said, “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too.” She is considered one of England’s greatest rulers and she was centuries ahead of her time. Queen Elizabeth was badass.
To be the loved one of the President of the United States cannot be easy and even more difficult for the spouse of the president. Michelle Obama is no different, as the first African-American First Lady and wife of the first African-American president. But Michelle Obama is pretty cool in her own right. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and wanted to go to Princeton like her brother. Her teachers told her that she was aiming too high. She didn’t care and got in, and then to Harvard Law. She had her own successful career. Many people want her to run for office, but she doesn’t want to. And I don’t think she should. Just because you like a person does not mean they should run the government. She has several causes she advocates for, and I think she can do much good through charity work. Mrs. Obama will continue to leave her mark on the world in her own right, all the while having her own family. To me, it seems like what you see is what you get with her. She seems very real and doesn’t really care what people think of her, which is refreshing. She has a life to live too.
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Nikki Haley caught my attention when she gave a speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. What got me is that she didn’t seem to just parrot party lines. She had a mind of her own and her own thoughts. She was the first female governor of South Carolina, and only the second Indian governor. She’s breaking barriers left and right. Currently, Mrs. Haley is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. My guess is that Nikki Haley has had to deal with a lot of bullshit over the years; she’s a female, she’s Indian, and she’s the child of immigrants. And people suck But she’s had three terms as governor, once running unopposed. She’s got it figured out. There are rumors she may run for president in the future, and I’ll be interested in what she has to say.
Talk. About. A. Badass. She’s the second Asian American female serving in the U.S. Senate and the first member of Congress born in Thailand. Duckworth is also the first disabled woman elected to Congress. Currently, Tammy Duckworth is a U.S. Senator. She served in the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel as a helicopter pilot and lost both of her legs in the Iraq War. Duckworth was the first female double amputee from the war. As a politician, she is not afraid to speak her mind. And that includes against President Trump. I would like to believe no matter who is in the Oval Office, she is going to continue to speak her mind. Like Nikki Haley, we don’t need members who just parrot party lines. The world is much more than conservative versus liberal. Duckworth has this badass streak to herself, and she’s still able to juggle it all with her family. She has a daughter and is expecting again this year – the first sitting Senator to give birth.
Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of “more than a pretty face.” Considered one of the best actresses of all time, Audrey was active during the Hollywood Golden Age. She is an acting and fashion icon (and someone who’s style I try to emulate! It’s classic and classy). Hepburn is a member of the exclusive “EGOT” club (individuals who have won an Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony – currently, there are only 12). Famous for her role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she starred in movies opposite those of the like of Cary Grant and in other films like “My Fair Lady.” In her acting retirement, she became heavily involved in humanitarian work, specifically with UNICEF. Part of her drive in doing this work was because she remembered receiving international aid as a child during the German occupation of World War II and wanted to show her gratitude. She traveled to some of the poorest, war torn part of the world to try and help and make a difference. President George H.W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Audrey Hepburn didn’t have to do anything after she retired from acting. Instead, she gave back to the world and did even harder work. That is the type of work ethic I aim to have.
Oh, Carrie. Where do I begin? I grew up admiring Carrie Fisher. First, as a child, it was as Princess Leia and just the fact she was an actress. When I was a teenager and budding writer, I admired her writing ability and loved that she script doctored some of the most famous Hollywood screenplays (her influence is all over Hollywood movies). As a young adult, I admired her because of her transparency with mental illness and advocacy for mental health awareness. Princess Leia was badass. She hijacked her own rescue. People talk about how movies only now are having female leads that don’t need to be rescued, and that’s a lie. Princess Leia (Skywalker) Organa was the first. How many princesses grow up to be generals? Only Leia could. And you don’t have Leia without Carrie Fisher. As she once said, “I am Princess Leia and Princess Leia is me.” Carrie Fisher is even more badass. She was undeniably herself. Fisher was definitely flawed. She had issues, and unfortunately, one of those issues, drug addiction, played a role in taking her from us far too soon. But no one could ever accuse her of being fake. Fisher was honest about her flaws, her insecurities, and worries. It made her seem like anyone of us and totally relatable. And, oh was she funny. Her books made me laugh until I was crying. The world is better for her contributions. Carrie Fisher taught me it’s okay to be me – a girly girl, a firefighter, a writer, mentally ill, and so much more all in one. If people can’t handle me, that’s not my problem. Thank you, Carrie.