Hi! I’m Miranda, the marketing intern from America. These past few weeks I’ve been ruminating over the theme of this years theme for the Perception Festival, Nasty Women. What does it mean to be a nasty woman? For me it means being unapologetically yourself, and perservering despite the presence of adversity. So as a way to celebrate this theme, I’ve put together a list of 5 badass women, from the past and present, who continue to inspire and empower me.
4 April 1928 – 28 May 2014
Maya Angelou‘s words and impact will echo for generations through her literature, public speaking and powerful writing. She used her words as a beacon to inspire hope and strength for both women and African Americans so that they may overcome gender and racial discrimination. Her works have definitely had an important part in finding confidence in myself. She is a lady of great magnitude. Someone who has brought about social change and the betterment of mankind. In 2011, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her works that spanned over 50 years including 36 books, seven autobiographies, and over 50 honorary degrees.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
This one in particular really speaks to me, mainly because I am a firm believer that the virtues she lists here are disciplines, not character traits. Kindness, generosity, honesty, like any worthy pursuit, require work, dedication, and, yes, courage.
6 August 1911 – 26 April 1989
My mom is a huge I Love Lucy fan, she made damn sure that her kids are too. I Love Lucy stood out to me when I was young mainly because of the quality, not because it was particularly unique to what I’d seen before. I mean there were plenty of funny, female focussed TV shows for me to watch growing up. As a girl growing up in the 21st century it is sometimes hard to understand just how hard the women who came before us had work to create the world we have today. Women in comedy and the entertainment industry, in general, owe so much to Lucille Ball. She was in an industry where women weren’t even considered beyond being a pretty face, and she didn’t merely get her foot in the door, she threw the damn thing off of its hinges. I mean, talk about a trailblazer! She created one of the most iconic shows on television. She became the first woman to run a production company (Lucille Ball Productions, 1968). She promoted the first bi-racial couple seen on television when she fought CBS tooth and nail to get her actual husband, Desi Arnaz to play her husband on I Love Lucy. She was the first to portray a strong female friendship that was entertaining and didn’t fall prey to the classic, misogynistic tropes seen in most other shows. And most importantly, in everything she did, she was herself. She showed the world that women could be funny, and irreverent, and just straight-up goofy.
12 July 1997 – Present
In 2012, 3 teenage girls in Pakistan were shot by the Taliban for attending school. One of those girls, Malala, survived a gunshot wound to the head. Despite being threatened, and nearly losing her life for what she believed in, she refused to be silent. She became an activist for education for both women and children, she founded a non-profit organization called the Malala Fund, and she became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize Laureate. When I was a freshman in high school I read Malala’s memoir, I am Malala. I was astonished and inspired by the bravery of this young girl, a girl who is only a year older than me. That year, 3 of my friends and I worked for 6 weeks on a presentation about the importance of women’s education. Malala was the centerpiece of our project, not just so she could inspire those who would listen to us, but to also raise awareness that there are still places that believe, to a violent degree, that women are not deserving of an education. Malala continues to stand up for what she believes in, traveling the world, and advocating for education rights for women and children
7 December 1979 – Present
This is a special one for me. She has been my idol since I was 11 years old. Her music is a building block for my friendship with bestie (Hey MK!). I sang so many of her songs in talent shows growing up. And she continues to inspire me. She approaches the world with empathy and always preaches kindness, peace, and love. This attitude is very clearly seen in songs like Orpheus and A Soft Place to Land, where she attempts to offer comfort to those struggling in hostility and volatility found in today’s politics. What I find most admirable about her is she manages to promote these things while still refusing to be walked all over. After all, her first big hit was Love Song, where she was basically telling her record company they can shove it, and that they can’t tell her what to write. She finds that balance between kindness and temerity. She is also a strong advocate for self-empowerment, and encouraging people to be brave. I went to one of her concerts on her Brave Enough Tour, where it was just her and her instruments. No band, no spectacle. Just her and the music she wanted to share. She had said that it took a lot of courage on her part to perform without anyone else to back her up. It made her feel vulnerable, but also brave. During that tour, she was working on an art project of sorts, where she collected “I am brave enough to…” cards from the audience. The goal was to have this large, empowering collection of people finding the courage to do whatever it was that scared them. I believe I wrote, “I am brave enough to speak my mind.”
As a side note, her song Armor (sorry, Armour, as y’all would say) is not only a BOP but is also Feminist AF. Give it a listen
Lizzo (Melissa Viviane Jefferson)
27 April 1988 – Present
Lizzo’s popularity over the past several years has really exploded, and for good reason. She is talented and a fantastic role model. Lizzo is an ally to everyone. She is there for her fellow women, of any color. She is there for the boys (big boys, itty bitty boys, Mississippi boys, inner-city boys… okay, I’ll stop). She is there for the LGBTQ+ community. She makes diversity a focus in her music, whether it celebrates race, sexuality, gender, etc. She is unapologetically herself. She has made self-love and body positivity her crusade. Her music is genuinely about loving and celebrating yourself and what you have to offer the world. And it’s not at anyone’s expense. She is not trying to make the thicker girls feel better about themselves by tearing down the “skinny bitches.” She is solely focussed on lifting everybody, literally every body, up. What I admire about the way she tackles body positivity is she has made it about how she sees herself, not how others see her. That was an important lesson for me to learn from her. I don’t care if someone else doesn’t find me beautiful because I believe I’m beautiful. On that subject, mine is the only opinion that matters. She leads by example, and she truly is an empowered woman who empowers women.