Day 115 Question 115:
What makes a strong/powerful woman?
I am a woman! I am a STRONG woman! I am a determined woman! There are dozens and dozens of issues that I would voice my opinion about and fight until I could not fight anymore. I feel this connection though to my womanhood and I feel the fight in me. By no means do I feel like a victim or am I trying to trump men. I just absolutely love to see women work until they can work no more and fight for everything they believe in….yes, husband and family included if that is their dream.
While I write these words I can almost see my dad’s eyes rolling in my mind. I have never asked my dad if he thinks that men are dominant to women. I think I have never asked because I was unsure if I really wanted to know the answer. I love my dad with every part of my being but there is a HUGE generation gap between us (he is 74 and I am 33). Times have changed and our viewpoints just don’t seem to match up on a lot. He may never express it (which I respect him for) but I have a sneaking suspicion that my dad thinks the woman’s place is in the home….cooking, cleaning and taking care of children. This is what he knew for a large portion of his life…this was the role of most women at the time he was growing up. He has now raised a daughter that has none of those interests whatsoever. I was the child to always push the envelope and fight societal norms as hard as I could.
I am proud to the point of it being almost painful to be a woman and I am more proud to be a woman with passion and determination. This entry is not a man bashing entry and one to debate which gender is greater. This entry is to take pride in my genetic makeup and all that I hold within me because of this genetic makeup. I think it is AMAZING that my body is able to develop another person inside of it….to provide the nutrients it needs in order to survive the 9 months in the womb. I am unsure if I want kids but how wonderful is it to know that a woman’s body can be the home for another human life. I love stories of women that follow their passion and stand up for what they believe in. It would be very easy to just look at myself and live in my own bubble but I feel this need to study and to learn about women of other cultures. I feel blessed to have the life that I have but I still want to be a part of making other women feel important…to feel safe…and to feel beautiful. Women of other countries may never know what capabilities they have and what beautiful creatures they truly are because they live only knowing a certain way of life. I love to read the stories of women that rebel because their internal feeling tells them that being a wife (most likely in an arranged marriage) and a mother is not what they want. I love when a woman (especially a woman no one would expect) takes a stand and fights for the rights of all women. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for women that are wives and mothers. I believe we all have something in us that draws us to what we want in life. I would be a wonderful mother if that day were to ever occur but it is not something I am naturally drawn to. Some women are and I adore that maternal instinct.
A woman is strong when she encompasses all that she is. She follows her dreams and her passion and she is a natural born leader (sometimes without even realizing it). The owner of the restaurant that I work at is one of these women. She was born and raised in Indonesia and came to live in the United States about 19 years ago. I stood talking to her last night and asked her how women were treated in her country and she told me that they were not treated well. A lot of women were married off in their early teen years and really did nothing with their lives except being wives to their husbands. They were expected to stay at home and produce babies and many women endured beatings almost daily. In knowing my boss, she is so different from any of these women she described. I don’t know if she is quite aware of what strength she has but she undoubtedly is one of the strongest women I know. She moved to an entirely different country, away from all that she ever knew. She married an American man but unfortunately that relationship didn’t last. Instead of returning to Indonesia, she opened a business. She started her own restaurant. She has had ups and downs in the restaurant business but she pushes and pushes and pushes to try to achieve success. She does all of these while being a single parent to two beautiful girls that are 6 and 8. In my opinion, this is the perfect model of what a strong woman is. Being a strong woman does not necessarily mean you have to stand on a platform and have your voice heard to the entire world or inventing something that people just can’t live without. Being a strong woman means never giving up….even when you feel like there is no point to continue.
I started reading pieces on some of the most powerful women in the world yesterday and I was amazed as well as honored to be a woman. I wanted to share some of these brief stories of these women with my readers. To all of the men, if you have read this far I want to thank you. I have no animosity toward men and I praise you for your big feats in life. I just wanted to take this opportunity to open my arms and my heart to all of the women out there in the world….to the women that think they aren’t good enough or pretty enough or they just don’t think they can achieve their dreams…..I wanted to tell you that all of that is wrong. Each one of us women has a strength inside of us (in some of us it is hidden a little bit deeper than others) that can guide us to everything we could ever imagine. It is important to remember that along the way there will most likely be obstacles and we will find ourselves with bumps and bruises….it is those times that you are able to value your hard work. I love all of my female sisters, mothers, cousins, aunts and friends…..that includes every woman in the world. I hope you are able to embrace your outer beauty as well as your inner beauty and always go in the direction of your dreams. Always remember…you are way more powerful and stronger than you think! :0)
Sandra Day O’Connor (1930-Present)
Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, there was just one woman cloaked in the black robe of the United States’ highest court. Fulfilling a campaign promise to break that gender barrier, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. The former Republican Arizona state senator was unanimously confirmed by Congress, ending 191 years of the court as an exclusively male institution. Though she was nominated by a Republican President, O’Connor did not always tow the party line. In her 24 years on the bench, O’Connor was often the court’s crucial swing vote, determining 5-4 rulings on important cases involving abortion, affirmative action, election law, sexual harassment and the death penalty, among others. Her tenure was especially meaningful for the woman who, though she finished third in her class at Stanford Law in 1952, could not find work at a law firm upon graduation due to her gender. She said upon her confirmation, “I think the important fact about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”
Corazon Aquino (1933-2009)
Cory Aquino had no political ambitions of her own until her husband Senator Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983. Almost instantly, she became a unifying force against the autocratic President Ferdinand Marcos and ran in the 1986 presidential election. The ruling powers declared Marcos the winner, but a series of peaceful demonstrations along with backing from the church finally put Aquino in power. Her sudden ascension as the first female President of the Philippines was the battered islands’ first step toward democracy. Weathering both coup attempts and corruption charges, Aquino was unable to push through much of the social reform that her supporters had hoped for. But when she stepped down in 1992, she still stood tall as the people’s choice.
Coco Chanel (1883-1971)
Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion in the early 20th century by introducing a looser, more comfortable silhouette that freed women from the corsets and frills that then dominated the apparel industry. Born into poverty in Saumur, France, Chanel worked as a cabaret singer before opening a hat shop in 1910 with the financial backing of a lover. She soon turned her attention to clothing and became the first designer to create with jersey — a cheap fabric used in men’s underwear at the time — and bring a menswear aesthetic to women’s clothing. Chanel’s tweed blazer and skirt, two-toned ballet flat, little black dress, costume jewelry and quilted bag with chain strap remain staples in the fashion pantheon, and contemporary labels introduce reiterations of them season after season. In 1923, she launched Chanel No. 5, marking the first time a fashion designer had forayed into fragrance. She closed her shops at the beginning of World War II in 1939 and did not return to fashion until 1954, when she debuted bell-bottoms. Chanel died in 1971; Karl Lagerfeld has served as head designer of the house since 1983.
Hillary Clinton (1947-Present)
When her husband ran for President in 1992, he famously told American voters they would be getting “two for the price of one.” Hillary Clinton had been a fierce advocate for victims of child abuse since her law-school days, and throughout her tenure as First Lady, she became a leading voice on the global stage on behalf of women in the developing world. And while many political wives are content with being a behind-the-scenes adviser, Clinton decided in 2000 to embark on a second career, this time with her name on the ticket. As New York Senator, she won over a state skeptical of the Chicago-born, Arkansas-reared celebrity by leading the efforts to boost funding for the recovery in lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attacks. She also staked her claim as an authority on military affairs, gaining the trust of the armed forces and several Senate Republicans. Indeed, when she became Secretary of State in 2009, her vision for a military escalation in Afghanistan won out over competing plans. And while her attempt to become the first female President of the United States came up short in 2008, she paid no attention to her supporters who asked her not to join the cause of her Democratic competitor, Barack Obama, saying that wasn’t why she had “spent the past 35 years in the trenches.”
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Two-time Nobel laureate Marie Curie discovered polonium and radium, founded the concept of radiology and — above all — made the possibility of a scientific career seem within reach for countless girls and women around the world. The first woman to receive the Nobel Prize and the first female Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne in Paris, Curie was beloved by her colleagues for her calm, singular focus, lack of pretense and professional drive. Her work with radiation is now part of the most sophisticated cancer-treatment protocols in the world, though she herself succumbed to leukemia after decades of daily radiation exposure.
Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)
She was the nation’s daughter, brought up under the close watch of both her father Jawaharlal Nehru, who was India’s first Prime Minister after decades of British rule, and her country. When Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) was elected Prime Minister in 1966, a TIME cover line read, “Troubled India in a Woman’s Hands.” Those steady hands went on to steer India, not without controversy, for much of the next two decades through recession, famine, the detonation of the nation’s first atomic bomb, a corruption scandal and a civil war in neighboring Pakistan that, under her guidance, led to the creation of a new state, Bangladesh. By the time she was assassinated, in 1984, Gandhi was the world’s longest-serving female Prime Minister, a distinction she holds to this day.
Margaret Mead (1901-1978)
Of her life’s work, cultural anthropologist, museum curator and feminist scholar Margaret Mead once said, “I have spent most of my life studying the lives of other peoples — faraway peoples — so that Americans might better understand themselves.” Mead’s professor and mentor Franz Boas is credited with the concept of cultural relativism in American anthropology, but it was Mead who truly eradicated the concept of the “savage” through her extensive fieldwork in the Pacific. Mead began taking notes on her observations of human behavior after her mother encouraged her interest in studying the development of her younger siblings. This ability to record breathtaking amounts of longitudinal data helped her garner a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1929 and become a curator of the American Museum of Natural History in 1934. Her seminal book, Coming of Age in Samoa, helped many Americans understand the universality of their own experiences for the first time.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” Rosa Parks would go on to say about her decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus on Dec. 1, 1955. This wasn’t the first time the seamstress had chosen not to give in. Parks had been an active member of the local NAACP chapter since 1943 and had marched on behalf of the Scottsboro boys, who were arrested in Alabama in 1931 for raping two white women. But it was her simple act of refusal, a move which landed Parks in prison, that set in motion the Montgomery bus boycott and kicked off the civil rights movement. So when the bulldogs and water hoses were unleashed a decade later in the streets of Birmingham, the protesters knew to stand their ground. “Over my head, I see freedom in the air,” they sang.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
As wife of the 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt challenged and transformed the historically ceremonial, behind-the-scenes First Lady role. She increased her public presence by participating in radio broadcasts, authoring a daily syndicated column, “My Day,” and holding weekly, women-only press conferences (she was the first presidential wife to do so) to discuss women’s issues, her daily activities and breaking news. Along the way, she became one of her husband’s unofficial advisers and informants, lobbying for civil rights policies to assist the poor, minorities and women, helping to formulate New Deal social-welfare programs and pushing for the creation of the United Nations. Following her husband’s death, Roosevelt continued her humanitarian efforts as a member of the first American delegation to the U.N. and helped develop the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UNICEF. In recognizing Roosevelt’s legacy of advocacy for the underprivileged both nationally and abroad, President Harry Truman famously dubbed her “First Lady of the World.”
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
Every sexually-active person who doesn’t think twice about parenthood can thank Margaret Sanger. As a nurse on New York City’s impoverished Lower East Side, Sanger spent much of her time treating women who were injured during botched illegal abortions. As a result of this, she became convinced that contraceptive control was the primary avenue to freedom (and out of poverty) for women like her mother, who died young after giving birth to 11 children. Though she was born when contraception was illegal, by the time of her death, at 81, Sanger had founded the American Birth Control League — later known as Planned Parenthood — and masterminded the research and funding for the first FDA-approved oral contraceptive, Enovid.
Oprah Winfrey (1954-Present)
Daytime television host, businesswoman and philanthropist, Oprah Winfrey overcame an impoverished childhood in rural Mississippi to build an eponymous media empire. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which has won multiple Emmy Awards and is broadcast in 145 countries, is the most successful daytime TV program in history. Winfrey’s unparalleled influence on culture — often called “the Oprah effect” — has boosted lesser-known authors onto the New York Times best-sellers list while reviving America’s interest in classic literature (John Steinbeck),
turned obscure products into household brands (Spanx, Ciao Bella), and helped a whole battery of other personalities become full-fledged media powers of their own (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray). Her 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama was worth 1 million votes to the then candidate in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton, according to one study. Oprah has also dabbled in acting, garnering Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for her role as Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple. Beyond television, Winfrey is the co-author of several books and the publisher of O, the Oprah Magazine. After 25 years as the queen of daytime talk on network television, Winfrey, in partnership with Discovery Communications, is set to launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in January 2011. Godmother of the confessional media setting and unquestioned arbiter of self-help and spiritual trends, Oprah’s influence on broader pop culture is peerless.