The New Suffragettes: Women Saving Women In 2016
It's been 100 years since Emily Wilding Davison threw herself in front of the King's horse to draw attention to the suffragette movement and there are many ladies following in her activist footsteps. While such violent and confrontational tactics aren't always the route these days for the attention of women's rights, arson – in the way of political and social activism – is still very much needed around the world.
Amid feminist 'rebranding', celebrities appropriating the term and #squadgoals, there are women actually making substantial changes and helping girls all over the planet, sometimes even risking their lives to do so. Whether it's furthering women's rights where they seldom exist, sticking two fingers up to slut-shaming or resisting the patriarchy, the suffragettes of today are doing a pretty damn good job.
From Pakistani female education activist Malala Yousafzai and Laura Coryton, a tampon tax revolutionary to Tavi Gevinson, the teen prodigy encouraging and helping millennial moods and the art world anti-patriarchy posse Guerrilla Girls, there's a strong clan of females inspiring us day in and day out. While there are so many more than 10, we chart our favourite whiz-women of suffrage in the modern day.
Being shot in the head by the Taliban four years ago only made Malala Yousafzai more powerful. Surviving the attack after her activism for women's educational rights in Pakistan, she rose from her hospital bed ashes and continued campaigning.
She's since been the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has written the book "I Am Malala" and is the subject of a documentary He Named Me Malala. As well as all of her personal achievements, she has brought light to the need for advocacy when it comes to women's education in Pakistan and other developing territories, and proves how no matter what age you are, you can still kick ass.
Although anonymous, Ambivalently Yours is every contradictory feminist’s best friend. For those who often find themselves confused with what’s ‘feminist’ and what’s not, AY creates naive, hard-hitting illustrations (or “rants”, as she says) to help you along the way. After all, there are no "rules" on how to be feminist.
She told us a little while back that liking pink doesn't make her a bad feminist and fighting for gender equality comes in different forms. “Feminism is a complex movement,” she says, “so it needs to keep moving and evolving, by confronting my ambivalence I am trying to question the conflicts and embrace the achievements.” One drawing at a time, AY is shaping the modern suffragette narrative on her and her pencil's own terms.
You may not have heard of her, and if you have you might not remember her name. Laura Coryton changed every woman's life in 2015, as she propelled the fight against tampon tax in the UK. Her petition gained well over 300,000 signatures, which she marched through Downing Street yelling "stop taxing periods, period" and delivered it to George Osborne.
Coryton's hard work, determination and biting activism has been felt globally, as her campaign provoked numerous others around the world. Sanitary tax is still alive and kicking, but without the dedicated student's selfless movements, the sexist tax might not have even come to our attention and the momentous strides we've seen might not have been taken. She's a bloody great gal.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Considering the fact a copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book "We Should All Be Feminists" was handed out to every kid in Sweden last year, doubting the Nigerian novelist's moves towards gender equality would be dumb, to say the least.
Not only is the book a killer argument for inclusive feminism, Adichie has won numerous awards for many novels, had her work translated into thirty languages and has attracted a new wave of young women to African literature. An inspiring voice for a generation conflicted with what's right and wrong, she's a proud feminist creating a positive change for herself and the rest of us.
After hosting a killer fashion blog from the tiny age of 12, Tavi Gevinson became an inspiration, giving teen girls a real role model. Now at 19 and with a crazy successful online magazine Rookie, Gevinson is still helping girls know how to be decent human beings and embrace our weirdness while doing it.
Not only offering her thoughts on the representation of women in pop culture in her killer Ted Talk, a million girls have fallen in love with her bravery to dismiss conformity and the hyper-sexualisation of high school. Tavi is sure to continue being a suffragette of sorts and a great role model for all ages throughout her life.
Proving women are great artists too, despite huge money disparities, Marina Abramović's performance-based works are gruelling and legendary and have allowed her to thrust through the great glass ceiling so many high-profile women experience.
Her works look into what feminine energy means, and questions the perception of women in the art world. She says she is not a feminist, as this puts you into a box, showing how exactly we can take our own gender out of the equation surrounding art. With this, Abramović's made herself just as powerful as anyone.
Not all parents will agree that Tumblr is a winning source of inspiration for those still coming of age, but Rowan Blanchard shuts any thoughts like these down. Aged 14 and a Disney Channel star, it’s pretty amazing how this digi-princess responded to answers about intersectional feminism and how ‘white feminism’ can exclude women of color, non-binary women and queer women.
Beside her impressive resume of feminist-themed art and reblogs, the essay-like response read a little like this (this is only a small section of the whopping text):
“‘White feminism’ forgets all about intersectional feminism. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women.
She’s THIRTEEN! What’s more, she joins Emma Watson as a #HeForShe ambassador, and made a speech at a UN Women Committee conference earlier this year which is damn good. Watch and learn, kids.
After having her Instagram post showing her period blood-stained bed sheets deleted, poet and artist Rupi Kaur shot into the limelight of highlighting misogyny on social media. Challenging the comparisons of women having to 'hide' their bodies and periods, but be flaunted on the internet half-naked and seemingly 'pre-pubescent', Kaur inspired girls the world over to stand up for their fundamental rights – having a period.
As well as demystifying menstruation, Kaur pens pieces flagging up immigration, violence, femininity and love, including in her book 'milk and honey'. Poetry might be the last thing we'd think would break taboos in 2015, but Kaur shows it can.
Often overlooked in mainstream pop culture are the Guerrilla Girls, the all-female anonymous art collective who, in game-changing activism, have tipped the art world on its formidable head with attitude, sass and vengeance.
With the end goal of furthering gender equality in the industry, the 30-year-old gorilla-masked girl gang anonymously act as the “conscience of the art world”, like modern feminist Robin Hoods.
Not only have they pitted themselves against the mostly male art establishment with no fucks bravery and satire, they’ve exhibited over 100 activist posters, staged numerous gigs and published over four books. On top of that they’ve gained legions of feminist fans from inside and outside of the art pod. Role models if we ever saw them.
Kim Kardashian isn't your textbook women's rights anything, but hear me out. Yes, she likes to post naked selfies and even released the world's most narcissistic book ever, but she's unapologetic about it and made a fat-off living doing what nobody wanted her to do. She isn't a modern suffragette per say, yet her radical attitude is arguably feminist.
Second-wave feminism would encourage never to use yourself sexually for your own gain, yet Kim has paved herself a path of self-glory by forming a successful "brand" that at one point didn't even exist. She takes slut-shaming on the chin, empowers herself and her sisters and has radically turned the essence of "celebrity" back on its head. By reclaiming herself from the media and publishing her own naked selfies for money, Kim's not only put a middle finger up to exploitation but is actually profiting from it.
Sure, she hasn't contributed political or social change and she's not the perfect role model but there's no such thing. I won't go around giving any woman, Kim Kardashian included, a label they don't identify with, but there's no such thing as a perfect feminist either.
Read More - > Celebrating female nudity around the world
By Lydia Morrish, published on 08/03/2016