A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.Gloria Steinem
For as long as I can remember, I have always been aware in my life of a fundamental difference in the way that people treat boys and girls. Now, before anybody gets the wrong idea, I want to make one thing very clear: I do not hate men. I do not think women should have more rights than men. And I do not think that men are always treated fairly in our society either. To me, and to many others, feminism is about equality. We need more women in top paying and high ranking positions, but likewise we need more men to be able to feel as though they can express their emotions without being ridiculed. Feminism should benefit everybody and this is something that I have believed in for my entire life. With that in mind, these are the women that I have looked up to since I was little, not because I believe that they are better than their male counterparts, but because I admire them simply for who they are and as a young girl, I wanted to be just like them when I grew up.
Emma Watson has always been somebody I looked up to, since I was around the age of eight years old. It started with my love for her character Hermione Granger in Harry Potter which is where I realised that being bright and articulate wasn’t something to be embarrassed about. Too many times at school I had been made fun of for doing well in a test and when I saw Hermione, and Emma Watson’s portrayal of her, I suddenly realised that this wasn’t something to be ashamed of. When I saw Emma Watson graduating University off screen as well, it confirmed to me what I had been thinking all along: I wanted to do well in school and I was no longer embarrassed of that. As I got older I started listening to Emma Watson’s speeches on feminism and it suddenly put a word to what I was feeling about gender equality and I found her focus on both men and women so refreshing. This was the moment I decided that I was a feminist and understood the true definition of what that actually meant (particularly after watching her UN speech). I will always credit this moment to Emma Watson which is why she has inspired me so much, giving me this pivotal moment in my life.
Michelle Obama inspired my focus on education even further when I began to read about her personal story a few years ago. Seeing someone who didn’t come from an incredibly wealthy background achieve the things that she did was remarkable to me, particularly as she studied at law school which is what I am doing. I was inspired by her charity work with the homeless and her focus on living a healthy lifestyle, not to mention being a fantastic mother all at the same time. In her book she talks about dealing with racism in America, saying “The rumours and slanted commentary always carried less than subtle messaging about race, meant to stir up the deepest and ugliest kind of fear within the voting public. Don’t let the black folks take over.” Upon reading this, I was inspired yet again by her passion for equality and horrified that comments like this are still said today. It was Michelle Obama talking about this that lead me to researching more about civil rights and discovering the Black Lives Matter campaign, of which I now read regularly about.
I remember very clearly watching Malala’s story on the news when I was 12 years old. Seeing a young girl, only 2 years older than myself make such a difference in the world was so inspiring to me. When I saw the work that she was doing to make sure that all girls could have an education, it brought home to me that the position I am in is a very lucky one. I was then of course horrified when I saw that a man had shot her in the head just for campaigning for her basic human rights. The bravery that she showed and the fact that she carried on campaigning, despite what happened to her, all at such a young age blew me away. She created the Malala Fund to keep fighting for all girls over the world to be entitled to an education and a safe environment to learn in and so to me, this list wouldn’t be complete without her.
I still get goosebumps every time I think of the moment that Rosa Parks said no to giving up her seat for a white passenger on a bus in Alabama, 1955. Just one individual standing up for her human rights as a black woman to sit on the bus like any other white person is so inspiring to me. It’s inspiring because it was so simple and yet so effective. She simply said no, and as easy as that sounds now, at the time this was a huge deal. The bravery and confidence of this woman makes her so remarkable and she will always be a hero of mine, simply for saying no.
Billie Jean King
I am sad to say that I did not know hardly anything about Billie Jean King’s story until a couple of years ago. I don’t know why this is, but I had never come across her, and simply knew her only as a tennis player. Once I began to read more about her, I suddenly realised that she is so much more than that. Billie Jean King was challenged to a tennis match by Bobby Riggs, a former number 1 male tennis player who claimed he could beat any woman, despite being past his prime at age 55. He said “I’ll tell you why I’ll win. She’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability”. Billie Jean King accepted the challenge of playing him in a match and this went on to be known as the “Battle of the Sexes”. It aired on TV in 1973 with around 90 million people watching worldwide. Despite not being in the lead at first, Billie Jean King held her nerve and went on to win the match, paving the way for female tennis players and athletes in the future. I admire her so much for the way that she dealt with a lot of negativity both before and after winning the match, and because of the fact that she worked so hard to prove that women can be strong and powerful and not just simply ’emotional’.
Sticking with the tennis theme, another woman that has inspired me for a long while is Serena Williams. I did not take much of an interest in watching tennis matches before I saw her play, however when I saw her immense power and her passion for the sport, this completely changed and I began to follow it simply to see how she was doing. I was in awe of her strength, her stamina and her determination to win and I found it mesmerising to watch. Not only that but I loved her style on the court, wearing big earrings and statement outfits which I had never really seen done before. I loved hearing her talk about her figure, and how she learnt to embrace her curves and her body type, and it was great to see more body diversity on the court. She has so many achievements within her sport and is truly one of the best, but not only that, she has been utterly herself the whole way through and to me, this makes her even more powerful.
Oprah’s story has to be one of the most inspirational ones out there. Suffering a terrible childhood with sexual abuse, she worked extremely hard and ended up years ahead of other children her own age at school. She was able to land roles in broadcasting shows, before starting her own where she discussed big and controversial issues that many people would have shied away from. I love how she uses her platform to help people and give them a voice where they might not normally have one. Her overall kindness and generosity astound me, particularly after what she’s been through and I really admire her work ethic which is why she has to be on this list.
So I chose Julie Andrews for this because she inspired my love of music and singing which are now a key part of my life. From as young as 3 or 4 I would dress up as her as Mary Poppins and learn all of the lyrics and the script to perform to my family! Her voice is so beautiful and I really admire her poise and grace at any situation, even when her vocal chords were damaged during an operation and subsequently this lead to her not being able to sing the same ever again. Despite this, she has still starred in so many films and remained so positive and I don’t think I would have got into singing until much later if I hadn’t idolised watching her on the big screen.
Amelia Earhart was someone who I admired from a young age, particularly with my interest in travel and being quite an adventurous child! I loved the way that she didn’t do what was expected of her as a woman of that era and the way that she was so eager to explore which fuelled my own wanderlust inside of me too. Being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean is simply incredible, and she overcame a lot in her younger years, including her father being an alcoholic. She too was inspired by powerful women and even had a scrapbook of successful women in predominantly male powered jobs which is something I would love to do myself! Despite all of the people who told her it was too dangerous or she wouldn’t be able to do it, she went on and flew anyway and succeeded. Her courage and determination and a certain amount of being willing to break the rules a little bit is what made me feel as though we were kindred spirits and inspired my love for her!
I think that of everyone on this list, J.K Rowling has had the biggest impact on my life. I adore all of her books, and I love the way she never gave up on her passion for writing especially as I would be lost without having her books on my bookshelf! Before the success she has now she was living mostly off of benefits, had no relationship with her father, had a young child with a man who did not seem to want to be involved in her life and had suffered the loss of her mother. She had also been turned down by multiple publishers who told her that Harry Potter simply would not sell. She began to suffer with depression and was shocked when her first book was finally agreed to be published: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She is now a multi millionaire for the successes of her books, which mean so much to me. I love the creation of the dementors in Harry Potter which represent her experience with depression as it’s a great visual to put to the feelings that come with the illness. And in particular, I love her creation of strong female characters who she has spoken about regularly being inspired by her love of feminism. Her wisdom and ability to turn her struggle into books and speeches have inspired so many people, particularly myself and given me so many female characters to look up to and aspire to be like.
Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
These are the top 10 women who I find so inspirational and powerful, all in their own individual way. They have all shaped me into the person that I am today at some point and I really admire each of them as individuals. Of course, once again celebrating women does not mean hating on men, I am simply celebrating these women in their own right. There are obviously many more inspiring women out there and I would love to hear what women have inspired you the most in your life! XOX