Considering that I celebrate and cherish badass female characters, I figured I should probably do my due diligence and write a post about International Women’s Day, March 8th. Of course I’m late to the party, but whatever. Every day is Women’s Day in my universe. Personally, I find it ridiculous that we even need to have an “official” day to acknowledge fantastic, intelligent, glorious women. Haven’t we grown past the ignorant beliefs of inequality for all people yet? Maybe not because there is still the mindset out there by many that women are less than <<insert a plethora of assumptions here>>. So yeah, maybe we need to stand up and recognize women in all their glory.
I decided to think on this a little before I wrote, which is sometimes a rarity for me because I tend to be very off the cuff about my observations. I didn’t want to sound like I was talking out of my ass, because really how badass would it be to go out there and spout wisdoms that make no sense? Not so much. As writer, I want strong female characters, not because they’re female, but because they’re interesting. They have flaws and make mistakes but persevere despite them and maybe because of them. Being a badass goes hand in hand with kicking ass and taking names, but it’s really about inner truth, inner strength to face what life offers us and making it through the challenges that are presented to us. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. There are real women out there doing it every day. Real women who know who they are, honor their inner demons and turn that adversity into power. I chose four women, both dead and alive, who I admire for a variety of reason but mostly because of their inner strength and they way they live/d their lives.
Four Real Life Badasses in no particular order:
Pat Summitt is the winningest female basketball coach of all time. She is Women’s Basketball Head Coach Emeritus for the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols program. Her challenging, “take no prisoners” and “give every ounce of your passion” style brought her teams and players to esteemed recognition at a time when women’s sports were in their infancy. She carried on a tradition of excellence that inspired female athletes to break barriers and look deep within themselves to find courage, strength and fortitude. After 38 years and numerous championships, wins and statistics, she retired and announced her beginning struggle with Alzheimers. It’s hard to not stand there and say what a tragedy it is that such a great mind, full of strategy and tough nurturing, will be lost to us. It’s hard to not feel like someone so influential will be taken from us when we need people like her to keep us going––to help us believe in our own strengths But in truth, she’s already set the foundation. Her legacy lives on in the players’ lives she’s touched and the people like me, who’ve never played a sport, but know and admire her for the kind of person she is and all that she’s achieved.
Katherine Hepburn was a trailblazer in a time when beautiful women were looked at as soft sex symbols and an illusion of what women were supposed to be. She was brassy with her deep, gravelly voice, her beauty equally as seductive as Rita Hayworth’s, but she eschewed conventions. She wore trousers when all women were wearing nylons and skirts, she played men’s sports like golf, smoked cigars, said whatever she wanted and carried on the most famous extramarital affair in Hollywood history. For 26 years, she loved Spencer Tracy and hid it from the scrutiny of the world. They were deeply in love yet maintained separate houses and were very careful to not be seen in public together. She never pushed him for a divorce nor did she want to be married again. She was quoted in her biography saying that she “liked the idea of being my own single self”. In a time where women were supposed to be married and have a family, she remained fiercely independent. Even today, most women would classify her as a pariah and a home wrecker. She wasn’t. Tracy’s marriage had been a broken one for many, many years before he even met her. And seriously, if an independent woman can take care of herself and is strong in the notion of who she is, why be married to a man if it’s clear he loves you? Any woman who’s been married knows that having a husband around 24/7 is an issue unto itself. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, especially when he’s not under-feet and pissing you off. Kate knew that, understood that and lived her life as her life. She did what she wanted and didn’t care how she was perceived.
Hillary Rodham Clinton. In contrast to Hepburn, here is the most publicly “embarrassed”, cheated on woman of the late 20th century. Yet, she and Tammy Wynette, stood by their man. Valiant or stupid? Who cares. Hillary is a woman of resources, unending strength, determination and fortitude. Was a woman of her character and drive really going to let her horndog of a husband make her look like an idiot? No. I would bet dollars to doughnuts those two have some kind of ironclad agreement. Probably had for years before the whole BJ scandal happened. Of course that’s just my speculation, not anything steeped in fact. But, I believe that people of money and power live by a different set of values/beliefs/social mores. Whatever you want to call it, they conduct themselves, differently. She had a goal, a clear vision of where she wanted her life to go. She wanted it all and had the intelligence, ambition and wherewithal to do it. She was one of the three most powerful women of our lifetime, in esteemed company with Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice. As Secretary of State, she held the most powerful position in our government next to the President. She was the face of foreign affairs and a critical advisor to President Obama in a time where the Middle East, notorious for their debasement of women, was and still is in tumultuous upheaval. While the country may not have been ready for a woman to rule the world, in many ways she still made her mark on it in a powerful way. For thirty years, she’s been on our radar and a forerunner of change in politics It is not the good ol’ boys club it used to be. One day there will be a female president, and she will have Hillary to thank for burning out the trail to get there.
Jane Austen was a trailblazer in her own right, in a time where women had no means to do anything. They were not citizens, had no say in the course of their lives and couldn’t own property. They were for all intents and purposes at the mercy of men. A young woman was expected to marry, birth children and take care of the household. Their morality was a reflection on their husband, their beauty a benefit to his wealth and her dowery, or rather what his financial gain from the marriage, a selling point in a union not based on love but monetary gain. How romantic. Yet, Austen wrote of love and passion hidden and buried deep within strict social customs and expectations. She was a great observer of the human condition, like Shakespeare before her. She understood her society with a clarity that set her apart from many of the women of her time. While her novels are mostly about young women and the men they fall in love with despite the challenges of their society and social levels, they celebrate women as passionately intelligent beings. Elizabeth Bennet and her outspoken demeanor, Elinor Dashwood and her steadfast determination to do the right thing, Fanny Price’s faithfulness to her beliefs and her love despite being dirt poor. While Austen herself never married and remained under the protection of her family, she continued to explore the possibilities of love conquering all. And in the long run, she did what hardly any young woman of her time did, she published actual books. Written tomes of beloved literature that transcend centuries of change yet still speak to the nature of the human mind and heart.
Every woman has the potential to be who and what they want to be. We are trained in society to believe certain things, thin=beauty, smart=agressive, independence=aloofness. The only way to break a mold is to shatter it, change the inner perception of what it means to be a woman. Take vulnerability and compassion and make that a strength. Use intellect and strategy to achieve a goal even if its only important to you. Love yourself in spite of your flaws, perceived or real. Be a badass and a master of your own path. We only have one life to live. Celebrate being a woman who deserves to live it.