Strong Writers, Stronger Women
Four women whose work will give you goosebumps.
By Katie Hovan, University of Miami
The word feminism can leave a bad taste in some peoples’ mouths.
What began as a movement to attain equality for women in all aspects of life, be it social, economic or political, eventually gave way to a more radical feminism. Extremists exist in any ideological group, but I’ve witnessed women yell and preach their beliefs to men who have simply held doors open for them. I’ve seen men left utterly speechless and I’ve seen some of them run in fear of angry feminists. (OK, maybe not run. But they’ve backed away very, very slowly.)
Sometimes, women don’t realize that there’s a fine line between removing barriers for themselves in today’s world and removing common decency. That’s why I don’t see having a door held for me as a gesture that makes me dainty or weak. I see it as a kind act by a stranger that has nothing to do with my gender.
Because of this irrationality, I have been tempted, at times to deny being a feminist for fear of being mistaken for a radical who believes in the persecution of all men. It’s ironic when my own personal suppression comes from the very women who are trying to release me from it in society.
Regardless, I’ve found ways to satisfy my desire for equality in a different way, because all of this hoopla doesn’t mean that feminism itself is bad. It’s still a necessary movement to wedge women out of a minority position and into a world where gender doesn’t determine the money they make, the jobs they do or even the clothes that they wear.
For those looking to feel empowered by the movement without condemning all men and refusing to wear tampons, there are some astonishing, lesser-known feminists in society who pack a powerful punch sans the extremism that can give feminism a bad rap. These particular women are exceptional writers and even more exceptional people who prove that women can still be badass feminists in a more subtle way, but they are by no means less effective in their work.
Here are four trailblazing minds worth consulting for anyone looking for a daily dose of female empowerment.
1. Kate Makkai
Katie Makkai’s work is the classic oldie-but-goodie. Katie is a poet and public speaker who is best known for her groundbreaking slam poem titled “Pretty” at the National Poetry Slam in 2002.
With over three million views on Youtube, the poem certainly isn’t overlooked or underappreciated, but it’s a timeless reminder for women everywhere that society wrongfully perpetuates beauty as the most desirable quality a woman can have. Makkai’s poem singlehandedly destroys this notion in a beautiful, emotional way.
For those who haven’t yet heard the poem with Makkai’s raw emotion, I suggest watching it. The words and ideas are empowering while Makkai’s tone of voice in itself is enough to give listeners the chills. The poem serves as a lesson that “pretty” is a useless attribute today, and women have so much more to be praised for than just their looks. It’s a great pick-me-up for those days where women may feel downright inadequate, perhaps for no reason at all. Whether a woman watches it every day or once a year, its profound message is unwavering.
2. Janne Robinson
Janne Robinson is basically a modern-day poet for the people who don’t always understand poetry. She subtracts the structured from traditional poetry and adds pure human emotion any way it falls from her pen. Robinson is as blunt as it gets, with a voice that is unequivocally honest and knows no boundaries. Arguably, her most popular work is titled “This is for the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck,” an inspiring poem that turned into a viral video, empowering women to feel and live as they wish.
Laced with profanity and sexual allusions, her writing certainly isn’t for prudes and can be raunchy in the most positive form of the word.
She touches on uncomfortable topics people don’t always talk about and makes readers think about life from new perspectives.
Even cooler, Robinson left her part-time jobs and currently lives on Vancouver Island in Canada, making her living off of writing. So while she offers a strong dose of feminist empowerment, her life path can inspire any person to start living their best, most authentic life. Her website is riddled with inspiring poems and stories and can be accessed here.
3. Tara Ruttenberg
Tara Ruttenberg is a writer and teacher based in Costa Rica with her own blog and online platform called Tarantula Surf. The site is a space where writers can come together to bridge a gap between different worlds and discuss new ideas through storytelling in an online community. Essentially, the site serves as “a world so replete with limitless possibility that even a desert-dwelling tarantula might someday surf the salty, sun-kissed sea.”
Not only is Ruttenberg the creator of Tarantula Surf’s unique platform, but she’s also a PhD student of sustainable development at the University for Peace. In addition to her writing, Ruttenberg offers custom sustainability consulting for all types of people and organizations looking to effectively coexist with the environment. Though Ruttenberg’s work isn’t entirely feminism-based, as a woman of unique ideas and admirable intelligence, it’s difficult to get more inspiring and bad ass than her.
4. Betty Mahmoody
Alas, poetry and blogs aren’t all too appealing for some people, and books can leave a more lasting impact. That’s where Betty Mahmoody comes in. Mahmoody is an American author most known for her novel “Not Without My Daughter.”
Though it’s not necessarily a quick read, the novel is non-fiction and tells the true story about how Mahmoody’s Iranian-born husband, Sayed, desperately wished to take her and their young daughter back to Iran to visit with his family. Once there, Sayed’s personality takes a complete 180-degree turn, and he keeps Mahmoody and their daughter trapped in Iran, leaving her trying to escape his tightening grip on their lives and return to the United States.
Mahmoody’s story is the ultimate wake-up call for women everywhere with its firsthand account of gender inequality in Iran at the time. Not only that, Mahmoody’s mental and emotional strength for herself and her daughter keeps readers hooked and astonished that this isn’t a fiction tale.
“Not Without My Daughter” takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and it’s one of those books that becomes even more suspenseful with each turned page. But by the end, readers of all genders will feel empowered by Mahmoody’s determination as a woman and mother. And for the fans who hate when a good book ends and can’t get enough of the story, Mahmoody’s even wrote a follow-up book titled “For the Love of a Child,” and her daughter, who experienced the ordeal with Mahmoody, continues to speak out about their life in Iran.