By Nidhi Khurana:
We all talk about history almost every day. But have we ever wondered who creates history? Is it a man or a woman? Who informs him/her? What kinds of events are included in the creation of discourses? Well, several feminists have answers to these questions. They say that most of history ignores the accounts and experiences of women. In a society which prescribes a woman to be the home maker and man to be the bread winner, there is a little chance that women will have something to contribute to the history of the same.
Yes, many women nowadays are moving beyond their traditional roles, by moving out of the domestic sphere, for education and work. They are driving cars, they are choosing their own partners, or choosing to stay single, and all we can think of. But this change was not an abrupt change. That was the result of years of efforts of those ladies who broke the stereotypes and were deemed as deviant with bad characters, and sometimes also faced degradation for being too progressive. I know, International Women’s Day is over but it is never too late to learn more about women who created history, who dared to break the stereotypes, who changed the face of the world, maybe without whom I wouldn’t have gotten the right to express myself here. So, here we go:
• Virginia Woolf: The first woman modernist writer, an English novelist, is first on the list. She challenged society both in her style of writing, the substance of her writing and by her way of life. Not just for being an important and inventive modern novelist, but for reminding us, in A Room of One’s Own, of the remarkable things women might have written throughout history if they hadn’t been too burdened by household chores and society’s restrictions, makes her an important figure in shaping modern day feminism. .
• Rosa Parks: Rosa became one of the most respected figures in the civil rights movement in the US, but that she did by misbehaving in a way. She refused to give up her seat to the white man at the time when blacks were treated in an inhuman manner. Her audacity to violate the Segregation Law got her arrested then and there. But four days later, she started a new wave of rebel by boycotting the bus company. The boycott led to the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association which was headed by Martin Luther Jr. Parks continued to work for improving the civil status of blacks that also led to the creation of some of the significant civil rights legislations. She was also adorned with the title the Mother of the Freedom Movement from the US Congress.
• Coco Chanel: Paris is known for its glamour and its fashion industry since time immemorial. There is much it owes to Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Bonheur Chanel for bringing about a revolution in traditional clothing that women of the 20th century wore. Her menswear inspired fashion made her an important figure. Her ideas were considered to be too revolutionary as she often took traditional menswear and redesigned them for women, which was unacceptable at that time. Though, her ideas were opposed and resisted by the world, yet she believed “He will soon be claiming that the Resistance has liberated the world.” She is also the founder of the famous brand Chanel.
• Vidya Balan: The famous Bollywood actress might not have done much for the society or someone, yet she has moved beyond the typical image that Indian actresses usually carry. The actress has always been in the news for her extra weight and a not-so-impressive sense of dressing (normally silk sarees), yet her acting skills and her ability to preserve her individuality and originality have made her a successful Bollywood actress. She is also a social activist.
• Sampat Pal: Though she has named her organization as Gulabi Gang (pink being the colour of women), yet she has challenged the stereotypes that plague the Indian society. Progressive, bold and assertive, this woman has proved that it is not the education that alone contributes to your empowerment, but your own determination and unwavering strength that stand for your cause. Her gang stands to fight the domestic violence and oppression of women by punishing the violent fathers, brothers and husbands.
• Ellen DeGeneres: She has been much in news for embracing her sexuality like no one else. This beloved talk show host was the first one to move out in public and be assertive about her sexual choices. The world might criticize her for not complying with the traditions but she has always accepted criticism eloquently and in her own humorous way. Women like her need recognition for being strong in their character.
• Benazir Bhutto: She should obviously be on the list for being the first woman Prime Minister of a Muslim country. She helped to move Pakistan from dictatorship to Democracy in 1977. She also sought to implement social reforms, particularly helping women and the poor. Sadly in 2007, she got assassinated. But she will always be remembered for her charismatic authority and political astuteness.
• Mary Kom: Who says women don’t make good sportspersons? Mary Kom has cleared all the doubts by winning the bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics in boxing. She is a five-time World Boxing Champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. Hats off to her for thinking out of the box and embracing a game that is traditionally not regarded as suitable for girls!
• Oprah Winfrey: She is regarded as one of the most influential media giants in the world. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah is one of the richest African Americans of the 20th century and the world’s only Black billionaire. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Her personality is the testimony that one can always move up in life if one wishes to. All you need is the determination.
• Lady Gaga: Music is a part of our popular culture which has a powerful impact on what people accept as ‘normal’. Lady Gaga has got this message right, and has been doing things that are crazy and essentially gender-bending. Through her music and appearance in media, she has been challenging gender roles and grabbing enough attention too. People might find her weird and criticize her for her dressing sense. Nonetheless, she is undoubtedly creating a history probably because she was ‘born this way’.
There are several other ladies who have changed the world by resisting the gender specific roles and need to be acknowledged every now and then. For some, they might have transgressed the boundaries or broken the rules but as the saying goes ‘Well-behaved women seldom make history’