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? Several feminists 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. But this change was is reflective of years of efforts of those ladies who broke the stereotypes and were deemed as deviant.
I know, International Women’s Day was months ago but it is never too late to learn more about women who created history, the women who dared to change 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 (UK)
The English novelist was a prominent figure in Modernist literature. She challenged society both in her style of writing, the substance of her writing and by her way of life. An important and inventive modern novelist, she reminded 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 (USA)
Rosa became one of the most respected figures in the civil rights movement in the US, and she did it by misbehaving. She refused to give up her seat to the white man at the time when blacks were treated as sub-human. Her audacity to violate the Segregation Law got her arrested then and there. But four days later, she started a new wave of rebellion 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 significant civil rights legislation. She was also adorned with the title the ‘Mother of the Freedom Movement‘ from the US Congress.
Coco Chanel (France)
Paris is known for its glamour and its fashion industry. There is much it owes to Gabrielle ‘Coco‘ Bonheur Chanel, the founder of 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, she believed “He will soon be claiming that the Resistance has liberated the world.”
Vidya Balan (India)
The famous Bollywood actor has moved beyond the typical image that female Indian actors usually carry. She has always been a favourite target of sexist media criticism for her weight and fashion choices, yet her acting skills and her ability to preserve her individuality and originality have made her a successful Bollywood actress.
Sampat Pal (India)
Leading the women’s vigilante organization ‘Gulabi Gang’ (Gulabi meaning pink), she has challenged stereotypes about women as meek and powerless. Progressive, bold and assertive, this woman has proved that it is not education that alone contributes to your empowerment, but determination and unwavering strength that bolster your cause. Her gang fights domestic violence and the oppression of women by punishing violent fathers, brothers and husbands.
Ellen DeGeneres (USA)
Ellen embraces 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 tradition but she has always accepted criticism eloquently and in her own humorous way.
Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan)
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 to help women and the poor. Sadly in 2007, she was assassinated, but will always be remembered for her charismatic authority and political astuteness.
Mary Kom (India)
Who says women don’t make good sportspersons? Mary Kom has cleared all 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 being a notable figure in a game traditionally regarded as unsuitable for girls!
Oprah Winfrey (USA)
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 (USA)
Music, as a part of popular culture, has a powerful impact on what people accept as ‘normal’. Lady Gaga has been constantly pushing the envelope of what is considered ‘normal’ through her appearance, performances and music videos. And she isn’t about to stop, because she was “born this way!”
By resisting the gender-specific roles handed to them, these and many more women ought to be acknowledged for their contributions. They have transgressed boundaries and broken the rules but as the saying goes ‘Well-behaved women seldom make history’.