With March being International Women’s History Month, the Impact Features team reflects on the women who inspire us. From musical icons to best friends to political figures, these women have inspired for their resilience, their humanity and their intellect.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bernadine Evaristo’s work, I recommend that you pick up a copy of her book Girl, Woman, Other today. She is the first black women to win the Booker prize with that novel, and I enjoyed reading it so much that I have since decided to write my dissertation on it.
Her work has been pioneering in bringing black women to the forefront of fiction writing
Girl, Woman, Other focuses on 12 black protagonists and explores topics of gender, race and sexuality and collectively, the stories of those 12 characters present the black British experience. Her work has been pioneering in bringing black women to the forefront of fiction writing, and she has written 9 other books to date. Her interesting writing style and her ability to break down boundaries when it comes to prose writing is inspiring – showing she is not afraid to go against the norm.
She doesn’t just stop at writing though – she’s also an activist for the inclusion of artists of colour and has set up several conferences, a theatre company, a mentoring scheme and a prize to help push for recognition and celebration of black artists and authors.
Does she need any explanation? One of the most influential music artists of the late 90s and early 2000s whose style and music impacted my early childhood. Oh, to be 8 again and playing Toxic on repeat on my blue CD player and making up dances in my bedroom. She was a Y2K icon, creating tune after tune even in the midst of the critical tabloid culture of the 2000s, of which has since been criticised for exploiting and sensationalising her mental health, motherhood and sexuality.
The documentary ‘Framing Britney Spears’, alongside the trending #FreeBritney hashtag, exposed the oppressive reality which she had been living due to the conservatorship which allowed her father and other individuals control over her personal life and finances for 13 years. Through all of her personal turmoil, Britney supported many children’s charities including Elevate Hope Foundation and Keep a Child Alive, even when she was separated from her own children in a publicised custody battle. She also set up her own Britney Spears Foundation which offers children in long-term hospital care the chance to perform and express themselves through music.
She has shown that even whilst enduring personal and legal oppression, it is possible to still do good in the world
Therefore, I believe Britney’s legacy extends beyond her music (despite how iconic it is), as she has altered the way we view stardom and the long-term damaging effects it can have on an individual. She has shown that even whilst enduring personal and legal oppression, it is possible to still do good in the world.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a Nigerian writer who inspires me. Growing up reading was greatly encouraged, but when I would borrow books from the library at school, I would rarely find African ones. Children were told many folklores, but that’s all there was to it – passing on by word of mouth. The literature of our land was not documented or celebrated much.
I would read about winter, something someone who lives in West Africa will never experience. As fascinating as it was to step into another part of the world through a book, I hoped to one day read about someone like myself who discussed the intricacies of my culture, and slang that were native to us. The stories of Africa are minimally documented compared to Europe, even in textbooks we are just a place of ‘treasure’, but the history and culture of my people is abandoned.
Chimamanda breaks the mould and that inspires a woman of colour like me
Even her name inspires me, African people often use their other English names because it is easier not to correct others, but she leaves no room for that. She is who is she is, and where she comes from will not be moulded or downplayed to fit in. Consider how hard it is be a woman, purely black, and African, Chimamanda breaks the mould and that inspires a woman of colour like me.
Gloria Allred is one of the most inspirational women for me. She’s a well known civil rights lawyer who, over the course of her roughly 50 year long career, has consistently dedicated her time and energy to pushing for positive social change. She’s an advocate for those who have had social prejudices weaponised against them and how successful she’s proven to be – despite having everything stacked against her – really makes her stand out. She has faced many hardships and traumatic events while growing up, but she turned those events into motivations for her to change the society that allowed them to happen so easily – a feet which she achieved, in many ways.
She’s helped shape our culture for the better in many ways
Gloria Allred represented the woman who came forward against Harvey Weinstein at the beginning of the #MeToo movement and was thus arguably a large part of its success. She’s helped shape our culture for the better in many ways, specifically in terms of women’s rights, and her feminism and work is continuously intersectional. She’s someone I truly respect for her views and for her work to make those views a reality.
My Best Friend
She inspires me to look for the best in people and to always treat everyone with kindness
I’ve known my best friend since we were about four years old, so I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with all of her unconditional love, support and friendship. She inspires me to look for the best in people and to always treat everyone with kindness, no matter what mood I might be in. Her determination and drive when it comes to academia also inspires me to make the most of the chances that I’ve been given, and to have the confidence to say yes to any opportunity that comes my way. We genuinely just want the best for each other and to see each other succeed; that’s something I value so much in a friend.
I’ve seen her navigate a long journey of gaining self-confidence, and looking after her mental health over the years. In this way, I’m inspired to not only be kind to others, but also to myself. There are so many of her traits that I try to emulate myself and in other friendships – she’s really made me realise just how underrated platonic friendships are.
I have Tracy Chapman’s eponymous album on vinyl, and it has come to be one of my most treasured possessions. I will sit in my room and listen to her devastating lyrics that cover everything from racism, domestic violence and gender inequality to the tumultuous effects of love.
She has gone on to become very politically and socially active and notably supports many human rights and AIDS related causes
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Chapman has spoken candidly about the bullying and racial assaults that plagued her childhood in the poverty-stricken area. I find her subsequent astonishing commercial success whilst resisting the stereotypical image of a female star a remarkable feat. She has gone on to become very politically and socially active and notably supports many human rights and AIDS related causes.
Ultimately, her stripped-back music and beautifully undiluted vocals will continue to stream into the ears of generations to come, and for good reason.
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