Today whoever hears the word woman, can’t stop a thousand thoughts from flooding their mind. It could be that when you hear it, you may think of nail polish, lipstick, purses and high heels, or it could also be ideas about struggle, feminism, independence and courage. And despite these two conceptions, I always think of them as the exact same thing.
A fruit salad
What I mean is that we are not talking about pears and apples, but about … a fruit salad. Or is it that you cannot wear high heels while being a revolutionary woman?
In the end, both stereotypes lead us to the same thing: to a woman full of life and strength.
Let’s make it clear that in this article, we care about the substance and not the form. Thus, it is the mental attributes of a woman (and of any person) that should first reach our mind when we think about her.
So much so, that it is precisely with the expression of this internal force with which thousands of great women throughout history have changed the course of humanity, performing in both artistic and philosophical as well as political and scientific spheres. We owe women a lot.
But, what is all this about? Well, it´s about how the attributes that made this women stand out are present in all of us, every day.
It is very important to recognize all that has been done for humanity in the past, especially, what has been done only for women by women. For well we know that we have not always enjoyed the privileges that we enjoy now.
The cultural transformations
And to achieve this we have undergone not one but several cultural transformations. You can google it just after reading if you want.
But more important than narrating historical facts and feminist revolutions, we want this article to be an inspiration for you no matter where you are from, how you look or what you believe in. As you read these pages feel the force that roars within you.
Today we must admit that its certainly unlikely that you feel like you did on your fifteen birthday, when you lived for yourself and the audacity ran through your veins.
Over the years, many people took it upon themselves to put out that wild spark in you, convincing you that it was not worthy of ladies and that you had to correct it. Call it “molding the character to the scheme”.
Now, there are two ways of seeing the murder of the spark, as I told you before, or how Juana of Arc, our first great woman, saw and lived it.
Briefly, Joan of Arc was a young French girl, who’s now known not only as a Saint, but also as the heroine of France thanks to her participation in the war of one hundred years (in which France disputed the fortune of England located within the french territory).
At age 17, Joan helped King Charles VII to crown himself and in return, he gave her an army, which she led winning several battles meant to expel the English troops. Let´s also recall that for all these battles, Juana had to dress as a man.
Finally, in 1430 she was trapped by the enemy and was soon subjected to more than a dozen intense interrogations. Accused of heresy and dressing as a man -Mullan, someone? – Juana was burned alive, although the legend says that her heart survived the flames. Later she was named holy and emancipated from her more than seventy “crimes”.
Joan’s rebellious spark, which was often called crazy and irreverent because of her youth and gender, was what gave France a break and the war a 180 degree turn. They say that faith moves mountains, and whether it is religious faith or faith in a cause, Juana shows us that faith and audacity are the engine of change. Remember that your tenacity is your liberation.
Yes, we know it, you are not liberating France, but you are liberating yourself. What could be a better cause?
Speaking of heroines on the battlefield, another skilful strategist is the colombian Policarpa Salavarrieta, more commonly known as La Pola.
La Pola, was a heroine of the Colombian independence which took place during the Spanish reconquest. She participated in the cry of independence at the age of 14 and from there she dedicated herself to spying on the Spaniards. La Pola collected and sent messages.
Through out her life, she fought in the Colombian liberation armies against the Spanish oppressive forces, and soon became key to the independence rebellion.
Captured in the city of Bogotá, La Pola was shot in the square where her statue now stands.
This woman gave rise to the independence revolution in Colombia and her murder, along with the courage of this young woman, caused furor in the Colombian people who will always remember her.
Policarpa is a clear example of the old saying “prudence makes true saints”. Imagine that if as Juana of Arc La Pola had hit a scream to heaven … she would’ve probably been captured sooner. In that scenario, none of what she achieved would’ve actually been achieved.
She knew how to fight her battle. The discretion and the strategy taught by La Pola demonstrate intelligence: the strategy of a chess game, the players do not expose their moves.
Understand, I’m not saying that what you should do silence what you think or what you want, what I say is that you should know how to adapt to the situations to always get the most out of them and be victorious. Just go with the flow. Everything has its method.
No one needs a man in their life
For all single mothers and single women, let me tell you something that is not new: you absolutely do not need a man in your life (but you can definitely have as many as you wish). You know it, and if you doubt it, just take a look at the case of the first official Chinese empress, Wu Zetian.
Wu Zetian was chosen at age 13 as one of the concubines of the Chinese emperor, who soon saw in her more than a pretty face and turned her into a sort of secretary.
When he died, two of Wu’s sons ruled the empire, until Wu dethroned them because of their incompetence, proclaiming herself as the official Empress of China.
This decision was very badly seen by members of the court and intellectuals of the time (since she was also a woman).
However, during his tenure Wu stabilized the Chinese economy, helped the culture flourish and regain its greatness, favored women (who had limited rights in their time), expanded the scope of education and art regardless of the origin of the people, and even maintained relations with several men until the age of 70 years (just like wine girls! The older the better!).
Being a revolutionary liberal woman, Wu Zetian accounts in history as one of the strongest feminists, who ruled an empire on her own by passing over the stigmas and the mostly macho tradition. She is undoubtedly a symbol of strength and sexuality combined with a sense of justice.
It was her humanistic thinking that led China to flourish and advance community. (left)
Your strength and your determination are nothing if you are blind to the good of others, although we are here to achieve our goals and be independent, going towards these goals does not justify passing over anyone.
Wu teaches us how we can live a life full of empowerment and liberation without submitting others or submitting to them. Keep your balance, like the famous ying yang.
Fear also blossoms into beauty and courage
As you can see, all the women we’ve been talking about have within themselves what looks like a spark of determination and passion, not fear. But fear also blossoms into beauty and courage.
Take as an example the mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who lived a traumatic life ever since an accident that forced her to wear a corset for the rest of her life; a life characterized by tragedy, disease and pain. Because of this, she became a woman who used pain as if it were lipgloss; representing her perception of life through her paintings in which she painted herself, claming she was “what she knew best”.
But for some strange reason, those who saw her paintings were captivated by the overflowing sensitivity and pain. Something that we can all identify with, even if we do not talk about it nor paint it.
The rawness of the art that freed her from the burden that tormented her was freeing the rest of the world: Frida was being a spokeswoman for life.
Her life was a constant struggle which she fought using the weapons of art and aesthetics.
As a normal person, it is difficult to think that with our tears we will wet the watercolors and begin to paint our own pain, but this is not what we are asking for. We are asking for the improvement and the bearing with pride of our sensitivity.
We must not wait for life to free us from its tragedies, that´s just not how it works. And that’s not because we are women and so we are supposedly prone to pain -we are the weaker sex- none of that. Rather, as people, we must use Frida’s self-knowledge as an example and tool used to transform pain into self-improvement and expression.The healing process we live into is only a process in which we must recognize our own feelings and emotions, letting them flow, and if necessary, resort to others.
Understand your pain comes from your sensitivity, as well as joy, love, and well-being: proudly demonstrating your feelings is a super power. Never be ashamed of them, they do not make you weak.
Sexuality and women
Finally, and very important in these modern times in which the fields of sexuality are more open, is the American Margaret Sanger.
Thanks to Sanger and other women, we no longer have to stick to the puritan version of a woman. (left)
Margaret is the most important and well-known person in the history of family planning in the US and in the world, as she is the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the largest family planning federation in the world. Before this in 1914, she created the magazine “The rebel woman” in New York, in which she popularized the term coined by herself “birth control”.
She was accused of violating laws against pornography and despite this she published a brochure complaining about the silencing of women in the sexual sphere: Margarett demands that society stops seeing women as sexual objects. In these times, women had no saying about their own bodies and were at the mercy of man’s pleasure.
For the time, Sanger’s actions gave rise to a new era for sexual liberation, in which women were free to choose over their sexuality and their bodies, thus beginning the destruction of the classic role of a housewife and/or mother. Her philosophy of selfpreservation, choice and freedom is today the philosophy of many women who enjoy their sexuality to the fullest, without fear or guilt.
Seeing these five great women and how each one made lemonade with their lemons, all that remains now is to invite all women to feel courageous in themselves, and capable of great things. Thanks to the daring of others we are also liberated. But after each new release other barriers appear.
After the sexual liberation, the barrier of being a “slut” appears, after the overthrow of the traditional roles of the woman, the barrier of being a “liberal” arrives, and even after the struggle against the oppressions we are accused of being “feminazis”.
To break with the old implies continuing to build and destroy as women and as a society, we must persevere and play our role as warriors, first with ourselves and then for the world. Inside out.
And how do you fight? Making use of the virtues that these great women taught us: sexuality, tenacity, faith in oneself, courage, strategy, freedom, expression, discretion, justice, intelligence, overcoming, resilence and finally, transformation.
There is always a fight to be fought, let’s not be a conformist living in a conformist world.
This is how despite our external appearance and our personality, we women have always had and will always have the strength to change our reality. We do not compete among ourselves to see who makes it “better”, because there is no comparison, there is no better. We fight for our freedom and our individuality, which are different for each of us. We fight hard for the expression of difference.