7 bad-ass feminists you didn’t know about

Etaf Rum:

If you’re an avid reader then you must have come across Etaf Rum’s debut novel A Woman is No Man’. Featured in nearly every Best Books of 2019 list, Etaf’s novel is about the parallel lives of three Palestinian women living in America and fighting for their rights in a patriarchal system. The author describes vividly how Islamic orthodoxy views women and how Arabic culture treats them. The theme is about the plight of victims of domestic violence, their hopes and dreams and the hopes and dreams of their daughters. It’s beautifully written, fascinating and soul-crushing. Etaf herself is a Palestinian-American woman, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She was married at a young age and had her first child by the age of 19. She later enrolled in North Carolina University and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Philosophy and then a Masters Degree in American and British Literature and Philosophy. The title ‘A Woman is No Man‘ was inspired by a conversation she had with her grandmother who told her that she couldn’t be what she aspired to be in life because ‘she was no man‘.

Deborah-Frances White:

I’ve talked about her before haven’t I? Deborah is a stand-up comedian and activist who hosts comedy panel podcasts like the Guilty Feminist and Global Pillage and serves as the producer of Grown Up Land, a BBC podcast. She’s a former Jehovah’s witness who’s turned into an Atheist, she has an irrational fear of scatological words, she’s adopted and she’s got dual citizenship of Australia and Britain. If you haven’t heard the story of how Deborah tried to seduce her husband Tom by acting like they were strangers on a Tinder date, or how she spoke to her birth-mother about wanting to have a baby through donor eggs (her mother got confused and suggested she share her sister’s poached eggs on a plate) or how she broke into a men-only Poker game and won their everlasting respect, then you’re just missing the best stand-up bits women have to offer aren’t you?

Deepika Singh Rajawat: Imagine being the first lawyer to file a writ petition for the abduction, rape and murder of an 8 year old girl from a marginalised community. Imagine, being the only one willing to represent the victim and offer legal support to the devastated parents. Imagine, being bullied by members of the Bar, politicians, even locals and getting death threats to drop the case. Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat is a lawyer at the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, a human rights activist, chairperson of the NGO Voice of Rights and champion for the NGO Child Rights and You (CRY). Her brave endeavour brought international attention to what quickly became known as the Kathua Rape Case. She comes from a humble background where when she was little, her parents couldn’t even afford notebooks. She borrowed money from a friend’s mother to enrol in Jammu University to do her law degree. Today, six of the seven defendants in the case have been convicted and three of them have been awarded imprisonment for 25 years along with a Rs.1 Lakh fine. Even Emma Watson tweeted about her!

Tara Westover : Again, if you like to read, you must have found your way to Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated. The book that debuted at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list. The one that was listed among the top 10 books of 2018. Tara Westover, in an introductory piece by Bill Clinton, was declared as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. Tara grew up in Idaho in a survivalist family. You know those kooks who prepare for the apocalypse? Yeah those were her parents. The family was mostly made up of religious fanatics who believed everything was a sin and harboured distrust for the government, schools, hospitals, doctors or any conventional institutions. She worked on her Dad’s wrecking yard as a child and frequently got into bad accidents for which she was denied medical attention. Her mother was a herbalist and an alternative healer. She was also physically and mentally abused by her brother and her father was possibly bipolar. Can you believe what sort of life she’s had? Think of a 17 year old self-taught girl who manages to get into college and ends up raising her hand in class because she doesn’t know what the Holocaust is. But today, Tara has a doctorate in intellectual history from Trinity College, Cambridge.

Zainab Salbi:

Originally from Iraq, Zainab was born and raised in Baghdad and has witnessed the impact of the Iran-Iraq War. Her family had a close relationship with Saddam Hussein as her father was a personal pilot of his and also head of civil aviation in Iraq. This relationship resulted in a form of psychological abuse for her family and Zainab was married off to an Iraqi-American by her mother in a bid to get her out of the country. As it turned out, Zainab’s first husband was extremely abusive and her life didn’t seem much better in America than it had in Iraq. She finally made it out of her first marriage in one piece and married a good man. On their honeymoon, they went to Bosnia-Herzegovina where the couple literally went door to door to help women survivors of the war in which nearly a 100,000 people were killed. At the age of 23 she founded the organisation Women for Women International that would go on to aid nearly 500,000 women in conflict across 8 countries. She also started the TV show Nida’a which provides a platform for Arab women to come forward and talk about their contribution to society. She’s a humanitarian, a women’s rights activist, a writer, a talk show host and and an ally for women in war zones.

Jean Shinoda Bolen:

I heard Gloria Steinem talk about Dr. Bolen, which is what got me interested in her. Jean is primarily a psychiatrist and her work on the male and female psyche is extensive. One of her books, Goddesses in Everywoman was one of those revolutionary books of its time that combined Jungian psychoanalysis with Spirituality. In her book, Dr. Bolen categorises all women into seven archetypes or seven Greek Goddesses and draws heavily from mythology to explain characteristic traits, behaviours and personality types. It might sound frou-frou at first but when you read this book you’ll experience it as a particularly empowering journey through the lives of all women and what drives them. She’s also a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and an NGO Permanent Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She was also featured in the Academy-Award winning film “Women- For America, For the World”. As a woman, I felt Jean Shinoda Bolen understands women intimately and her books are a great example of the psychological perspective on gender studies.

Vicky McClure:

I saved the best for the last! I’ve talked about activists and lawyers and philanthropists but I need to talk about this remarkable actress. Vicky McClure plays Detective Inspector Kate Fleming in the famous BBC crime-thriller series Line of Duty, which also happens to be my favourite show of all time. When the Line of Duty theme tune comes on, I’m like an addict on crack. I’ve very rarely come across a fictional character as strong, smart and assertive as DI Fleming and it intrigued me as to how McClure plays this tough-as-nails, Anti-Corruption Officer. Her new film, I Am Nicola, is about a toxic, dysfunctional and abusive relationship in which she gives an incredibly touching performance. She’s also an advocate for mental health and does marathon walks for raising awareness on Dementia, which has become UK’s biggest killer with nearly 52,000 people suffering from the condition. She sportingly played Innuendo Bingo on BBC Radio 1 where you have to hold water in your mouth and listen to real people inadvertently saying dirty things and try not to spit it all out and spray the guy in front of you.

{Do you know such a woman and wish to empower her? Get in touch and she’ll be interviewed and featured on this blog! Drop a line in the comments section and I’ll get back to you!}