It’s International Women’s Day. In no way is this going to be an exhaustive list, but I just wanted to write about some of the women who have really inspired me. Some I only know from media, others I’ve met and there are many that I am privileged to call friends.
Nicola. One of the inspirational women I get to call my friend, and have done since she came to Aberdeen in 2005 and we began ‘Tea, Prayer and One Tree Hill’. I’ve already embarrassed her on facebook today, but I’m hoping she’s given it up for Lent or something. My fellow alien on Planet Christian, who has challenged me to be more faithful in God to provide, to tithe, to spend my money in more ethical places, to read more widely, to not give up shouting about injustice, and not to be afraid of who I am. Currently training to be an Anglican vicar and having to come up against people who believe that as a woman she shouldn’t even be one. She’s going to make one kick ass vicar, and like I said on facebook, I would not be shocked (and I’ve told her on several occasions) that I reckon one day she’ll be a Bishop. And if that happens she’s going to lead ethically, justly and humbly. Because that’s in her character.
Miss Flinderella. I met this girl online, and four years ago, I got to meet her in person. I love her passion for feminism and standing up for not slagging off women because of how they look. I love how she has stood up for teenage mothers and the stigma that is often put on them. I love that she has had the courage to go back to university and is now doing a PhD. Yes. A PhD. When this postgraduate student (ie me) was until very recently trying to avoid writing a simple Masters dissertation at all costs so she is putting me to shame! She was the first person to wish me a Happy International Women’s Day and she daily encourages me to be a better person than I am, because she sets high standards for me!
Lupita Nyong’o. I said to my friend the other day that I want to ask this woman to marry me. Her grace. Her poise. Her eagerness to learn. Her passion. Her joy. This speech. She is beauty personified, and I don’t mean just outwardly. She is beautiful inside and out, and I was so impressed by her fearless portrayal of Patsey in 12 years a slave.
Chimamanda Adichie. I’ve spoken of this lady often. After many conversations late into the night (well not that late, we were up so early every day!) with my friend I shared a room with in Durban, finding her TED talk on the Danger of the Single Story was a revelation and I wanted to be in the room cheering her on. Let there be more Lupitas and Chimamandas to encourage us not to just share single stories.
Rebecca. Another blog turned in real life friend. This girl is one of the most loyal and thoughtful friends you could have. She sends you random post in the mail. She throws awesome parties. And she worked darned hard to become a nurse. She cares deeply not only about her patients, but their loved ones too. She is honestly one of the first friends I made after I became a Christian that I didn’t feel awkward around or judged by. She is creative, compassionate, caring, courageous. She has blogged openly and honestly about her personal battle with depression and anxiety helping everyone to have a better understanding of the illness and how we can better support loved ones suffering from depression.
Ruth. Ruth was an online friend when we went to the same church in the same city. And then we found each other. And we did Inter:act at the same time. And once that was all over she left the city but we’ve kept in good contact. We’ve even been on holiday together. She is an introvert and I’m an extrovert. It sounds really daft, but I’ve always been inspired by how Ruth will get up and go do stuff. Me? I’m always sitting in the house with the time to do something and not doing it because I don’t have someone to do it with. I’m trying to learn to be more like Ruth! She is also great with kids and passionate about helping them to learn. Not teaching them, but creatively helping them learn (I believe there’s a difference).
Beth Tweddle. Britain’s most successful gymnast ever. She is only a year younger than me. What impresses me about Beth is her diligence, her work ethic, and the fact that she blazed a trail for both male and female gymnasts in the UK that simply wasn’t there before. Not only that but I’ve heard her cheering fellow gymnasts from the stands when she was out with injury. She never gave up. I love her passion for inspiring young people, and love that her response to internet trolls has been to support charities that are dealing with internet safety and cyber bullying.
Meredith Vieira. I think I found this lady because she interviewed American gymnasts, and then I started noticing other interviews. I loved that she was unashamedly a woman working in a male dominated business. I loved that she had a husband and kids but also worked. I loved that she was always looking great without showing a ton of skin. I love that she was a woman older than my mother not trying to look younger and hadn’t been written off the television. I loved her personality and how she didn’t take herself too seriously, but took respecting others very seriously. I also love her new YouTube channel: Lives with Meredith Vieira.
A friend of Meredith is Ann Curry, and I know that is a woman who inspires Holly. Holly inspires me because she is not afraid to be herself. She bravely shared a series on atheism on her blog and sadly lost some blog readers due to the fact they were so ‘offended’ by her beliefs and those of her guest bloggers, that were different from their own. She has watched her home city be devastated by earthquakes. She has gone through scary treatments for kidney disease, and like Rebecca, she has been willing to share the ups and downs of her journey and battles with it. She has moved to a country on the other side of the world from home. She has embraced her curls much better than I’ve (not) embraced mine.
Kathy. When I first met Kathy & her husband I thought they didn’t like me or just thought I was weird. It was only when they laughed a lot about my incident with a trolley in a supermarket car park that I realised that even if they did think I was a complete fruit loop, they liked me anyway. A more generous pair I dare you to find. Kathy has this amazing discipline and work ethic. I don’t know how she did it travelling the world, working crazy hours and still finding time to bake gluten free brownies for someone as a treat or making a vat of soup to be taken to feed the homeless. She is super intelligent (folks, she can do MATHS!), she makes the best brownies in the world, she knits, she walks, she travels and she wears jeans. She uses her knowledge of business and mixes it with her creative talents to proactively find solutions to inequality. And I can always rely on her to challenge me when I’m in need of an attitude adjustment. And she’s a fab mother to her son.
Vicky. Where do I begin? She was my first new friend when I moved back to Edinburgh. She is like my community education buddy because she loves it too. She is an eco warrior. She is an awesome mum, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard her yell or shout. Her discipline is always so gentle, and if I ever get the chance to be a parent, I know that I’ll be a better parent because of what I’ve learned from observing her parenting in action. She is a fantastic artist and uses art to get people thinking. She is generous with her time and so open with her resources. Not least of which is her home.
Carrie. My friend of more than 10 years now. The woman who had met me once, but was willing to come and retrieve me in the middle of the night when I had dehydrated myself so badly for fear of having to use a portaloo covered in puke I’d collapsed at a music festival. She has always given care, advocacy and consistency to vulnerable people, whether it be children in care or adults with disabilities. In every community she has lived in she has actively sought to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and/or vulnerable people. She makes awesome cakes. She lets her sons make a mess, try new things and let’s them fall so they can learn to pick themselves back up again. She has two confident young boys as a result! She also did me the honour of asking me to be both her bridesmaid and her firstborn’s godmother.
There are also many, many other friends and ladies from over the years. I’d say every single member of my Senior Section Unit. The Girlguiding Leaders that I work with currently. My Ranger Leader, Penny and her daughters. Many of my high school friends. Many of my university friends. So many gymnasts (not just Beth!). Clare Balding. Sarah Millican. Joanna Rowsell. Friends from church. Friends from workplaces past and present. Malala Yousafzai.
Oh so many women. And this is just a handful.
We have the ability to make the world a better place just as much as dudes do.
So let’s do it!