I’ve taken many feminist courses over my 4 years in college, but never had a professor been so blunt and honest as to why I was there sitting on a chair while taking notes on the documentary One Woman, One Vote. “You need to understand that there were women who literally died for you to sit there”, she said. Suddenly, the air felt thicker, gloomier, more real than ever.
It’s true, what she said. We take for granted many of the rights we enjoy as women today. As much as things have not moved forward, they have, however, moved, which is key to any progress. The fact that I am taking a course titled Literature by Women, which celebrates the intellect and talent of females in literature throughout history, with a female professor who is also black (Intersectionality is very important!), while wearing a short halter dress with no bra on is pretty fucking spectacular because the women before us did not have the luxury of wearing whatever pleased them or even attend college.
The beauty in this celebration is that, as much as we can yell at the top of our lungs that sexism still exists, there are women, men, trans folks and non-binary individuals who are carrying on with the work that the women in the last few centuries started and who are changing the face and mission of feminism to broader and more functional projects.
To say thank you to the women who died for me to be writing this essay, let’s play a drinking game. Shall we? Grab a glass of whatever alcohol you prefer. Every time you feel compelled with the story of one of these women, take a sip. Let’s hope that by the end you feel encouraged to keep on being a badass. I know I will.
- Susan B. Anthony
Anthony was the first woman to vote (illegally). In 1872, she took her fight for Women’s Suffrage into action by voting in the presidential elections. She was arrested.
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton
She wrote The Women’s Bible, a statement against the oppression phallocentric language exercises over women and history. Her daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, was a suffragist and writer, who continued Elizabeth’s work.
- Anne Boleyn
Anne has been demonized throughout history for being the woman who pressured Henry VIII into divorcing his wife Catherine of Aragon and, subsequently, breaking up with the Catholic Church. On the other hand, Anne should be celebrated as the woman who brought divorce to public light in the 16th century.
- Luisa Capetillo
Capetillo was an activist for the Puerto Rican Women’s Suffrage Movement, as well as an advocate of labor organizations. In 1919, she became the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear pants in public.
- Bertha Benz (née Ringer)
It was a woman who first drove a car over a long distance and it was this lady. Her cross-country trip was 66 miles long.
- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Sor Juana used her position as a nun in Mexico to denounce the oppression men exercised over women during the time. In an era when women were not recognized as intellectual beings, what Sor Juana did was rebellious at best, as she is considered to be one of the pioneers of Mexican literature.
<<Hombres necios que acusáis
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis. >>
- Frida Kahlo
Through her paintings, Frida Kahlo explored a new feminist perspective in which women did not a appear to be perfect and untouchable, but rather broken and real. In The Two Fridas, the artist plays with the notion of alter egos, a concept that has been celebrated in her work. She was also a political advocate, alongside her husband Diego Rivera.
- Marie Taglioni
Taglioni was the first woman in history to dance en pointe. She’s considered to be one of the 4 jewels of 19th century ballet, for which the Grand Pas de Quatre was choreographed.
Image: Fulang-Chang and I by Frida Kahlo, photographed by Frances Solá at the MoMa in New York.