Modern Hero: Tuğçe Albayrak

You don’t have to go down in the history books to be a hero.

Two weeks ago, Tuğçe Albayrak, a 23-year-old teaching student, came to the aid of two young teenagers being harassed by three men in a McDonald’s bathroom in Offenbach, Germany. Albayrak confronted the men and they were thrown out of the restaurant. When she left the restaurant, however, the men attacked her with a heavy, blunt object, like a baseball bat or a rock. After two weeks in a coma from which she has no hope of recovering, her parents have taken her off of life support.

People rally in Berlin to remember Tuğçe Albayrak, who died after being beaten in an apparent revenge attack. Photograph: Maurizio Gambarini/dpa/Corbis

Every human life is precious. Every life lost simply out of anger or intolerance is a scar on the face of humanity, a face which already has so many scars. So today, look around you. Look at the people you love, look at the people you like, look at the people you see outside your car window and remember that everyone is precious.
Remember all of the people, like Tuğçe Albayrak who have died at the hands of misogynistic men. Remember all of the people who, like Michael Brown, have died at the hands of racist people or cops or racist cops. Remember all of the people who have died to save another person’s life. Remember all of the young people who have died when their lives were just beginning, remember all of the people who have died because of the color of their skin or their religion or their nationality or their gender or sexuality. Remember all of these people and remember that even if you didn’t know them, their lives mattered.

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Early Childhood Inspiration: Susan B. Anthony

In first grade, my class did a project where we had to find a figure in history we admired and then dress up as that person and give a short monologue. My mom helped me find a list of fifty or so historical people I could talk about and then let me choose. Not surprisingly, I chose the suffragist Susan B. Anthony. In fact, Anthony is probably the person to first inspire me to think about women’s equality and gender issues.

Susan B. Anthony circa 1855

To be fair, she was probably one of the first women to make a lot of people think about gender equality, at least in terms of voting. Not only was she an amazing suffragist, but she was also an abolitionist. She is also famous for establishing the Women’s New York State Temperance Society in 1852 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Though you probably already know her story, here are 10 facts you may not have heard:

  1. Anthony wasn’t present at the 1848 Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention because she was teaching school
  2. She was an abolitionist before she was a suffragist
  3. For her 80th birthday she partied at the White House
  4. She was the first woman to get her face on a US coin
  5. She was not a traditional Christian
  6. She was good friends with Frederick Douglass
  7. She was German of descent but one of her grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War
  8. She was against abortion, but put the blame on pressuring men rather than the women seeking abortions
  9. She might have had (probably had) some lady loves
  10. A Navy ship was named after her and it holds the world record for its passengers not dying when it sank

In any case, here is a video of some of her quotes. Have a great day!

Paintbrush Queen of the Southwest: Georgia O’Keeffe

I grew up with Georgia O’Keeffe as a constant art inspiration. In elementary school, I created my own interpretations of her flower paintings. Later, in middle school I recreated some of her abstracts with tiles to create massive mosaics. By far my favorite O’Keeffe paintings, however, are her New Mexico landscapes. I was born and raised in New Mexico, and I can vouch that her paintings capture both the spirit and beauty of this place.

Georgia O’Keeffe, My Front Yard, Summer, 1941, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

I love O’Keeffe’s paintings because, well, I live in them. The above painting portrays her front yard in Abiquiu, New Mexico, just a few hours away from my home. It really is a beautiful place.

Chama River in Abiquiu, NM

Anyway, I think her paintings are beautiful. I love all of her New Mexico-inspired paintings, including her landscapes and her still lifes like the one below:

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory, 1938, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches, Gift of the Burnett Foundation, ©Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

But who can forget her excellent abstracts? Especially the one that resembles a vulva (but is NOT, as O’Keeffe insists, a vulva at all):

Georgia O’Keeffe, Music, Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918. Oil on canvas, 35 × 29 1/8 in. (88.9 × 74 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Emily Fisher Landau in honor of Tom Armstrong 91.90 © 2009 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In any case, she is a wonderful painter worth learning about and checking out. Those of you who are really inspired should visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico and tour Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu to really experience that land that so inspired her. It will definitely inspire you, too!

Happy Thanksgiving in Honor of A Rebel in Herstory: La Maupin

Bread rolls and gender roles

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate this holiday (which is probably most of you because most of my readers are from the US)! It’s a holiday I enjoy because I have time off from school, but it’s not a perfect holiday by any means. Not only does it have a gory past, but the holiday is still, for most households, a scene straight out of the sixties: the women cook in the kitchen while the men relax. I would give you a more vivid analysis of this too-common scene, but Linda Lowen does an excellent job of this so I’ll send you over to look at hers instead.

Personally, I had a very untraditional Thanksgiving; because I didn’t want to fly home for such a short break, I ended up staying in my dorm room and so yesterday I slept in, made a statue of Princess Leia out of snow, cooked eggplant pasta with my girlfriend, and watched Gilmore Girls for nostalgia’s sake. What did you do for Thanksgiving?

Anyway, for all of the women who spent their Thanksgiving in the kitchen with their hands inside a turkey’s ass and resenting the guys just a little, here’s a true story about  a women who never took any shit from any man.

What do sword fighting, opera singing, the 1600s, cross-dressing, nunnery heists, and avoiding death sentences (by fire) have to do with each other? Julie D’Aubigny, or “La Maupin,” as she is nicknamed, was a master of them all.

Honestly, not too much is known about her except that no one knew what to do with her. Born in 1670, Julie D’Aubigny was born into a wealthy life and taught how to ride horses and handle a sword by her father, who was fairly badass himself because he trained pages for King Louis the XIV. She quickly became too much for him to handle, though, when at the age of 16 she slept with his boss. After that, she was married off to some Maupin guy who lived in the colonies. D’Aubigny didn’t go off to live with him, though. Instead, she galavanted around France doing all kinds of extraordinarily naughty things. For a full and entertaining biography, read all about her here, but in case you are pressed for time I’ll give you the highlights:

  • She gave singing and fencing demonstrations in the streets, challenging crowd members to duel, singing humiliating songs about those challenged, then easily defeating them. She wore men’s clothing but once, upon being accused of being a man, opened up her underthings so the crowd could judge her sex for themselves.
  • She became an incredible opera singer and had an almost photographic memory, making her a very fast learner.
  • She had flings with lots of women, but with one woman in particular was thrown into a nunnery by her horrified parents. D’Aubigny followed her to this nunnery, joined it, stole the body of a recently-dead nun to put in her lover’s bed, and set the room on fire so that they could easily escape together. For this, she was charged as a man with body-snatching, kidnapping, and arson, the penalty for which was death by fire, but she escaped to Paris instead.
  • In 1695, she kissed a woman at a society ball and was consequently challenged  to a duel by three outraged noblemen; she of course beat them all.

How’s that for a 17th century woman?

Reina With A Paintbrush: Frida Kahlo

I have loved Frida Kahlo for a very long time; when I was twelve, I even dressed up as Frida for Halloween. But it wasn’t until I read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (it’s a great book, you should read it!) that I became obsessed.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940, Oil on masonite, 59,5 x 40 cm, Private Collection. Licensed Replica: © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008

She is, of course, most famous for being an incredible painter and for being married to the equally-famous muralist Diego Rivera. Personally, having seen both of their art in real life, I must say that Frida’s work is my favorite. Then again, I am biased because I love her life’s story as much as I love her work.

There are so many things to admire about Frida Kahlo. The majority of her paintings were self portraits, a sort of visual diary to cope with the traumas in her life. She experienced a lot of pain: when she was six she contracted polio, which left her with a lifelong limp; when she was 18, she was in a bus crash in which she was impaled by a steel handrail; had several miscarriages as a result of the bus accident; was cheated on by her husband, Diego Rivera, with her sister Cristina; and dealt with back pain for her whole life.

Despite her pain, or perhaps because of it, she had an incredible free spirit and ideas about beauty. I admire her pride in her untrimmed facial hair and devotion to leading an independent life. Though being married to Diego Rivera (twice), they lived in separate but connected homes. Both had various affairs; Frida had affairs with both women and men, including Leon Trotsky who stayed at her house for a time while in exile.

In any case, her life is fascinating and I encourage you to read more about her (or watch a documentary about her). And in the meantime, you should check out more of her work:

Without Hope, 1945 by Frida Kahlo, painted during the time when she had no appetite due to various operations and was force fed food.

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932. This is one of my favorites.

Frida Kahlo, Roots, 1943.

Frida Kahlo, Two Nudes in a Forest, 1939. This painting was originally titled “The Earth Itself” and was a gift to a lover, actress Dolores Del Rio.

First Female PM, First Female President, and How They Got There

Quiz time!

1. What was the first country to have a female head of state?

First female PM Sirimavo RD Bandaranaike

 

Sri Lanka!

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and of any country in the world! However, she was elected only after her husband was assassinated. Possibly, she was elected because she was seen as an extension of her husband. Nevertheless, she was popular and was reelected PM in the 1970s  and 1990s.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike reminds me of another incredibly badass head of state: past President Corazon Aquino from the Philippines. Aquino led a similar life in that her husband was also a politician who was assassinated.

President Corazon Aquino

 

Aquino’s story is extra badass though. Corazon Aquino’s husband was a politician in opposition to authoritarian head of state Ferdinand E. Marcos, and the assassination of Aquino’s husband really pissed people off.

Later, Marcos (weirdly) wants to hold a presidential election, so Corazon Aquino runs in opposition to Marcos. Offcially, of course, Marcos won, but the people were outraged and charged Marcos with voting fraud and then Philippine Military Officials called Marcos out as the authoritarian ass he was. They then made Marcos president of his followers and Aquino president of hers, but then Marcos fled the country (good choice, Marco) and Aquino became the president of the Philippines. As president, she created a new constitution that was ratified in 1987. While she made a lot of positive changes in the Philippines there were some problems she failed to address, specifically mass poverty, and was succeeded by her former defense secretary, Fidel Ramos.

Also, while I was researching these two women I came upon this article that talks about how many female heads of state have come out of South and Southeast Asia and why. It’s an interesting read and I encourage you to check it out, but basically it theorizes that women often become heads of state due to backlashed against severe patriarchal control. It also says that once these women are in power, though, it is difficult for them to gain authority for the same reason they were put in charge. It’s an interesting theory, though I wonder if that is changing as time progresses. I suppose we shall see.

 

Half The Sky: A Documentary You Should Watch Before You Die But Preferably This Minute or Tonight or Sometime Very, Very Soon

If you read the post I just posted, I talked about how my awareness of a need for feminism grew as I got older and really blossomed in high school when I conned a bunch of people into being in a feminism club with me. In said club, we watched lots of movies that focused on women. By far my favorite documentary was Half The Sky. It completely changed my perspective on the world and my future. It is also a book.

The Half the Sky movement focuses on problems that women face all over the world, and the book and documentary feature some incredibly inspiring women, like Edna Adan. You should really take my word for it and go rent it/buy it right now, in book or film form, but in the watch the trailer; it just might change your life.