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.

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A Personal Blog!

Throughout my life, I’ve felt connected connected to women. When I was little, that showed up as a refusal to read books with male main characters and a getting in trouble constantly for physically fighting with boys because I wanted to prove that I was just as strong as they were.

That was long before I knew what feminism was, what the patriarchy was, how men (and usually, old white men) control our politics and media and corporations. But as I grew older, I learned. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be; I was also told to be quiet, proper, ladylike. In the classroom I was valued for my brains but outside I was judged on my body, my femininity, my beauty. I also learned that though my opportunities were limited by my gender, I learned that there were other women with even fewer opportunities based on their race, class, nationality, sexuality, ability, and personal situations.

I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until high school that I really thought about feminism and what it meant. I knew the basics, of course, and it made me angry, but…I don’t know, I must have been preoccupied with other preteen dilemmas. Thankfully, one day, I snapped. I got angry, really angry, about the way the world thinks about women. I had already started an environmental club at my school, but it slowly evolved into a human rights club and then a women’s rights club because most of the other members were my friends who joined my club to support me and I was the president and all I wanted to do was rage about feminism and so that’s what we did. We got educated about an issue near and dear to my heart.

In my club we often watched videos like this one, and then read the comments and a) weeped/raged/lost faith in humanity/critically deconstructed every anti-feminist comment. We also watched documentaries like Half The Sky.

It shouldn’t surprise you that now I’m attending a women’s college and double-majoring in gender studies and political theory. I am still very passionate about making the world a better place by empowering women and by learning about the issues that affect women the most. And I feel like learning about empowering, inspiring women is beneficial in that pursuit, so feel free to keep reading my other blog posts and have a nice day!

Five American Female Inventors You Wish You Could Write a Thank You Note To

1. Ever ridden in a car in the winter without freezing your butt off? You have Margaret Wilcox to thank for that. While her designs have been improved upon over the years, the first car heater design was created by Wilcox in 1893.

“Aaah! Warmth!”

2. If you watched The Titanic recently, you might’ve noticed a distinct lack of these: life rafts. While the life raft is the invention that made Maria Beasley famous, another patent that she made in the late 1800s, a barrel-making machine, is the design that made her rich. She also designed a steam generator and a device that helps keep trains from being derailed. Thanks Maria Beasley!

“Help! I’m stuck in a Beasley life-saving doohicky!”

3. I don’t know about you, but I like food. Fresh food, specifically, so I am big fan of  Florence Parpart‘s invention, the refrigerator. In 1914 she came up with the idea that would replace the icebox forever. Of course, that was only after Parpart received a patent for improved street-sweepers. You go, Florence!

“If Daddy says he wants a sandwich, tell him we keep meat and cheese right here in Florence and he can go ahead and just make it himself, the lazy bastard.”

4. As a student attending a college in Western Mass, I’ve felt a winter chill or two. Thankfully, I can generally stay warm in buildings thanks to Alice H. Parker‘s invention: a gas-fired “heating furnace.” Her invention was the first step towards the central heating we use today. Parker was also a pretty badass woman because she was one of the most well-educated woman of her time and one of the lucky few African American women to attend college back then (Parker graduated from Howard University in the early 1900s). Thanks Alice!

Alice Parker and her heating furnace design

5. To some, she is known as “Queen of paper bags.” To others, she is “the female Edison.” To me, she is the incredible Margaret Knight. Born in 1838, Knight received 26 patents throughout her life. Some of her inventions were a paper bag machine (we still use the basic design today), a rotary engine, and a device to shut down machinery to keep it from injuring textile mill workers (which she designed when she was only 12 years old). I’m super impressed.

“I’m Margaret Knight, a badass female inventor and I’m glamorous to boot!”

So that’s what they did. Now it’s your turn. What are you going to invent?

Laverne Cox: How To Be a Woman

You probably know her because she was on the cover of Time Magazine. Or maybe you’re an avid watcher of Orange Is The New Black, a show which has the most diverse and incredible cast I have ever seen and in which Laverne Cox playing Sophia Burset, a trans inmate. Or maybe you just keep an eye out for incredible women. Regardless, you should know that Laverne Cox is talented, wonderful, and serves as an inspiration to women all over the world, and especially to trans women. She is, arguably, the most prominent trans celebrity today and she does a great job of showing that world is full of all kinds of different women.

What makes a woman a woman? As a student of the first women’s college in the US, I frequently take part in these conversations. What I’ve gotten out of my experience here so far is that there is no great formula for being a woman–we all look different, have different values, different languages and accents, different cultures, different hometowns, different sexualities, different sexualities, and different dreams. The only thing that holds us together is that we have come together on this beautiful campus to explore our true potential regardless of what the rest of the world have told us what we can and cannot do.

In September, my college’s president, Lynne Pasquerella, announced that Mount Holyoke College would finally admit transwomen in the upcoming years. Her words were greeted cheers and tears of happiness from the crowd. Most students share our president’s sentiment about the issue:

“Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body.”

– Lynn Pasquerella

While most were happy to hear the news, some students and alumni were less than thrilled, believing that admitting people who are not biologically female would be injurious to this historic college’s history and mission. I believe the exact opposite is true: Mount Holyoke was created to offer a proper education to young women when traditional colleges would not admit them. Now, Mount Holyoke can continue the tradition by admitting and educating those who share the common experience of growing up in a world where they are automatically perceived as being less capable, and we, as the students at this institution, can in return use our educations to change the world for the better.

Leymah Gbowee: Bringer of Peace

Last year, I took a college course about building peace in post-conflict societies. It was through that class that I was introduced to Leymah Gbowee through the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008). This film changed my life.

We live in a world where the power of women is constantly dismissed. The story of how Gbowee organized and empowered women to stand together in the non-violent protest that helped end Liberia’s bloody civil war, however, is a story that cannot be ignored. Last month, Gbowee visited Mount Holyoke College and I must confess that I have rarely felt so empowered (which is significant, because I go to a women’s college and female empowerment is a big thing here).

Gbowee’s work did not end with the war and she later founded the Gbowee Peace Foundation, was the co-Founder of Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-A), and continues to serve women all over the world. In 2011, Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” With all that she had done, Leymah Gbowee reminds me that we all have the power to make important change, especially if we stand together with others who also have the will to fight to make our world a better place. But please, watch her TED video, and let Gbowee remind you of that herself.

Pop Culture Heroine: Mary Lambert

The actual goddess Mary Lambert in all her badass, powerful, empowering, and beautiful glory

So I don’t know if you heard, but Mary Lambert’s new album “Heart On My Sleeve” is out! Which means we should all celebrate.

The fact is, women shape the world in all kinds of ways. We tend to think of history-makers as the people who win wars but neglect to remember the people who win hearts. It is important to keep in mind that thoughts and emotions drive public opinion and shape the world in their own way.

Mary Lambert first found fame by singing the beautiful chorus in Macklemore’s song Same Love, and I automatically fell in love her then and there. Later, I found out that she is an incredible spoken word artist (and then, to top it off, she performed at my college and I got to take a picture with her and when I told her how excited I was to meet her, she replied with “I’m so excited to meet you!” in a really sweet and genuine way). Needless to say, I am a very big fan.

By the way, if you haven’t heard her song “Secrets,” you should go listen to it (or watch the music video) right now. And then you should listen to everything else she has ever created, because her words, like messages about loving yourself, are bits of wisdom that everyone needs to hear.