As a writer of novels about young adults, I often find myself incorporating feminist themes. I think it’s because living my life as a feminist has made such a positive difference in my relationships, my career, and my outlook on life. In my most recent UK publication, The Truth About Alice, a young girl is shunned by her small town after rumors start that she’s a slut. Funny how that word never seems to apply to boys, right?
It’s my hope that in reading The Truth About Alice and my other recent novel, Moxie, young readers will find the strength within themselves to stand up for gender equality. Maybe they can be inspired not just by Alice’s story but by these ten fantastic female icons – past and present – that we should all get to know.
Audre Lorde – This black lesbian writer’s words are as relevant today as when she first wrote them decades ago. Outspoken, inciteful, and unflinchingly honest, Audre wasn’t afraid to address how the fight for women’s rights has to include conversations about race and sexuality. Known for reminding us that, “your silence will not protect you,” Audre has been motivating other women to speak up and out for years.
Roxane Gay – If you’re not following Roxane on Twitter, you certainly should be. This funny, whip-smart writer has tackled such issues as body positivity and surviving sexual assault, constantly challenging readers to self-reflect on how they view themselves and the world.
Sonia Sotomayor – The first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court, this Puerto Rican woman has made it a point to speak out for women’s rights and the rights of minorities while sitting on America’s highest court. Calling her nomination “the most electrifying moment of my life,” she now serves as inspiration to younger generations.
Lian Bell – This Irish feminist started the #WakingTheFeminists campaign, whose mission was to achieve gender equality in Irish theatre. A freelance arts manager and designer, Lian fell into activism after speaking out against the Abbey Theatre’s all-male programming. She’s still speaking out and encouraging others to fight for gender equality in the arts.
Emma Watson – Not only did she play feminist icon Hermione Granger, Emma’s role as spokesperson for the United Nation’s HeforShe campaign served to inspire and encourage young women and men the world over to speak out about feminist issues. We love that Emma speaks out against slut-shaming, too. When criticized for clothing choices in a layout in Vanity Fair, Emma argued, “Feminism is about giving women choice…I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it.” We totally agree, Emma!
Gloria Steinem – A legendary American feminist who has spoken out all over the globe for the rights of women, Gloria first made a name for herself by going undercover as a Playboy Bunny and spotlighting the company’s sexist employment practices. Gloria has been speaking up ever since, and she shows no signs of stopping – for which we are grateful!
Malala Yousafzai – How could any list of feminist icons not include Malala? This brave Pakistani young woman almost died fighting for the rights of girls to go to school and get an education. Since her incredible story of survival made headlines in 2012, Malala continues to speak out as a fighter for human rights, especially the rights of young women. Her 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was certainly well-deserved.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The author of the slim and powerful text We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie delivered a TEDx Talk of the same name in 2012, gaining the attention of women all over the globe, including Beyonce, who used parts of Adichie’s speech in her song “Flawless.” This Nigerian writer has a lot to say about gender equality, and we’d be wise to listen.
Caitlin Moran – Writer and broadcaster, Caitlin’s collection of essays, How to Be a Woman, captured the hearts of readers all over the world. Funny, raw, and real, Caitlin should certainly be applauded for her honest, frank discussion of women’s reproductive health issues, including her own abortion.
Emma Gonzalez – This bisexual Cuban-American teenage girl has become a symbol of hope and inspiration in the fight for sensible gun control in the United States. Her fierce, powerful words and courage in speaking out against a greedy gun lobby have sparked a movement in the United States that is led by teenagers. If the future is female, Emma is certainly an example of that!
Jennifer Mathieu is the author of The Truth About Alice and Moxie.