Happy International Women’s Day! I have been thinking about penning this post for a while; this is always an important day for me and I love any excuse to celebrate the success of my fellow women. For my first IWD as an entrepreneur and business owner I wanted to write about the women who have inspired me and shaped me into the woman I am today but the more I thought about it, the more I struggled to pin down who actually did inspire me. There are the obvious, Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow Suffragettes (getting women the vote is a pretty big deal!), Coco Chanel, who revolutionised womenswear by creating the suit for women, and more recently, Michelle Obama, who was an inspirational and accessible First Lady who continues to commit to working with young women to realise their potential. All of these women inspire me and influence me and have shaped the world I live in today but I wanted to define the women who are a bit more personal to me…So, after some self reflection, here are some of the women who have made me into me!
First, is Mia Thermopolis (played by Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries) and her ’empowering’ wedding speech in The Princess Diaries 2. When I was younger I watched this film on a near constant loop, and was obsessed with watching Princess Mia transform from clumsy and unconfident Princess into strong and independent Queen (not saying you can’t be clumsy and independent, because I definitely am!). A short synopsis of the film; Mia graduates from college, flies to Genovia (the country she is in line to rule) and discovers that in order to take the throne she has to get married (Genovia is a classy place…right?). Enter Andrew, the English duke who is selected to marry Mia, and Nicholas Devereaux, played by Chris Pine; sent to distract the Princess so he can take the throne, queue a rom com face off between the good guy and bad guy, whilst Mia conquers the hearts of the Genovian’s with a heartwarming Independence Day Parade and the development of a children’s orphanage. Now for the speech; on her wedding day, Princess Mia realises that she is not in love with Andrew, and that she is only getting married to obey an outdated law and bravely calls off her wedding with the eyes of the whole nation on her (picture Kate Middleton giving her ring back to William at the altar) and stands up and makes a heartwarming speech about how much she loves Genovia and points out that, taking inspiration from her own set of strong women, that her grandma (Julie Walters is an absolute queen in real life too) rules without a man at her side and she ‘rocks at it!’. I grant that the film has flaws (it is a cheesy rom com after all and obviously Chris Pine always gets the girl) but the speech, and Princess Mia overturning a law, shooting a flaming arrow through the coronation ring and being crowned Queen of Genovia made me realise that you don’t need to keep adding people to your life to get to where you want to be, that it’s okay not to want someone and that really, if that clumsy, geeky girl from San Fransisco can change the minds of a parliament of grumpy old men (and a law) and rule a whole country, I could reach my dreams too. If you haven’t seen this film and love a cheesy rom com, I definitely recommend it, under the surface of the plot, Mia, Lilly, Charlotte and (of course) Queen Clarisse really do serve as real and strong inspirations. Queen Clarisse also provides a quote to which I have lived my life by (and will probably continue to forever) – ‘A queen is never late, everyone else is simply early’ – and we are all queens.
Second is heroine, brainiac and all around wonder-girl Hermione Granger. Predictable, you may say, but this character literally shaped my being – so shoutout to another awesome woman J.K Rowling. As a bit of a geek, nerd, general know-it-all myself, I was picked on at school (a bit like Hermione in the first instalment) and completely related to hiding in a bathroom cubicle, preferably without a troll. But Hermione did more than give me someone to relate to, she gave me someone to aspire to. She made me realise that it was okay to be smart, that it was good to want to know everything you could learn and that being knowledgeable doesn’t mean you can’t fight battles or slay a prom dress (I’m pretty sure her prom entrance is every girl’s dream). She taught me that you could be a warrior and have flaws (stubbornness and competitiveness sometimes hinder her). Flaws are such an important part of womenkind; we all have them, sometimes they help us and sometimes they hold us back but to live in a world where flawless women are heralded is (in my opinion) wrong. Hermione showed us all that you don’t have to be perfect, or be the centre of a story, to thrive, love and save the wizarding world; we all know that Harry and Ron wouldn’t have gotten very far without her. Emma Watson herself (who brought Hermione to life on screen) said of the character she played though the eight films, “Young girls are told you have to be the delicate princess. Hermione taught them that you can be the warrior”. In all honesty, I don’t mind young girls as delicate princesses, but I think every woman, girl and teenager has the right to choose. Hermione, and characters like her, opened our eyes to that fact. It doesn’t matter what you are, what you want to be or who you want to be, but you do have the right to choose what character you want to play. So all those rules that you feel like hold you back? All those society norms and customs? Break them – it sure is fun!
Finally, I’d like to move a bit closer to home, because every woman knows that those who inspire you the most are the ones you spend every day with and learn from and grow with. In my life I have a lot of inspirational women who work hard, follow their dreams and generally change the world (my world anyway!) My mum and sister are extraordinary; Mum proves that you can do anything if you set your mind to it and my sister picks me up from my rock bottom and is my number one cheerleader! Both of them inspire me to work harder and be better everyday and I truly think that it’s best to keep those inspire you close. My girl friends blow my mind; one of them is smashing her first job, has just got an even better one and is generally excelling in her field – she is my rock and has time for everybody and makes me laugh every single day. Another is chasing her fashion dreams in the capital and living her best life – she is definitely the reason I made it to graduation and is a shoulder to cry on, but also a shoulder to stand on; lifting me up to reach my goals whilst also smashing her own. I could take a whole other blog post up talking about each of the strong women in my life and telling you all how inspirational they are, but just as important as all of these influences is another that often gets neglected…..
MYSELF! All of us, myself included, use this day to tell other women how much we admire them but we all forget to admire ourselves. At a conference I attended the other day, one of the speakers said ‘we are all an inspiration to someone, somewhere’, and I think we should embrace this. I am a strong woman, I have achieved greatness and I want to achieve more. All of us are. The most important thing I want to impress upon all of you is that it’s okay, it’s good, it’s awesome to be an inspiration to yourself and others. We stand on the shoulders of the women who come before us, but one day, women will be standing on our shoulders. So embrace it. The best way for us to honour this day and move forward the fight is to take inspiration from ourselves because if you “love yourself first, everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”(lucile ball)
“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.” – Helen Keller