9 Powerful Modern Women We Look Up to
Throughout history, women have been revolutionary change makers and leaders in the fight for a better tomorrow. This International Women’s Day, we at Rust & Fray would like to honor nine women of today who have taken up that struggle.
First up is Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The first woman ever to serve as the speaker of the house, the current second in line of presidential succession following Vice President Pence, and easily the most powerful women in politics at this time, Madam Pelosi is proving you can hold your own even amongst the heaviest hitters in Washington DC. Even if you disagree with her policies, you have to respect how she’s been able to stick to her guns and maneuver her party politically in some of the most politically divisive times in memory.
Next up is Amal Alamuddin Clooney a woman who has demonstrated limitless courage by fighting for some of the most important humanitarian cases of our times. From bringing ISIL to court over international crimes against humanity, to working to getting the Armenian genocide recognized, to fighting for a detained Al-Jazeera journalist in Egypt, and representing the Greek Government in their fight to get the Parthenon Sculptures out of the British Museum’s hands and back to Greece, Amal Clooney is a staunch and unmoving advocate for humanity.
The first female senator from the state of New York, the first woman to ever be nominated as a major party presidential candidate in the US, and the first woman to win the plurality of votes in a US presidential election, Hillary Clinton has a lot more firsts in her life other than first lady. An extremely intelligent, driven, highly accomplished, dedicated power player in US politics, Hillary Clinton has created a paradigm shift in the mindset of people everywhere. She has shown to the world, men and women, that there’s no limit on what a woman’s place can be.
While some Americans might mainly know of her as the lead in Quantico or as the wife of Nick Jonas, Priyanka Chopra is a global superstar with a philanthropic career as impressive as her accolades. Crowned Miss World 2000, one of Time’s 100 most influential people, one of Forbes 8 highest paid television actors, and winner of dozens of acting awards including India’s most prestigious National Film Award for Best Actress in 2008, she is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with worldwide. But more importantly, she is a symbol for female empowerment. Some of her most notable work is with UNICEF where she works to empower adolescent women through education, leadership programs, and vocational training so they can take control of their own destiny. A fighter for gender pay equality, for women’s health issues, for getting young girls into tech industries, for breaking taboos around the role of women in the world, for getting solar panels to power impoverished villages in India, to clean pollution out of rivers in India, and dozens of other important issues, we can’t help but to look up to her.
The most admired woman in America, it was inevitable that she would end up on this list. The first Black US first lady, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of the Arts from Princeton and earning her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law, all while never losing touch with her southside Chicago roots, there is plenty to admire about her. Her Let Girls Learn campaign fought for education for adolescent women, her Reach Higher campaign promoted higher education, and her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity through exercise and eating organically grown produce, planting the first vegetable garden in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden. But probably the most memorable thing about Michelle Obama is how earnest of a communicator she is. Between her best selling book Becoming, her many memorable speeches, and just how honest she’s been about the struggles of being the first lady and the legacy she is setting, hearing her sincerity in the political stage is a huge breath of fresh air.
Switching from the world of politics to the world of music, Madonna’s “Queen of Pop” status is questioned by no one. In fact it’s kind of difficult to quantify her impact where even words like iconic and most influential of all time still fail to capture the scope of her importance in the pop music world. She has been a staunch advocate for LGTBQ rights basically throughout her entire career. From helping to break social stigmas with her documentary Truth or Dare to denouncing homophobia no matter the audience, to even helping Ellen Degeneres come out, one cannot separate Madonna from LGTBQ advocacy. Her early career was defined by her being one of the strongest public support in of the gay community during the height of the Aids crisis, and her PSAs, charity drives, and campaigns like her “Facts about Aids” leaflet undoubtedly saved lives. But one thing Madonna never seems to get credit for is the ability to truly be herself, and how much courage it takes for a woman to be authentic in a world that tries to tell them what to do and what to be at every turn. In her powerful and moving Woman of the Year speech, she talks about how for a woman, even just sticking around is an act of rebellion itself. She is truly an inspiration for women everywhere to embrace themselves, no matter what that self may be.
While Madonna may never be equaled, she might have a successor. Lady Gaga’s Grammy and now Oscar winning career has made her an icon for this generation, but it’s her work on mental health, feminism, and her fighting for the gay community that separates her from the pack. Talking openly about surviving rape and the PTSD that comes with it, advocating for chronic pain awareness, promoting LGBTQ rights with Born this Way (the anthem and the foundation), de-stigmatizing anxiety and depression by talking about her personal battles with it, and fighting body shaming at almost every turn, in the celebrity world Lady Gaga is one of the forerunners of the millennial activism generation.
Speaking about millenials, while we’ve mentioned several US politicians already, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands out for being the spearhead of the millennial generation in congress. Never afraid to speak her mind, she is showing the nation and the world that young Americans are not going to sit back and wait their turn when there are so many important causes at stake. Her flagship legislation, The Green New Deal, is forcing the dire environmental situation into the forefront of US politics, and that alone would be enough for us to admire her, let alone her fight against income inequality and her support for minority rights. That moment when the activist bartender won a primary against one of the most powerful people in Washington DC will undoubtedly go down as a watershed moment in American politics. We believe that her political career will continue its unstoppable momentum as she reshapes the future of american politics in the years to come in whatever office she holds.
It’s important to advocate for women’s rights and the right to education everywhere, but as we all know, for the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, girls education advocacy in the heart of Taliban controlled Pakistan is beyond heroic. The fact that she could stand before the UN on her 16th birthday barely a few months after her assassination attempt shows a strength of spirit that few of anyone could ever have. Let alone her continued work opening schools, setting up her international girls education initiative the Malala fund, her continued ability to stand up to anyone who would attack innocent Pakistanis no matter how powerful, and her continued work fighting “against the chains of bigotry and oppression” makes her one of the most noteworthy on this list.