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International Women’s Day: Six of the Women I’m Celebrating Today

International Women’s Day: Six of the Women I’m Celebrating Today

Erika Lust | March 08, 2021 | 6 min. read

As a director of porn for women and as a woman myself, I truly believe International Women’s Day is one of the most important days of the year to celebrate women's achievements and raise awareness about women's inequality around the globe.

This day reminds us all that we must use our power to speak up for those who can’t. Depending on where you live and the circumstances that you were born into, you may use today to acknowledge your own privilege and shine light on those who do not share it. To remember that we still live in a world where women are not equal. This is a world in which some women are still tortured through female genital cutting; are not paid the same as men; do not receive an equal education; face unjust maternal morality; are denied access to safe abortion practices; are victims of honour killings; are murdered by their partners as the world looks on, and much, much more.

Today, I will be reflecting on my own privilege in the world and thinking about all of the women who have worked to pave the way for my freedom. As part of that, I am sharing six of many incredible women that I’m thinking about today, whose work has made an impact on history and the world. I urge you to join me in celebration of these women, and to become inspired by their work on your own path of activism.

We can also use today to remind ourselves that every day, not just March 8, is a day to uplift other women and recognise our unique contributions and accomplishments. No matter your gender, make a pledge to yourself to challenge gender bias and inequality in your daily life, and to celebrate women’s achievements worldwide.

Roxane Gay, Writer & Professor

“When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example.”

Roxanne Gay is best known as the author of the best-selling essay collection from The New York Times called “Bad Feminist.” She writes about cultural, political, and social concerns, bringing attention to these topics in a funny, yet genuine way. As a victim of sexual assault herself, she often speaks openly and personally about how sexual violence is portrayed in media, using this as one of the main subject matters of many of her pieces. She currently serves as a visiting professor at Yale University and shares her stories and perspectives to inspire the next generation.

Roxane Gay became a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times in the spring of 2015, you can read her articles on the intersections of identity and culture here.

Sylvia Rivera, Transgender Rights Activist

“We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are.”

Sylvia Rivera was born in Bronx, New York in 1951 and was raised for the most part by her grandmother. Her family did not accept her feminine ways, so she left home when she was only 11 years old to live on the streets. She was soon taken up by a group of drag queens who helped her to accept and love herself in her own skin. Years later, Rivera would become one of the leading organizers of the Stonewall Riots and a passionate activist for gay rights. Her work in founding the Gay Liberation Front played an integral role in the passing of the Gay Rights Bill in the 1970s. She lost her fight to liver cancer in 2002, but her legacy lives on today as a hero to the transgender community and beyond.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence. Learn more about the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s programs and services, as well as how you can support their work here .

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Writer

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.”

Born and raised in Nigeria, writing had always been a part of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s life. She grew up in the home of the renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, and her father worked at the University of Nigeria. When she was only 19, she moved to the United States to pursue a degree in communications, political science, and eventually creative writing. During her senior year, she wrote and published her first fiction book entitled “Purple Hibiscus,” which describes the emotions and turmoil of adolescence, family, and the future. Since then, her writing has won many awards, including the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award and the Women's Prize for Fiction.

Her work has reached far and wide, not only in the academic and literary space, but through pop culture as well - her powerful statements on gender inequality and feminism from her Ted Talk “We Should All Be Feminists” were used as an anthem in Beyonce’s self-titled album & tour in 2013. Today, Adichie shares her passion for writing by teaching workshops all over the United States and Nigeria to inspire the next generation.

Watch Chimamanda's Ted Talk “We Should All Be Feminists” below:

Simone de Beauvoir, Feminist Writer & Theorist

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

Simone de Beauvoir is considered one of the greatest writers of her time. Focusing on feminism and existentialism, her work inspired people from her home country of France and all over the world. She is best known for her book “The Second Sex,” written in 1949, which describes the mistreatment and oppression of women throughout history. Her legacy through her literature continues to contribute to our contemporary beliefs and empowers women from all walks of life.

You can read the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ on The New York Times here.

Winona LaDuke, Environmentalist

“Let us be the ancestors our descendants will thank.”

Although she was born and raised in Los Angeles, Winona LaDuke always felt a strong connection to her indigenous American heritage. Her father’s advocacy inspired her to campaign against the discrimination of the Natives, specifically the Ojibwe peoples. She moved to the White Earth reservation after graduating from Harvard to help preserve and restore the land and its practices. She founded the program Honor the Earth, which works on solving issues regarding climate change, energy, and the environment, and now emphasizes the education of others and making change regarding food systems in particula. Her efforts have won her many awards and titles and continue to do so today.

Watch Wimoma's Tedx Talk "Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life" below:

Maya Angelou, Poet & Civil Rights Activist

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”

Maya Angelou was and still is one of the greatest American poets of all time. After overcoming a very troublesome adolescence, she was finally able to publish some of her essays, poems, and autobiographies. She is best known for her work “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which tells the story of her life through the age of 17. Aside from writing, she worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X as a civil rights activist and served as a professor for many years as well. In her lifetime she has won many awards, including the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her legacy lives on through her literature today. Read more about Maya Angelou on her website.

Who are you celebrating today? Tell me in the comments below.

Erika Lust is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer who's focus on female pleasure, cinematic values, and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed. Erika Lust Films was born in 2004 and since then Erika has ... Read More
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