Appreciation by Richard Bleil
Sunday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. The strength of women has always impressed me. They’ve always seemed somehow more intelligent than men, although they frequently try to hide it. Their accomplishments are always accompanied with the need to buck societal norms that would otherwise hold them down.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I would discuss four of my favorite contemporary women. There are so many women from the past that have done so many wonderful things against all odds, but the reality is that there are female heroes today. The same societal disparities exist, and unfortunately, seem to be increasing in the US today as the hard-fought gains of equal rights have been systematically assaulted for the past few years. The rise of white nationalism has given rise to a new life in the war on women.
I’m trying to figure out the order in which I want to introduce my heroines, so how about random. My random number generator suggests I should discuss Greta Thunberg first.
Great makes the list easily, not only because of her gender, but other societal factors that have been working against her as well. As of the writing of this post, she’s still considered to be a minor (seventeen years old). Not only did she have to surpass the gender barriers, but age as well. Our society often dismisses young people and their opinions quickly. Additionally, she has been diagnosed with autism. She has struggled with depression and trying to fit in for many years.
She’s a natural born leader. She has been fighting for our environment since she was fifteen, and simply enough by striking school. Her argument was that there was no reason to try to get an education if the world was not going to survive anyway. She sat on the steps of her local government building, alone, with a strike sign. Today, she is joined by literally millions of students around the world in support and has made significant strides in turning political conversations to the environment, and I only hope it’s fast enough. What really impresses me, though, is her list of enemies. She has drawn the ire of US President Trump and his pack of bullies who have attempted bully tactics against her, apparently believing that it is acceptable to attack an underage girl. Her responses to these critics have been epic, showing unwavering dedication to her cause and incredible strength of character and courage.
Another natural born leader has got to be Malala. Like Greta, Malala drew the ire of very powerful men at a very young age, this time by speaking out in support of education rights for women. Unfortunately, she was too vocal in Pakistan and drew the attention of the Taliban. On the ride home, these cowardly “men” stopped her school bus, pulled her off of it, shot her in the head and left her for dead. I’ve never given terrorists credit for an overabundance of intelligence, and sure enough, they didn’t finish the job. Not only did she survive, but she thrived.
Chances are we would not have ever heard her name, and certainly not with such power, were it not for these tiny little terrorists. Most people, I think, would pretty much count their blessings after surviving such a traumatic event and keep their head down, but not Malala. She jumped onto the world stage with both feet and today continues to speak out for educational rights. She’s a published author and today is even a Nobel Laureate. And the GANG of MALE TERRORISTS who had to be a group to assault a little teenage girl? Not a word.
Let’s talk a bit about Angela Merkel. As Chancellor of Germany since 2005, she didn’t start off as a young teen. She was about fifty when she took the reins, and has shown remarkable statesWOMANship, especially in her handling of Trump which often makes me chuckle. But it’s more than that.
I probably should admit that one of the reasons she’s a hero of mine is her history. Many political leaders studied politics or law in preparation. President Trump earned a bachelor’s degree in a spectacularly unimpressive fashion from the University of Pennsylvania. Angela Merkel, on the other hand has the same that I personally hold from Leipzig University. Yup, she earned a Ph.D. in Statistical Thermodynamics. (Google says “Quantum Mechanics”, but her thesis title is clearly statistical thermodynamics which is inexorably linked to quantum theory.) With this degree, she learned critical thinking, how to research, and other skills that make for a great leader as she has proven herself to be. Trust me when I say that this field of study is extremely rare; even amongst scientists we’re the outsider geeks, and for her to do it as a woman, and translate that training into leadership is just astounding.
Okay, one more heroine of mine. The final woman I admire the most is you. Okay, if it is a male reading this post, it just got very strange very quickly, but the impact would have been lost if I started with “if you’re a woman…”
I stand by the sentiment, though. Women today are in a strange and uncomfortable transition period, hopefully one that will continue and be permanent. I know a lot of “traditional” women, women who want to be wives, make their husbands proud and raise healthy and happy progeny. And I know a lot of “progressive” women, women who have no desire to marry their life partners (when they have one) or give birth at all. But what all of these women have in common is that all of them, all of your, face the pressures of modern society with such power, such grace, such insight that I can’t help but to be impressed. In an age where we are seeing a rise in bullies, harassment, and loss of rights, women seem to be sticking together and standing up for each other so much more than they have historically. Women are increasingly outspoken, successful, goal driven (whether it is in traditional or non-traditional goals) and are warriors. How can this be anything but impressive?
For what it’s worth, I stand with you.