Thursday, March 03, 2016

Who Are the World's Coolest Women?

I may be the only person who still listens to AM radio, but if you do, you may have heard some of Tom Brokaw’s “An American Story” interstitials. If you haven’t, I can sum up. They go something like this: “I’m a very old, conservative man, who is set in his ways and completely out of touch with modern society and I’m quite proud of it, because somehow I think this makes me hip. I’m Tom Brokaw, and this is an American story.”

So, in the last one of these I was subjected to, Tom decides he’s going to talk about who the coolest people in the world are, and he’s going to start with women. Hoo-boy. Who does Tom name? Jackie Robinson’s wife. John F. Kennedy’s wife. His own wife. In addition to his stand by your man picks, he throws in a few popular actresses like Meryl Streep and calls it a day, proud of his “cool” selections. Do you imagine when he picks his “coolest men,” he’s going to go with Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Florence Griffith Joyner’s husband, and George Clooney?

Anyway, I think I can do better. Here are some of my picks for the world’s coolest women:

Jeanne d’Arc

At the age of SIXTEEN, Joan of Arc, a previously insignificant peasant girl, convinced the KING OF FRANCE to give her an ARMY TO LEAD. Not like, a pretend army, a real army full of French soldiers who would gladly fight and die for a sixteen-year-old girl. Their faith was not unwarranted. Joan’s army pushed the English back across the Loire river and all the way to Reims, where King Charles VII was able to receive his official coronation. Sadly, during a battle at Compiegne, she was thrown from her horse and abandoned to be captured by the English, where she was tried as a witch and ultimately burned at the stake. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized her into Sainthood. Listen, I’m sure Rachel Robinson is a lovely woman, but come on.

Alessandra Mussolini

Image result for alessandra mussoliniAlessandra Mussolini is the granddaughter of infamous fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Wealthy and beautiful, she could have lived life like a Hilton sister. Instead, she got degrees in medicine and surgery and then proceeded to embark on a career as an actress, singer, and model. In 1990, when a producer asked her to change her last name to continue as an actress, she quit and began a career in politics. There, she became an outspoken defender of women’s rights and civil rights in general. She fought for the legal right of children to take their mother’s last name if they choose, and founded the social action party, which has fought doggedly for such issues as gay rights, civil unions, and abortion rights. She currently serves on the European Parliament representing the Forza Italia party.

Dalia Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed, a former marketing products researcher, is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy Understanding. She is the first veiled Muslim to be selected to a Presidential cabinet, as she serves as Advisor to Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Many of her policy recommendations on U.S. Muslim relations have been adopted by President Obama. Mogahed is consistently recognized as one of the world’s most influential Arab women.

Corazon Aquino

Image result for corazon aquinoCorazon Aquino started life on a path to be a housewife, raising children and supporting her husband Benigno Aquino, a politician who opposed residing dictator Ferdinand Marcos. When her husband, after being imprisoned and exiled, was ultimately assassinated in 1983, Corazon took up the fight. She led the opposition to Marcos and ran for President, refusing to be intimidated by Marcos or his sexist remarks towards her, simply responding “May the best woman win.” When Marcos emerged the winner of a likely rigged election, Aquino enacted civil disobedience tactics, including strikes, boycotts, and non-violent protests, an effort that was known as the People Power Revolution. Marcos withered under the pressure and fled the country, leaving Corazon Aquino as the first President of the Philippines, where she enacted radical reforms in the areas of civil liberties and human rights, while restoring the nation’s economy and mobilizing female leaders the world over.

Claudette Colvin

Image result for claudette colvin age 15Claudette Colvin is the unsung heroine of the American Civil Rights movement. It was she, not Rosa Parks, who was the first to protest bus segregation in Alabama. Nine months before the Rosa Parks incident, Colvin, a high school student with aspirations to be President, was ordered, along with three others, to vacate her bus seat and move to the back so white passengers could sit. Colvin insisted she was not going anywhere, and she had to be forcibly removed from the bus by police, who made inappropriate sexual comments towards her as they took her to the station. While Colvin, and not Parks was one of the plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the case that struck down bus segregation in Montgomery, she was not chosen to be the poster girl for the movement. Colvin was an outspoken, pregnant, teenage girl, while Rosa Parks was considered to be a calmer, more clean cut, “safer” representative of the movement. Colvin, while disappointed, was content to accept her role for the good of the movement, but it doesn’t change the fact that she was the driving force behind this pivotal event in American Civil Rights history.

Maybe you want to take another shot, Brokaw?

P.S. I realize that since it's an "American Story," Brokaw may have been only choosing from American women, but still, in addition to Colvin, how about, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride... There are plenty of American women who are "cool" without being primarily defined by their husband or "leading lady" status.

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