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Archive for May, 2015

5 Inspiring Quotes from Famous Women

As I’m currently in the middle of exams – and I’m always in need of some motivation! – I’ve selected five inspirational quotes to share with you. I’ve done a quick bio of these ladies under the quote, along with the lesson we can learn from each. These quotes are the wise words of famous women, ranging from actresses to activists. I hope they motivate you too!

5: “Failure is a great teacher, if you’re open to it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah – the undisputed Queen of All Media – is no stranger to hardship. She was born in Mississippi and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of a single mother living in poverty. She herself became pregnant at the age of just fourteen, although her son died in infancy. Despite her troubled youth, Oprah worked exceptionally hard and changed tabloid talk shows forever, creating a more intimate environment and offering more opportunities to LGBTQIAP+ people. Her show was the highest-rated of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated in the US from 1986 to 2011. As well as being the richest African-American of the 20th century and a renowned talk show host, she is also an active philanthropist. Newsday said of her: “Oprah Winfrey is sharper than Donahue, wittier, more genuine, and far better attuned to her audience, if not the world.”

Her advice is poignant – those who have never made a mistake have clearly never tried something new.

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4: “Nothing is impossible – the word itself says I’m possible!” – Audrey Hepburn

Born to a British father and a Dutch mother, Audrey could speak six languages, was a talented ballet dancer and a vocal humanitarian. Oh, and she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for a single performance (Roman Holiday). Basically, if you don’t want Audrey to be your best friend, you’re either a fool or a liar. She too had a difficult adolescence. She remained with her mother in the Netherlands during the German invasion in 1940 and the struggles of wartime led to her developing respiratory problems and anaemia. However, she continued to dance in secret, raising money for the Dutch resistance. She is often regarded as the most naturally beautiful woman of all time, but it was her personality that made her shine. As a relative newcomer, she managed to secure the lead role in Roman Holiday. The director William Wyler explained his decision thus: “She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence, and talent. She also was very funny. She was absolutely enchanting…”

The quote is completely correct; go into everything with a positive attitude!

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3: “I don’t go by the rule-book; I lead from the heart, not the head.” – Princess Diana

Whilst this says a lot about Diana as a person, I think it’s also excellent advice (I’m not a monarchist, by the way, far from it!). She was a passionate advocate for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and did extensive work for charity. Compassion and empathy were her finest qualities – she’s not called the People’s Princess for nothing. She often took matters into her own hands, visiting hospitals to see patients with leprosy and HIV/AIDS in order to challenge the stigma surrounding these diseases. She once said about these visits: “It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed.” From her marriage to Prince Charles onwards, Diana was the subject of constant media scrutiny until her death in 1996.

I also want to say that your exam results are not something to fear. Personally, I value kindness in people far more than cleverness. Work hard, revise, but DO NOT stress yourself out. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.

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2: “When you dream, you can do what you like.” – J.K Rowling

Did you know her initials stand for “just kidding”? She wrote the entire Harry Potter series as an elaborate prank. True story*.

Born in Gloucestershire, J. K. Rowling began writing the first book in the Harry Potter series whilst on welfare benefits as a single parent. Hers is a real rags-to-riches story; she’s now considered one of the most influential women in the UK and possibly the world. She is a philanthropist and supports various charities, as well as being an advocate of the Labour Party (I’m Green, but good on her anyway!). As a resident of Scotland, she was eligible to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence and participated in the anti-independence campaign, donating £1 million. She suffered from depression early on in the writing process, which later inspired the Dementors from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Harry Potter series deals with various genres and themes. A lot of readers fondly recall the messages of friendship and courage. However, I feel that the series is so important because it doesn’t patronise its younger readers – Harry faces a corrupt government, the reality of death and prejudice, among other heavy issues. Harry is hardcore, man.JKR2

1: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was a poet and author, as well as a dancer, actress and singer. She is best-known for her series of seven autobiographies, the first of which – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – brought her international recognition. In 1968, the year before the publication of her first autobiography, Angelou wrote, narrated and produced a documentary series exploring the links between blues music and African-American heritage. She was a close friend of Malcolm X and of Martin Luther King Jr., and she had been assisting both with various projects immediately prior to their assassinations.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is generally described as autobiographical fiction. The main character Maya is the young version of the author and the narratives details her life from the age of three until the age of sixteen, at which point she becomes a mother. Maya deals with her suffering through her love of literature and the novel also explores racism, the lives of women and social identity. The metaphor of “the caged bird” refers to racial prejudice and subsequent oppression. The protagonist develops from “a victim… with an inferiority complex” into a woman with great strength and dignity, but, as the quote states, these changes occur after she has overcome terrible suffering.

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I hope these helped! Are there any quotes that you focus on when you’re struggling? Let me know in the comments!

As always, if you enjoyed the article, please like and share it on Facebook/Twitter/Google+!

*By the way, that thing about J. K.? Actually an untrue story.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is “feminist propaganda”?

Boy, am I up for that!

Men’s rights activists have clearly wept buckets of tears about the film being “feminist propaganda”, seeking to “blur the line between masculinity and femininity”. Their cause for concern? Apparently, Charlize Theron talked too much during the trailer. I kid thee not.

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(“Feminist propaganda?” Ed cries, bemused.)

They fear that what should have been a straight-up dick flick has been ruined by feminists, because an action film with female characters who actually have a bearing on the plot is too much for them to deal with.

You can see an article about it here (x). I know it’s the Daily Mail, but for once they’re talking sense. Read the whole thing; it’s hilarious. To be honest, the MRAs are genuinely throwing their toys out of the pram and having a tantrum over nothing. Having read the plot synopsis, it seems like a solid post-apoc film that gives a nod to the atmosphere of the original. Why on earth would female characters ruin that? They have just as much value as any male action hero and, if they’re written well, you should be able to root for them equally. Simple, really.

As stated in the article, Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, was brought in to advise the crew. The film partially deals with issues of sexual violence, but Ensler’s involvement suggests to me that they were looking to communicate this sensitively. She said she appreciated the range of ages/backgrounds present in the film’s female cast, so hopefully representation and diversity will be a-okay.

I’m actually hoping to go and see it in cinemas (if not, I’ll buy it on DVD), just to see if it lives up to the hype.

5 Matriarchal Religions

Believe me, this is not a common thing. It took me HOURS to find each religion and to gather enough research about them… So here it is! Today, I’ve compiled a list of five matriarchal religions – religions which either worship solely goddesses or have a goddess as their top-dog deity!

(I apologise in advance for the horrid formatting. I’m learning how to use HTML the hard way.)

Trigger warning for nudity later on. Apparently Minoan ladies were allergic to shirts.

1. Shaktism/Shaktidharma: Goddess worship is an ancient practice in India. Shaktism is a branch of Hinduism that focuses worship upon an omnipotent mother goddess called Shakti (or sometimes Devi). She is the Divine Mother, playing an active and dynamic role, whereas Shiva (one of the five main aspects of God in mainstream Hinduism) is regarded as transcendent but passive. The goddess is approached in a number of ways – for example, Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati and Kali, among others, are seen as her forms – but all her forms are understood to be aspects of a single supreme deity. Shaktism is thought to be derived from the religion of the Indus Valley Civilisation, dating back to 3300BCE. Its use of chants, rituals and traditional magic result in it being dismissed by many scholars and other denominations of Hinduism as simply “black magic” and superstition. It’s interesting to note that the late Shaiva leader Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami stated that “worship of feminine manifest is merely a vehicle for reaching the masculine unmanifest” – essentially, the worship of a goddess is only a way of accessing God, rather than a true and independent religion of its own. Thanks for that, mate.

The goddess Durga, seen as an aspect of Shakti.

The goddess Durga, seen as an aspect of Shakti.

2. Basque Paganism: The main figure in Basque mythology was the goddess Mari, the supreme mother and goddess of the moon. She is also referred to as Anbotoko Mari (“The lady of Anboto”) or Murumendiko Mari (“The lady of Murumendi”). She was associated with thunder and wind, and was believed to live underground in a mountain cave. On the night of the Akelarre – the meeting of witches – she either conceived a shower of rain to bring fertility or she created devastating storms. She was served by a court of sorginak (witches). In several myths, she is said to have a husband – sometimes Sugaar/Maju, with whom she controlled storms, or occasionally historical figures such as Diego López I de Haro, the Lord of Biscay. Due to the Christianisation of the Basque Country, very little of their ancestral religion survives beyond oral history and traditions, but the recognition of Mari remains part of Basque culture after she was syncretised with the Virgin Mary, in order to ease the transition from paganism to Christianity. Let’s face it – the Basques are just cooler than us in every conceivable way. Mysterious language? Check. (x) Historical sexual equality? Check. (x) Kickass poetry/song competitions? Double-freakin’-check. (x)

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Traditional depiction of Mari.

3. Minoan Religion: The Minoan civilisation was located in Crete and flourished from circa 2000BCE to 1450BCE. It is thought that a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or volcanic eruption, brought an end to the civilisation. According to the evidence available, the Minoans worshipped primarily goddesses – women are prevalent in art and sculpture, although historians are unable to translate religious documents. These goddesses appear to be protectors of the household, cities, harvests and the underworld. The most well-known examples of possible Minoan goddess art are the “Snake Goddesses”, two figurines dating to 1600BCE, each holding snakes and dressed in traditional Minoan robes. They are thought to be goddesses of the household, as the snake was seen as a protective symbol in Minoan culture. It is also believed that Ariadne, daughter of King Minos and half-sister to the Minotaur in Greek mythology, was worshipped as the Mistress of the Labyrinth in Crete.

One of the Minoan snake goddesses.

One of the Minoan snake goddesses.

4. Dianic Wicca: Dianic Wicca is a neopagan religion and a branch of Wicca, popularised by Zsuzsanna Budapest. Budapest founded the first women’s-only witches’ coven in the USA. It combines traditional Wicca, folk magic and feminist values. Dianic Wiccans may attend sabbats and honour Wiccan festivals, but it differs from most Wiccan traditions in that only goddesses are worshipped, whereas Wicca generally encourages the worship of a male and female partnership. It is named after the Roman goddess of the moon and hunting, Diana, but Dianic Wiccans may worship a goddess/goddesses from a variety of religions. They see all goddesses as “aspects” of a single deity. From The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries by Zsuzsanna Budapest: “We believe that feminist witches are women who search within themselves for the female principle of the universe and who relate as daughters to the Creatrix… we believe that in order to fight and win a revolution that will stretch for generations into the future, we must find reliable ways to replenish our energies. We believe that without a secure grounding in women’s spiritual strength there will be no victory for us.” I’m not going to lie – magic feminism sounds great to me! The image below is of the Wiccan Law/Wiccan Rede.

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 5. The Goddess Movement: This emerged in the 1970s, amid second-wave feminism. It takes its inspiration from the concept of matriarchal religion in prehistoric times, an idea which had been presented by the Swiss anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen in 1861. He theorised that there had once been a primarily female-focused religion, evolving in stages until it was finally overcome by the patriarchal religions of classical antiquity. It began with hetaerism, characterised by polyamory and a communistic lifestyle. The goddess at this stage was a proto-Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Then came Das Mutterecht, presided over by a goddess similar to Demeter, goddess of agriculture. The Dionysian and Apollonian stages followed, in which the matriarchal lunar religion was abandoned in favour of the patriarchal solar religion. Bachofen’s theories have their opponents – they are a controversial set of hypotheses – but historians and anthropologists have been inspired to pursue and investigate the field due to his theory. For example, Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius wrote an essay (The White Goddess) exploring the possibility of a lunar goddess having influenced the majority of European goddesses and continued to investigate these themes in his novel Seven Days in New Crete.

Statues of Roman women, Museo Nazionale di Roma (taken by me, July 2014).

Statues of Roman women, Museo Nazionale di Roma (taken by me, July 2014).

Thanks, as always, for reading! If I’ve made any factual errors, let me know – I’ve tried to remain unbiased, but I haven’t studied religion/philosophy in any great detail. I’d like to offer my apologies for the looooong paragraphs; it’s a lot of scrolling and your poor little fingers must be tired! But, if your hands are still functioning, please consider liking and sharing this on Facebook/Twitter/Google+.