“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
Jane Austen, Persuasion
Inequality among the sexes has always been prevalent in the society since the dawn of human civilizations on the earth. Not only were they out casts, they were brutally suppressed by their “better half(s)”. Harassment is the word they say for it. But were they truly harassed or was it their own choice. There have been many women who have broken the norms of the society and stood against women suppression. Those are the women who grab our attentions. In times when domestic violence and marital rapes were ruining the plight of women, these were the ones who stood against them. The patriarchal setup in which they lived was cruel towards their developments but still they persisted and fought for their equality. These are the unknown heroes which though were deprived of recognition throughout their struggles, are highly remembered in the present times. Hence following, are the five less known revolutionary women, who went against all odds and strived to succeed.
1. Margaret Elizabeth Cousins:
The day Gretta witnessed a woman being hit by her husband on the street; she felt something which she hadn’t felt before. It was not anger against the cruel husband, nor was it empathy for the beaten wife. It was just the realization of how women were treated all around the world, and what she saw was just the glimpse of the difficulties women faced at that time. That was her first outing since she visited India, after her long journey from Ireland. That outing changed her life and the plight of her fellow counterparts all around the world. She wanted to end all sorts of discrimination against the women; be it physical, mental or emotional.
Gretta grew up to become Margaret Elizabeth Cousins, the first woman magistrate of India and the founder of the Women’s Indian Association. She also composed our national anthem. She along with Annie Besant did great deeds for the Indian women and became immortal in the eyes of those women.
2. Kanno Sugako:
The name that comes to Japanese people’s mind when we say gender equality is of Kanno Sugako. Born in 1881, she lost her mother at the age of ten and was raped at the age of fifteen. She got married at seventeen. But when she came to know about the world out there, she became one of the most revolutionary women in the history of Japan.
Kanno Sugako was the first women of Japan who got executed for being a political prisoner and was accused of treason by the Japanese government. She was an anarcho-feminist journalist of Japan and her writings give accounts of how brutal was the condition of Japanese women of those times. She got involved in the Kotoku incident, related to the assassination of Emperor Meiji.
Kanno Sugako was immortalized in 1924 when she was executed. She inspired millions of Japanese women and women all around the world to fight for their rights and what they deserved.
3. Olympe de Gouges:
Hers is one of the most famous names among the women fighters in the French Revolution. A playwright and a feminist, today she is considered to among those few women in the history of France who stood for availing the rights for women. Revolutionary even in her early days, Olympe de Gouges became an outspoken advocate for improving the condition of slaves in the colonies as of 1788.
Her most famous work is Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, in which she challenged male authority and the male-female inequality. She strived to fight for the women of France till her last breath. Finally, she was guillotined for attacking the regime of the revolutionary government.
4. Malala Yusufzai:
Malala Yusufzai needs no words to describe. She is a famous activist fighting for the right of education for the girls all around the world. The youngest person to ever receive A Nobel Peace Prize, Malala was shot in the heading one day when she was returning from her local school. She had been writing her diary, the diary of a Pakistani Girl for quite some time for the BBC during those days. Many believe that the gunshot was the result of her thoughts and opinions which were reflected in her diary.
Malala knows the importance of education and therefore wanted none to be deprived from it. She is keen to avail the rights of education to women all around the world so that no woman feels inferior to a man in any way. She changed the perspective of millions of people all around the world about the women’s right to education.
5. Emma Watson:
While on one hand, the worth of women is increasing with the development of the modern thought, some people (more on the males’ side) feel that it is the men whose value is decreasing. It is commonly found that in the today’s so called modern society, if a woman says that she is proud to be a woman, she is considered to be broad minded and free thinking woman; but if a man says that he is proud to be a man, he is considered to be an MCP (male chauvinistic pig). These mindsets of the women today are reinforcing in the society what was very difficult to eradicate, inequality.
It is in times such as these that one woman has striven to bring true equality in the society and she is none other than, Emma Watson. Her speech at the UN really inspired me and changed my perspective about both genders. In her speech she quoted, “When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams, because they didn’t want to appear muscle-y, when at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist.”Her feminist fight for gender equality has led to the development of a whole new concept of HeForShe. According to this, men and women should not be chained down to a specific set of characteristics. There should be nothing like manliness or girly. Everyone should be free to live in whatsoever manner. Men should voice out for women and women should do the same. Only then will we be able to achieve true equality.
History has shown that nothing remains the same and that change is the only constant. While on one hand, some women fought for their own rights, on the other hand, others analyzed the problem of inequality at its core. Some found that war was the only way of change while others found that deliberation should be the key to change. Be it past, present or future, no one should be deprived of anything just because s/he is born with different characteristics. Be it Gretta’s self-realization for the need to change or Kanno Sugako’s circumstances; be it Malala’s will to change everyone or Emma’s empathy towards men, all these combine to form a single force, the determination of these great women to live equally.
By- Utkarsh Panwar