I feel fortunate to have had plenty of women to look up to over my life – both in real life and in stories. These are the five women who I am inspired by, look up to and quite frankly, wouldn’t mind trading places with in a Freaky Friday situation.
It is absolutely no secret that I am low-key in love with Dawn French. I am yet to work my way through all the French and Saunders material but ever since I was very young, I was watching The Vicar of Dibley and I was freaking loving it. It was a mix of subtle and incredible obvious humour and it was right up my alley.
Dawn French has obviously been widely criticised for her weight (whether she puts it on or puts it off, it’s somehow in the magazines and she’s never doing the right thing, apparently). Despite all the critical eyes looking at her she’s so well-loved by all of Britain as far as I’m aware and many, many other countries, including Australia. I think it’s her confidence (as well as her clear and phenomenal comedic abilities) that take her to that legendary status. When I saw her live show ‘30 Million Minutes’ a few years ago, I was so struck by how confident she was. You couldn’t pay me enough to get up there on stage and do the things she did and reveal the things she did about her life. I’m sure she was being paid a fair amount but money isn’t a big enough incentive to be so exposed in such a way.
If there’s anyone who can be a bit of confidence-inspo, it’s Dawn French.
I didn’t watch The Office as it was coming out, so it’s only been in recent years that I’ve got to really know Mindy Kaling through working through The Office and The Mindy Project. And thank goodness I was introduced to her when I was! She is on an absolute roll with Oceans 8, A Wrinkle in Time, a new TV show – Champions – and a freaking real-life CHILD.
Because I only got to really know her in The Mindy Project, I love her most for her character Mindy Lahiri. Sure, she was a little self-absorbed, a bit extra and obsessed with romance but those things weren’t negative and they certainly didn’t impair her in any way from being a kind, smart and driven woman, able to make it on her own merit and that’s a pretty good message, I personally think.
If you haven’t read either of Mindy’s books, you should – her awkward stories will make you feel at ease about your own awkward life!
I was in Girl Guides for about 12 years of my life (until this year, that was more than half of my life, so it’s nothing to turn your nose up at). Scouting and Guiding run in the veins of my family but to be quite honest, it’s not really for me. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun at the time – I’m just not really a outdoorsy kind of person and I had other commitments I valued more.
When you’re a Girl Guide, you actually cop a lot from the Scouts (both boys and girls) in many different ways but the question “So, do you just bake cookies all night?” used to really make my blood boil! It still does actually. The answer to that, by the way, is of course not. We learnt all the things that you would probably expect from Girl Guides – cooking, sewing, crafts etc – and none of those things were considered to be inferior to the other things we did like abseiling, lighting fires without matches, orienteering, canoeing, surfing, first aid etc. It was considered just as important to learn how to cook for ourselves as it was to build an effective fire. After all, both could be matters of survival at any point in our lives.
Olave was not the one to start Girl Guides but she was the one who got it off the ground and helped to establish it in many other countries and she brought membership to over six million girls worldwide. She traveled extensively and in particular, she revived Guiding in Europe after WW2. Without her, millions of girls around the world wouldn’t have had the chance to learn survival skills alongside domestic skills.
It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big reader. I love reading books and for the most part, I read books written by women and featuring solid female leads. That’s not necessarily out of choice, it just seems that they keep coming my way and I am definitely not complaining. It has always struck me as odd that the films that are out there, winning awards and being ‘critically acclaimed’ are not quite as female-driven as the books I’m reading.
Apparently, it struck Reese Witherspoon as odd too because she decided to start her own production company so that she could turn the books she loved, with real women at the centre of them, into films. When I think of Reese Witherspoon I think of Princess Mia in The Princess Diaries when she talks about having the power to change. All I can do from my little bedroom in suburban Sydney is buy the books and read them – I don’t have the financial power, the social standing or quite frankly, the talent to make change happen in the film industry – but Reese Witherspoon does and she knows it, so she’s doing it. And it’s not flopping either – Gone Girl, Wild and Big Little Lies have all been huge successes.
For me, Reese Witherspoon is an inspiration to find the power you have and to use it to make things a little bit better where you can.
You all knew this one was coming. She was unmarried, she was much funnier than I could ever hope to be and she was a published author. There is not much there that I don’t admire. At a time when women’s financial situation depended largely on their male relatives, being unmarried was not an ideal situation and, at a time when female writers used male pseudonyms to get their work published without being shunned, Jane managed to be unmarried and published at the same time.
The more I learn about Jane, the more I love her. She was savage in her letters to her sister Cassandra and she was just unapologetic about the kind of person she was. Although she was reasonably well-off, she had plenty of hardship in her life and occasional uncertainty about where money was going to come from but it didn’t stop her from getting things done.
Her characters were always doing the very best they could in the situations they found themselves in and I think that’s what we should all be doing.
Who are the women that you look up to or who have changed your life in some way?