Being a woman can sadly still put you at a disadvantage (yes, even in the year 2023) . The gender pay gap, a lack of medical research into women's health issues or accessibility into treating them, and the ongoing threat of male violence, are just a few of the challenges still facing women. So, to say that as women we put up with a lot would be a bit of an understatement (and when you add in other characteristics such as race, ability and sexuality, things get even tougher).
Looking at a brief snapshot of where we are today, according to the UN Women in politics map 2023, more women than ever hold political decision-making posts worldwide. This is positive, but gender parity is still far off. Meanwhile, the gender pay gap has overall been declining slowly over time (it has fallen by a quarter over the last decade), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), though for full-time employees it increased to 8.3% in 2022 from 7.7% in 2021 (still lower than in 2019).
And in the year ending March 2023, the police flagged 889,441 recorded offences as domestic abuse-related. This showed little change compared with the year ending March 2022 (889,311 recorded offences) but a 14% increase from 777,726 recorded offences in the year ending March 2020. Elsewhere, we've seen some promising strides forward in health, culture, and sport (hello Lionesses), with some strides back, and other problems staying stagnant.
With all that in mind, we should always make space to celebrate how strong and capable women and female-presenting folk are, even in the face of adversity, and to keep pushing the dial forward when it comes to equality (making the world a better place for all genders).
So, to honour that, here are some powerful quotes straight from the mouths of our favourite feminists and advocates of equality (and if you would like to and are able to donate to causes that support the fight on violence against women, you can also do so right here, too).
Feminist quotes from inspiring change-makers
1) "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own."
– Audre Lorde (writer and civil rights activist)
2) "I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay."
3) "We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back."
– Malala Yousafzai
4) "Remember this, whoever you are, however you are, you are equally valid, equally justified and equally beautiful."
– Juno Dawson (author and transgender activist)
5) "If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader."
– Dolly Parton
6) "What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not."
– Rupi Kaur (poet)
7) "We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller, we say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you would threaten the man."
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (writer)
8) "People think that at the end of the day a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me."
– Princess Diana
9) "Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be; embrace who you are."
– Brené Brown (researcher, author and podcast host)
10) "When I dare to be powerful — to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
– Audre Lorde
11) "There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish."
– Michelle Obama
12) "Femininity needs to be embraced wherever it is, whether it be in a man or a woman or a gender non-conforming person."
– Emma Watson
13) "Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another."
– Yuri Kochiyama (civil rights activist)
14) "Follow your dreams, not your boyfriends."
– Gillian Anderson
15) "No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor."
– Betty Friedan (feminist writer and activist)
16) "I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likeable. Fuck that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard."
– Jennifer Lawrence
17) "We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take lead."
18) "There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness and the nerve to never take no for an answer."
19) "Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on."
– Serena Williams
20) "Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness."
– Oprah Winfrey (producer, actress, author and philanthropist)
21) "A girl should be two things: who and what she wants."
– Coco Chanel
23) "If I choose, not out of fear, but out of courage, to speak, then there's something unique that my words can become... It might feel like every story has been told before, but the truth is, no one's ever told my story in the way I would tell it."
– Amanda Gorman (poet)
24) "Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength."
– G.D. Anderson (writer and founder of Australian charity, The Cova Project)
25) "The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me."
– Ayn Rand (writer and philosopher)
26) "A woman can be masculine, a woman can be trans, a woman can be intersex... a woman can be whatever she identifies as. It doesn't make her any less of a woman."
– Munroe Bergdorf (activist, model, writer, and broadcaster)
27) "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception."
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg (associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States)
28) "Wouldn’t it be nice if Black girls weren’t inundated with negative, sexist comments about Black women? If they were told instead of the many important things that we’ve achieved? ... Black women, too often in the shadows of such accomplishments, actually powered the civil rights movement."
29) "We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half."
– Emmeline Pankhurst
30) "I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves."
– Mary Shelley (writer)
31) "There’s many women now who think, ‘Surely we don’t need feminism anymore, we’re all liberated and society’s accepting us as we are.’ Which is all hogwash. It’s not true at all."
– Yoko Ono
32) "Feminism is for everybody."
– bell hooks (writer)
33) "No woman should be told she can't make decisions about her own body. When women's rights are under attack, we fight back."
– Kamala Harris (US vice president)
34) "The idea of being a feminist- so many women have come to this idea of it being anti-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex – but what feminism is about is equality and human rights."
– Lena Dunham
35) "All men should be feminists." If men care about women's rights the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered – it leads to a better society."
– John Legend
36) "What's interesting is that I hear a lot of people saying, when talking about girls‘ empowerment and women as well, you’ll often hear people saying, ‘You’re helping them find their voices', I fundamentally disagree with that. Women don’t need to find their voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen."
– Meghan Markle
37) "We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone."
38) "It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships."
– Barack Obama
39) "I think trans women, and trans people in general, show everyone that you can define what it means to be a man or woman on your own terms. A lot of what feminism is about is moving outside of roles and moving outside of expectations of who and what you're supposed to be to live a more authentic life."
– Laverne Cox (actor)
40) "I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, 'Is this a world you want to live in? ' They would say, 'No. '"
– Helen Mirren
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