Phenomenal Women Are We

When I see the word “womynfluences,” a myriad of women come immediately to mind. Being a woman is essential to who I am, and there are many women--particularly in the literary world--who have influenced me.

One of my favorite poets, and an obvious choice for one of my womynfluences, is Maya Angelou. My favorite line from my favorite poem by her is “I am a woman phenomenally.” To me, that says it all. My womanhood makes me phenomenal. Even the parts I don’t always embrace--like my period and the cramps it brings with it--make me who I am. Angelou’s poetry always helps to ground me and remind me of how strong I am because I am a woman.

I just finished reading We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I think it reflects the message of my beloved poem by Angelou well. It also makes her one of my womynfluences.

To be honest, I don’t know how anyone can argue against feminism. It’s about creating equality for everyone, regardless of gender. And that’s exactly what Adichie discusses in this essay based on her TEDx talk. She says, “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be” (39).

When I think of the women I love and admire, some of them are as elegant and in touch with their femininity as Grace Kelly, and some tried to erase their femininity for strength and power like Queen Elizabeth I. Some are like Maya Angelou and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who embrace their womanlyness and tell anyone who disagrees to stick it.

What I love about being a woman in the 21st century is that I don’t have to be only one type of woman. I can possess qualities of these extraordinary women, and many others. Like Adichie said in her essay, I’m also not apologetic about my femininity. I love sparkles and dresses and lipstick. But I also spend most days in yoga pants and a t-shirt sans make up working on a new story or researching fairy tales or something else I’m interested in. I have a sharp mind and wit, and a sharp sense of style and womanlyness. None of which I will apologize for. Nor would the women I aspire to be like.

“Still I Rise” by Angelou has spoken to me since a young age. The three words of the title are simple enough, but possess such power. Every woman in some capacity knows what it is to rise above the misogyny and inequality. Angelou and Adichie are two women I look up to because they both found their voices and spoke out. It’s not an easy thing to do, and many women don’t. But it’s a brave thing and one that deserves to be celebrated. They are phenomenal women, and so are you.