“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It's all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” - Susan Sontag, Vassar College Commencement Speech, 2003
Socially and politically, 2016 has been an interesting year. With elections in the US and Ireland, Brexit and the Eighth Amendment, many serious questions and issues are being raised. 100 years on from the Proclamation providing ‘equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens,’ true equality has yet to be achieved.
Against this backdrop, we see a new generation of young people who are mobilised to make change happen. As Sontag alludes to, young people today are more inspired than ever to pay attention and take notice to what is happening around them – to question society and ask how it can better itself.
In a world that is still struggling with pay-gaps and gender equality, women and girls around the globe have seen the need to represent themselves in ever more uncompromisingly ways as they strive for more. From tampon tax to gender quotas and the breastfeeding debate, many female-specific issues have have lingered in the public eye this year.
In turn, ‘badass woman’ is a phrase that evolved over the past twelve months, around the topic of female empowerment. It was widely used to describe women who stood out as strong individuals, thriving in a largely male dominated public sphere. Think Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence or Malala Yousafzai. This is not ‘Badass’ in the sense of ‘a tough, uncompromising or intimidating person,’ but rather ‘a formidably impressive person: she is so wonderful, so sweet, so rad, so amazing; she’s a badass.’
Notwithstanding the more positive definition of ‘badass’, the time has come for a redefinition of the term ‘badass woman’ - less ‘badass’ and more ‘kickass’. We salute the woman or girl who’s putting her ass in gear – waking up in the morning and doing. She’s a mother, a daughter, a friend, a colleague... but most of all she’s a do-er, who inspires in her own way, making a positive impact through her actions – be it socially, politically, creatively, professionally or personally.
In her own kickass way, Beyoncé uses her platform to call out and engage people in specific social issues close to her heart - feminism, activism and politics. This is no new phenomenon. In utilising her music and brand as a means of unapologetically expressing personal beliefs and morals in order to inspire social change, Beyoncé joins a long list of kickass women that use their fame to shine a light on, and contribute to, meaningful causes, projects or campaigns.
Whilst the female body has been historically celebrated for its beauty and strength, occasionally it has become the centre of cultural and political conversation - from campaigning for the right to contraception and reproductive rights to debates around female body hair or ‘free the nipple’.
The female struggle to reclaim the right to bodily integrity and autonomy from society spans decades. Right now, particularly in Ireland, women’s bodies still remain very much a topic up for public debate and control. Thanks to the likes of X-ile Project REPEAL and the HunReal Issues, conversation is more open than ever before, more active than ever before, and hopefully more effective than ever before.
But, there is so much to be done outside of abortion rights. There is an imbalance of human rights, salaries, representation in government, and many other areas of life.
And with the recent election of Donald Trump as POTUS, it’s clear that we can’t afford to be complacent.
In order to tackle these issues, it isn’t enough to just be badass. Echoing the words of Susan Sontag; we all need to pay attention, stay eager and start kicking ass together.