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On the Better Side of Average: Nevertheless, these women persisted

Tirzah Khan, Managing editor

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Ask your teacher. Ask your mail carrier. Ask your boss. Chances are, even if they don’t say it in as many words, this scenario was familiar to them: Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plight Feb. 8 as she read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter detailing the anti-black rulings of now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Midway through the letter, every single Republican senator voted to silence her for the rest of the debate. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Here are six women who refused to be silenced:

1 & 2. Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin:

You know the former but maybe not the latter. Parks famously boycotted the segregation of buses in the 50s, refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. But nine months before Parks’ boycott, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did the same thing. The NAACP decided to raise Rosa Parks as an icon instead because they thought the actions of Colvin, a dark-skinned teen mom, would not be as well-received by the public.

3. Malala Yousafzai:

An activist for girls’ education in Pakistan, Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban at 15. Rather than be deterred, she used the new platform to raise awareness for girls’ education around the world. She also rejected the one-dimensional narrative that the West imposed on her by boldly telling then-President Barack Obama to stop his drone strikes in Pakistan. Raised hands emoji.

4. Anita Sarkeesian:

Sarkeesian is the founder of Feminist Frequency, a website that criticizes the portrayal of women in pop culture. She was targeted in Gamergate, a 2014 controversy in which women in gaming faced severe harassment and chilling death threats—one attacker made a game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. Yeah. “Oh my God” is right. But Sarkeesian wasn’t daunted: she used the publicity to bring the issue of misogyny in gaming to attention. She’s now broadened her scope to include the erasure of women in history, and her success is on the rise.

5. Linda Sarsour:

If you’re a fan of the recent Women’s March on Washington, send a nice tweet to co-founder Sarsour—she could probably use one these days! As a Muslim-American hijab-wearing woman, she’s a victim of hatred from both sides. She’s criticized by liberals doubting her feminist qualifications because she sports the “oppressive veil” (okay, fam). And conservatives have long labelled her and other Muslim civil rights leaders as terrorists. Nevertheless, she continues to be a bold force for progressive socio-political causes: climate change and racial equality, among other things.

6. Cecile Richards:

Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood, under fire recently because of the rising anti-abortion movement. Widespread Republican demonization of the organization has led to Richards being called a monster, a murderer, and a Nazi. When she first became Planned Parenthood’s leader, Jim Sedlak, president of the American Life League, predicted that she wouldn’t last a year in her role. Ten years later, she’s still there and going strong in a sea of violent hatred.
Unless we make changes to the way women are treated, we will always have to persist—and you bet we will if we must, because that’s what we do.

Sources: NPR, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, The American Prospect

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