by Alexandra Martin, World YWCA Intern and Kent State University student
I’ve always needed women in my life. Though, I didn’t always know it and it wasn’t always in the ways I had thought. Of course, as an only child and a female; I need my mother. She’s my number one. And I needed my grandmother for the ten years I had her. But the type of female connection I’m going to talk about is not through familial ties or friendship.
As a little girl, I wanted to be one of the boys. I hardly wore overtly “girly” clothes, I played hockey, watched the “boys” movies and hung out with the guys. The “cool girls” were just one of the guys, right? But as I got older and my relationship with myself, with the world and with boys changed, I sought different outlets of inspiration.
There is a special connection between a girl and the girls who influence her. The girls who write the books she reads time and time again or the girls who make the music she listens to on the way to school or teary eyed on the bathroom floor. I’m talking about the relationship between girls and the girls who write our stories.
Unfortunately, these women aren’t always presented to us or aren’t presented to us as having inherent value. There exists a notion that female writing isn’t “objectively good” or that it doesn’t stretch to a large audience. That it is overly emotional and its content should be censored for male audiences. Diverse representations of female writers aren’t on school syllabi and are torn apart by the media. It’s an idea that leaves female writers questioning their worth.
But I needed these women and I think you do too. It’s a shame that we have to find these women on our own (though the hunt is fun), that they have to be shown to us in schools in acts that feel rebellious or that as women we must listen to the media tear down other women for telling their stories. It isn’t a message we should be sending to young female writers.
I have been lucky in my life. I have had access. I have a father who wanted me to listen to musicians who wrote their own music, especially women. He listened to years of Taylor Swift echoing throughout the house and ringing, often poorly and persistently, from the first guitar he bought me. I had an incredible, intelligent and kind English teacher in 12th grade that was unafraid to introduce new ideas and new writers. I think of him often with gratitude and admiration for the ways he helped shaped me. I have university professors who challenge me to think about these societal constraints complexly and I have endless access to social media that connects me to strong women.
But not all women have this kind of access. While I do not yet posses political, economic or social weight to change these things permanently, I do have a computer, a voice and an Instagram account. As well as, this platform to provide you with the best thing I can which is recommendations. (Please ask for more because picking just these was painful)
Florence Welch: Part-time powerhouse vocalist of Florence and The Machine and full-time goddess. Listen to: Cosmic Love & What Kind of Man
Diana Gordon: Writer of the now infamous “better call Becky with the good hair” and sonic ability to get you back on your feet. Listen to: Woman & Daddy Lesson by Beyoncé
Margret Atwood: With a knack for making the everyday seem profound, it seems like she has made all the same mistakes as you and that it’s okay. Read: Asparagus & True Stories
Yrsa Daley-Ward: Inspired by Nayyirah Waheed, her short poems will make you look inside yourself and look closer at the person next to you. Read: Bone & her Instagram @yrsadaleyward
iO Tillet Wright: New in: We are not one thing. New York artist, writer and activist will take you on a witty and intriguing journey of self-evident truth. Read: Darling Days
Maya Angelou: Do I even need to say anything? Her story is crucial to American history. Read: I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings
Jhumpa Lahiri: With nuanced narratives and useful use of dialog, she shows the pain in the female experience. Read: A Temporary Matter
Toni Morrison: I don’t have enough space to express my complete awe and admiration for this woman. She is one of the great American authors. Read: I can I pick everything?
Virginia Woolf: If you’re a 20 something working to claim your own space, this is for you. Read: A Room of One’s Own