“YOU CAN’T EMPOWER WOMEN WITHOUT LISTENING TO THEIR STORIES,” Gloria Steinem once said. It’s this pithy, perfect, goosebumpinducing statement that new book, 200 Women, opens with, setting the scene for the – you guessed it – 200 heroes that follow on its pages. And not just rich, famous, accomplished heroes, either. Real heroes. Unsung heroes. The heroes that could be you or I, in the shadows, ﬁghting our daily ﬁghts. Ultimately, according to the book’s creators Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday, we’re all the same anyway.
Cleo Wade posed and answered questions for the book
“The lesson of creating this book has been that there are no ordinary women, and there is no ‘us and them.’ There’s just us,” they write in the introduction, after the equally poignant preface quote by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, “What separates an ordinary woman from an extraordinary one? The belief that she is ordinary.
Travelling the world to shoot 200 inspiring women against a stark white backdrop, Blackwell and Hobday asked each one the same ﬁve questions: What really matters to you? What brings you happiness? What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? What would you change if you could? Which single word do you most identify with?
Nigerian-born, US-based writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose award-winning text, We Should All Be Feminists inspired Dior’s omnipresent last-season T-shirt, said she identiﬁes most with the word ‘human,’ and revealed, “It’s very difﬁcult to talk about one oppressive institution without talking about the others. I often like to joke that I don’t choose the days on which I am black, the days on which I am a woman and the days on which I’m both. I experience being black and being a woman, and being a black woman, every single day.”
Author, mechanical engineer, activist and television presenter, Yassmin Abdel-Magied sits on the boards of ChildFund Australia, the Australian government’s Council for Australian-Arab Relations and the domestic violence-prevention organisation Our Watch. She ponders, “Sometimes I wonder if ‘happiness’ is a western concept, and I wonder how it should apply to me. Being Muslim means submitting myself to the will of God; yes, I could choose to pursue my happiness, but it’s not really that useful if it doesn’t have meaning. And meaning feels more important to me than ‘pure’ happiness – it comes from working towards making a difference, which pleases God.” Her one word? Unexpected.
Actress Ashley Judd chose ‘crusader’ as her one word – ﬁttingly, since she has just played a pivotal role in speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. Artist, speaker and poet Cleo Wade explained that if she could change anything, “it would be to plant a little ﬂower inside everyone that incentivised them to know the world can change and to effect that change.”
Perhaps our favourite, novelist Margaret Atwood – of Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale fame – put forward ‘and’ as her one word. “It means there is always something more.” We’d add ‘hope’ to that.