Bleats

Badass Women We Need More Of: Toni Morrison

Rest in Peace, Toni.

This week, we lost a hero. American novelist and professor Toni Morrison passed away on Monday at the age of 88 due to pneumonia complications.

Through storytelling, Morrison was able to not only shed light on and give voice to the racially oppressed, but become an inspiration to all women in spite of the critics. She was an icon, a leader and the kind of badass woman we need more of in the world today.

Credit: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Morrison was born in Ohio in 1931. When she was just two years old, her family home was set on fire by the landlord – while they were inside – because they couldn’t pay rent. “It was this hysterical, out-of-the-ordinary, bizarre form of evil,” she told The Washington Post. “For $4 a month somebody would just burn you to a crisp.” Instead of crying, Morrison’s family laughed. “That’s what laughter does. You take it back. You take your life back. Your take your integrity back.”

Credit: Getty

Perhaps it was these early experiences that gave Morrison the strength to succeed later on. In 1949, she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she encountered racial segregation and was told by her professor that writing a paper on the role of black people in Shakespeare was “low-class.”

Morrison went on to get married, divorced, and become to mother of two sons. She also became the first black woman senior editor in the fiction department at Random House where she helped bring black literature and African-American authors into the mainstream.

Morrison photographed with her sons Slade and Ford.
Credit: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

In 1988, Morrison’s novel Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and ten years later was turned into a film starring Oprah Winfrey. In the early ‘90s, she became the first black woman of any nationality to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Five years later, she became the second female writer of fiction, and second black writer of fiction to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

Credit: TIME Magazine – 1998

Another instance in which Morrison depicted her inner strength against adversity was during a 1998 interview with Jana Wendt for the program Toni Morrison: Uncensored. When Wendt asked Morrison when she would “incorporate white lives” into her books, the author had a powerful response.

“You can’t understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you?” she asked. “You could never ask a white author, ‘When are you going to write about Black people?’ Whether he did or not, or she did or not. Even the enquiry comes from a position of being in the centre.”

Morrison’s ability to stand strong in the face of racism, suffering and hardship, and continue to tell the stories that desperately need to be heard will continue to inspire women, and men, in the world today. Here’s hoping we can find some of her strength in the future.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith Donating His Profits To Women Is The Ultimate Slap To Harvey Weinstein

Never forget this big middle finger.

It’s been a few years since the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal exploded, but the dust is far from settled. The allegations not only sparked the #MeToo movement resulting in the cancellation and dismissal of accused men all over the world, but also empowered allies to make big moves against Weinstein and his company.

Harvey Weinstein. Credit: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

One of those people was filmmaker and actor Kevin Smith. In 2017, after the scandal went public, Smith announced that he would be donating all the profits from his Weinstein-produced films to Women in Film, an organisation that advocates for and advances the careers of women working in the screen industries.

Smith made the announcement on his Hollywood Babble-On podcast, saying, “My entire career is tied up with the man. It’s been a weird f*cking week. I just wanted to make some f*cking movies, that’s it.”

“I know it’s not my fault, but I didn’t f*cking help. I sat out there talking about this man like he was a hero, like he was my friend, like he was my father and sh*t like that,” he continued.

Weinstein was behind Smith’s films Clerks II, Zack and Miri Make A Porno, and Dogma. Smith isn’t the only male celebrity who spoke out against Weinstein when the news broke, either.

Ryan Gosling tweeted a statement which read, “I’m deeply disappointed in myself for being so oblivious to these devastating experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. He is emblematic of a systemic problem. Men should stand with women and work together until there is real accountability and change.”

Seth McFarland also shared his support on Twitter, writing, “There is nothing more abhorrent and indefensible than abuse of power such as this.” Leonardo DiCaprio shared the same sentiment, posting to Facebook, “There is no excuse for sexual harassment or sexual assault – no matter who you are and no matter what profession…I applaud the strength and courage of the women who came forward and made their voices heard.”

Yes, it’s been two years since the scandal, but it’s important that both men and women continue to support victims and make it clear that this behaviour is not, and never will be, acceptable.

If you, or anyone you know is a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT for support.

The Term 'Scientist' Was Invented When This Woman's Epic Science Skills Couldn't Be Adequately Defined

Yes queen.

Here’s a fun fact: the term ‘scientist’ didn’t exist until a woman named Mary Somerville turned up and had way more skills than the men in her field.

Mary Somerville was a Scottish science writer, polymath and all-round badass female who was born in the late 1700s. She was almost entirely self-taught and studied everything from math to astronomy and geology.

Mary Somerville. Credit: National Galleries Of Scotland/Getty Images

Somerville was an expert in so many different fields, the people around her *literally* got to the point where they were asking, ‘what do we refer to this person as?’ Until 1834, the only term that existed to describe someone who specialised in science was a “man of science,” and obviously this wasn’t going to work for Somerville.

Scientific historian William Whewell was writing a glowing review of Somerville’s book On The Connexion of the Physical Sciences, when he reached the same conundrum and coined the term “scientist” to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of Somerville’s work. 

Credit: Wikipedia

Being the first ‘scientist’ isn’t Somerville’s only feat, either. In 1868, she was the first signature on John Stuart’s unsuccessful petition to Parliament proposing votes for women, and she was one of the first two women to become members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In her book Personal Recollections Somerville expressed that “from my earliest years my mind revolved against oppression and tyranny, and I resented the injustice of the world in denying all those privileges of education to my sex which were so lavishly bestowed on men.”

When Somerville passed away in 1872, The Morning Post wrote in her obituary, “whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science.” What a queen she was. 

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