Women are soft, etherial, gentle, nurturing creative, artistic and fragile. Men are strong, protective, pragmatic, ambitious, power driven, rough and solemn.
Haha! No, not always. In fact, not most of the time. Sure maybe some men and women fit perfectly into the cookie cutter ideas western society has constructed around femininity and masculinity...but that's just not the case for most of us. So let's shine a light on stereotype-breaking badasses who took their destiny's into their own hands and said "This is me and I am exceptional at it."
Earlier this week during an award acceptance speech, one said badass Pink reminded us that what is truly important about a person is not how they identify, or how they present themselves to the world. Rather it is what they bring to the table, what they offer humanity as a gift from their time here. She went on to mention the names of great artists one after the other. Their artistic prowess wooed our souls, and we forgot who they were only to lose ourselves in their music. When you live your truth and do it greatly the rest of us are left in awe and everything else ceases to matter. So lets celebrate men and women who have broken free from gender normative expectations and stunned the world for all the right reasons.
When speaking of women who have broken glass ceilings in male dominated arenas it would be blasphemous not to mention Marie Curie, born November 7th 1867, the two time Nobel Prize winning chemist not only discovered two elements but was the first person to win a second Nobel prize.
Hedy Lamarr, born November 9, 1914, is a personal favorite. She excelled in a field in which women are often scoffed at to this very day. Hedy was quite the versatile chameleon; she was the first female actor to portray an orgasm on screen in a non-pornographic film called "Ecstasy" which was quite the controversial piece of cinematography and was banned in many countries at the time. After escaping a controlling husband, she emigrated to the United States where she continued to excel as an actress in Hollywood, however, that was not her sole accomplishment. Hedy had a keen interest in science, electrical engineering to be exact, andin an effort to aid in the international fight to defeat the Nazis, Hedy collaborated on a wireless frequency-hopping communications technology that would later become the foundation for modern day Wifi, Bluetooth and GPS! This advancement in coms systems garnered her an induction into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Born July 19, 1921, the 1977 Physiology or Medicine Nobel Prize winner's most notable contribution to the field is RIA or radioimunoassay. RIA is a blood analysis method that allows physicians to scan for antigens in the blood and determine whether or not it is contaminated with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis in its varying forms. Because of her medical advancements we are now able to safely receive life saving blood transfusions.
Katherine Johnson, born August 26, 1918, honored with The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015, this was the least of her achievements. Katherine most prominently featured in the biographical film, "Hidden Figures," is an African American mathematician and physicist whose literal job title for NASA's predecessor, NACA, was "computer." She is most famous for her work in calculating trajectories for various missions. Her contributions proved invaluable to The Apollo Moon Landing and the Space Shuttle Program.
Mikhail Baryshnikov - A.K.A Misha. Born January 27, 1948, he excelled as a dancer, choreographer and actor. He is regarded as one of the best ballet dancers in the art form's history. He famously stated "The Essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure."
Born January 8, 1947 the singer, songwriter and actor, who passed away just last year, was considered one of the great creative minds of the music industry for over 50 years. Bowie also stood out for his effeminate and eccentric look, which did not impinge upon his success in spite of coming up in a highly conservative time. His music transcends generations as evidenced by his 1972 hit "Starman" being featured as recently as 2015 on the soundtrack of the Hollywood blockbuster "The Martian." The avant-garde nature of his music is displayed in his 1971 chart topper "Changes," which is seen as a pivotal anthem for the LGBTQI movement.
Prince Rogers Nelson - The man who could do it all, born June 7, 1958. Another musical mage, Prince was an innovator whose creative stylings spanned across several genres, including pop, soul, new wave, R&B, rock, funk and psychedelia. As a vocalist he possessed an impressive range of just under six octaves. He was also a decorated producer acquiring an Academy Award for "Purple Rain," he also received an American Music Award, a Golden Globe Award and a total of 7 Grammies. Prince was admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. A showman to the fullest, he accomplished all of this while presenting himself to the world in an intensely feminine, make up diva light! A gender bender if ever there was one, he sold over 100 million records.
The King of Pop himself! Born August 29, 1958 unlike Prince, Jackson embodied the softer side of femininity. Michael first captured our hearts as a young boy when he was introduced to the public as a member of The Jackson 5. However his mesmerizing vocals and enigmatic charisma soon set him apart from the rest of the group. He went on to become the most popular artist in the world by virtue of record sales, coming in as the best selling artist in 2009 when he passed away. A musical genius Jackson received a wide array of honors and awards throughout his career. He is a member of six halls of fame, many of which he is a double inductee. He also holds a plethora of world records, 13 Grammies and has sold over 350 million records globally. The aforementioned accomplishments are but a fraction of the totality.
What do all of these magnificent individuals teach us? That being true to oneself and working towards our goals isn't always reflective of societal expectations, but that doesn't mean it isn't right just because it's different. Although taking the less beaten path is challenging and even dangerous, following one's true north is always worth it.
Please see Pink's acceptance speech referencing gender fluidity and the power of self acceptance below: