The Women's List

By Dana Zillgitt, Regular ContributorOctober 8, 2015


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Growing up, I never wanted to be a princess. I never wanted to be a damsel in distress, waiting for somebody to save me. I wanted to be the queen, the boss bitch, the woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it. I wanted to be Esmeralda, Meg, and Bell; the women who were terrified but still grew like roses in sidewalks. But once I was considered too old to see Disney movies on opening day, I was stuck looking for more “mature” movies that showcased the same strength in women. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any. Which is why when the PBS series,  “American Masters,” had an episode last month called “The Women’s List,” I got undeniably excited. My heart warmed.  

Not to blame it on the media wholeheartedly, but there aren’t many women in film that we can look up to that are more than one dimensional.

We start out in elementary school thinking we can do anything in the world, but then the support stops once we hit puberty. It seems like, after we become ‘women,’ we are no longer able to become more than what a stereotype dictates.  These reasons and more are only part of the reasons why “The Women’s List” makes me so excited. It’s finally highlighting strong women after they grow up and what it took for them to get there.

This also ties into my unashamed nerdiness. Since 1986, PBS has shown a series known as “American Masters,” highlighting successes and the cultural phenomenon in the American arts and culture scene. Their recent episode in September called, “American Masters: The Women’s List,” highlights the past 50 years of women’s equality by following 15 trailblazers over the years that make us thankful for what’s already been done and to remind us that there is still much to do.

So who’s a part of this documentary episode? Some of our favourite women like Alicia Keys, Betsy Johnson, Shonda Rimes, and Nancy Pelosi.  These women are role models through and through who encompass their vulnerability as well as the immense strength it takes to be a woman today. They recognize their struggles and weaknesses and tie that back into their strength and immense success. There are some great one liners in there too, reminding us that it’s still alright to laugh at some of the things we’ve heard-as long as we take it with a grain of salt and use it for fighting strength.

And what’s even cooler? They tap into other industries  that are more stereotypically male and why the women breaking into them chose this as their career, their passion. One pilot mentioned, “I became a pilot because I didn’t see any black women flying.”  So she simply thought to herself: might as well be me.

I think that’s my favourite lesson from this episode. Each of the women throughout the episode reminded me of why I loved the strong women from Disney movies.

They grew like flowers in sidewalk cracks, took the cards they were dealt, and blasted any expectation previously expected from them. They turned aces into spades. They took any challenge throughout their careers and personal lives, making each their own and showcasing what it means to be a woman in today’s realm. We are here not for comfort or for bread & butter. We’re here on our own terms. And it’s brilliant to be seeing such strength, as well as such camaraderie. This episode reminded me why I was so thankful for the strength I was exposed to from an early age and why it was always a reminder to desire to be more.

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About Dana

DANA_ZILLGITT_writer_bio_(1).jpgDana has her BA in International Affairs & Spanish as well as a mild obsession with rescue animals and all things caffeinated. She’s mastered the art of the selfie, fort building, and even the sass battle. Plus, she can quote 95% of Anchorman and Zoolander.


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