I'm motioning to consider today a feminist holiday, because Feminist Frequency's series, Ordinary Women: Daring to Defy History, has finally graced the internet with its presence — and so far, it's every bit as amazing as you'd expect from founder Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian rose to prominence in 2012 with her crowdfunded YouTube series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games; four years later, she turned to crowdfunding again to produce Ordinary Women, and the results are just as notable as they were the first time round.
In March of 2016, Feminist Frequency announced plans to create a webseries focusing on the untold stories of women in history. "We're taking a look back at the amazing women throughout history who defied gender stereotypes and changed the world, to remind us that the stories we tell about women... often reflect the limitations placed on them, rather than the world-changing feats they've already achieved," Sarkeesian wrote on the Seed & Spark campaign page. By the time donations closed, more than $207,000 had been raised.
On Sept. 10, Sarkeesian posted the first episode telling the story of notable feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman. Born in 1869 in the Russian Empire, she emigrated as a teenager to the United States, where she discovered her calling: Political revolution. As Sarkeesian explains, she quickly became involved in the American labor movement and became one of the most famous radical political figures in the nation. Needless to say, her politics and gender didn't go over well with the government, but I'll let you find out what happened for yourself below.
Ordinary Women focuses on five women from a variety of nations, time periods, and professions, from 19th century English mathematician Ada Lovelace to 10th century Japanese novelist Murasaki Shikibu. If you're a history buff, you'll undoubtedly be most excited for the episode on Ching Shih, the badass Chinese sex worker-turned-pirate captain who led an armada known as the Red Flag Fleet.
Judging from the first episode, the series promises to be fun and informative, but it also has important implications for the way we tell history. It's no secret that history is heavily centered on men, while women are relegated to the role of mother, sister, or wife; for every Queen Elizabeth and Marie Curie, there are dozens of other equally influential women whose tales went untold. Aside from missing out on fun historical tidbits, this skewed perception of history reflects and perpetuates the way we still consider women secondary characters in their own lives — something that Sarkeesian is directly trying to combat with Ordinary Women.
"Having stories that center [on] women encourages us to see women as people who are important to their own lives and intrinsic humanity, rather than defining them in relationship to men," she recently told Motto, adding that women have been doing their own thing "no matter when or where a story is set." If that didn't make your feminist heart go pitter-patter, it's time to get your ticker checked.
Next time someone tells you say women weren't allowed to accomplish anything important until the 19th century, I suggest you prescribe them a viewing of Ordinary Women. Women have been rule-breakers, innovators, and creators for just as long as their male peers — it's about time someone tells their stories.
You can keep an eye on future episodes over at Feminist Frequency's Ordinary Women YouTube playlist.
Images: Wikimedia Commons, Giphy