If you’re a woman, you’re used to people trying to steal your power.
But even in the face of constant sexism, bias and discrimination, women rise. We’re constantly under threat, but we stare down the most intense hatred with resolve, perseverance and strength.
Our experiences as women may be different, but our power is unifying.
To honor International Women’s Day, we asked seven influential feminists to tell us the most powerful thing about being a woman. Their responses touched on the strength of sisterhood, the value of resilience and the importance of self-love.
Here’s what these bold and brilliant women had to say about their power.
“Women are often undermined in society — but I feel like that gives us the strength to prove how powerful we truly are. When someone tries to bring me down, I am just prouder to be a woman because I can display my courage, confidence and strength. I can just be myself.
“I want every woman out there to be confident in who they are and love themselves. I think it’s really important in this time to be self-aware and realize how strong we truly are.”
Brittany Packnett, Campaign Zero organizer and Black Lives Matter activist
“Our power is in our resiliency, but we shouldn’t always have to be resilient. Instead, I’ll say that our power rests in our humanity.
“Our greatest power lies in our freedom to be beautifully, imperfectly, unashamedly human.”
“Whenever women — especially women of color — live unapologetically and in ways that are fully human, we confound the status quo. When we live into our brilliance and our vulnerability, our anger and our joy, our fear and our hopes, our beauty and our brains, we give permission to others to do the same.
“The audacity to live unapologetically in the face of the oppression women face — and in the face of the degradation women of color doubly face — is a choice we make every day, despite our socialization.
“Our greatest power lies in our freedom to be beautifully, imperfectly, unashamedly human — and dare anyone to tell us we can’t.”
“The most powerful thing about being a woman is embracing the fullness of womanhood. In that is a deep connection to the fullness of human emotions: birth to death, pain to joy, and forgiveness to love, to name a few. All are essential in creating compassion for each other.
“Women are essential in keeping communities together and life going. Don’t think of women’s power as only soft power. Power is in the fullness of one’s being — and the more a woman owns her fullness, the more powerful she is.”
Raquel Willis, activist and writer
“The most powerful thing about being a woman is being able to draw on the amazing strength and brilliance of women who came before me.
“My blackness matters. My transness matters. My queerness matters.”
“The women in my life have always impressed me and inspired me to be a better person, period. They have pushed me to be more empathetic and to view love not as a soft, passive force, but as something that is strong and can powerfully bring humanity together.
“My journey to womanhood has also been about elevating every other aspect of myself as well. My blackness matters. My transness matters. My queerness matters. As women, we have the gift to not only uncover the beauty in all of our other identities, but to also show the world what being whole can truly look and feel like.”
Virgie Tovar, author, activist and creator of #LoseHateNotWeight
“The most powerful thing about being a woman is our incredible capacity for resilience. Women have faced generations of injustice. We have lived with the brutal realities of being second-class citizens.
“Women are responsible for some of the world’s most powerful political movements, including the fight for family rights, children’s rights, protection against harassment and assault in the workplace, and equal pay. Women have been at the forefront of creating language for vulnerable populations, for the articulation of consent, for global access to things like clean water.
“It is women who have shown me how to survive, who have amplified me again and again, who have given me the language and the dream of freedom.”
“My definition of womanhood is someone who moves through the world, presents and defines oneself as a woman. With that definition in mind, I would say that the most powerful thing about womanhood is the inherent capacity of resilience and adaptability.
“‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ is such a devastatingly accurate phrase about womanhood.”
“A woman must be all things in our society — and while adaptability is a strength, it can also be incredibly burdensome. That skill of endless code-switching has derived from patriarchal systems that demand women be many things at once.
“‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ is such a devastatingly accurate phrase about womanhood. When Mitch McConnell said this of Elizabeth Warren, he didn’t intend for it to be empowering. He intended it to describe something shameful.
The fact that women everywhere have taken this phrase and run with it is brilliantly and beautifully resilient. One might even call it persistent!”
Lauren Duca, freelance journalist and Twitter influencer
“The most powerful thing about being a woman is that — after being physically grabbed on the public transit commute to work and sexually harassed shortly after arriving at the office — there’s also the opportunity to worry about whether or not you will be granted the extra-special right of worrying about being taken seriously in any business setting, or just getting to make life-changing decisions about your body!
“With all those built-in perks, it’s a miracle we’re still offered a fraction of a man’s paycheck at all. Well, that, and multiple orgasms.”