And then a hero comes along…

I had a conversation with an ex-colleague today, in which she commented that she was extremely surprised at how friendly I was when we first met because she “doesn’t generally get on with girls”.

The reason was unacknowledged but obvious: she’s absolutely stunning, which can make other women bristle in her presence. Luckily, there are a few things that make me jealous and another woman’s level of attractiveness isn’t one of them. Beauty doesn’t threaten me since I grew up with five beautiful sisters and am used to being the ‘average’ one in the room.

Intelligence, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether. Put me in front of a Riazat Butt (the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent) or a Tahmima Anam (Harvard-educated, award-winning Bangladeshi author) and I’ll grumble with envy. It’s a good envy though because I have a lot of respect for smart women. In fact, I think it’s a shame there aren’t more strong females in the public eye – Asian or not.

I can name fictitious kick-ass women that I love – the women in Law & Order (played by Stephanie March, Mariska Hargitay, Angie Harmon and Diane Neal) are absolutely fantastic and represent some of the best female characters on TV – but ask me about real-life heroes and I can name only men.

Who can blame me when Margaret Thatcher, the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton represent the strongest female figures of the past few decades? Yes, there are women like Mother Teresa who contributed a lot to the world and who were strong in their own way, but you can hardly describe them as ‘kick-ass’.

Suggestions, please! Bonnie can keep her hero, I need a heroine.

8 thoughts on “And then a hero comes along…”

  1. One that springs to mind is Sheetal Mehta, founder of innovative social ventures proof that you don’t need to be in politics or a celebrity to be a strong female figure (and maybe even do some good). But it would be whoever inspires you from all worlds not just the political, I refuse to believe your list is that narrow!

  2. having read your piece and pondered the question, googled ‘strong women’ to see what might come up as i too was at a bit of a loss to find some people that might inspire you (but, then again, i’d be equally bereft of choices if it came to ‘strong men’ to be truly inspired by…), and this happened:

    which, presumably, is not quite what you were looking for?
    however, after some thought, i would humbly suggest that the following might provide some food for thought and for the soul:
    – Aung San Suu Kyi
    – Arundhati Roy
    – Alice Munro

    And that’s just the ‘A’s’ (albeit not in the conventional sense…)
    But this is also pretty interesting, and quite damning in its own rather understated way:

    The fact is that there are simply not enough ‘strong’, convinced, convincing and credible people of either gender, or for that matter any race, creed or belief, to look up to on the world stage today…
    But, if you look around you, closely enough, at the people who are part of your life, and at the things they do and say and believe as they lead theirs, the world is truly filled with strong people living good lives despite sometimes almost insurmountable obstacles, and, to me, an everyday, unsung hero is so much more inspiring than those who can only be admired from afar…

  3. I have too many to list but off the top of my head, Edina Levovik is a personal favourite of mine (I was wow-ed by her speaking at a televised conference, once) and so is Dr Tanya Byron. I’ll let you guys google them if you’re interested..

    Anyway, so can one infer your ex colleague isn’t the smartest kid on the block?

  4. > ER

    Thanks for the links. I will definitely have a look. I thought I was cynical but your assertion that there aren’t enough ‘strong’ people of either gender on the world stage today is pretty depressing.

    You’re right that unsung heroes are often the more inspirational ones but I still think it’s disappointing that there aren’t more in the public eye.

  5. > Sofi

    I will have give them a google, thanks.

    As for my ex-colleague, I was hoping none of you would say it! It’s not that she isn’t smart, just that she isn’t a correspondent for one of the UK’s best newspapers or an internationally successful author…

  6. don’t know if it’s depressing per se, but it sure is disheartening to find there’s no-one up there who you can look up to…
    i s’pose it must be a bit of a downer if you’re waiting for a hero to appear who will inspire you and whom you hope to emulate, but if, like me, you’ve given up on the idea of there being such a thing at all, other than the ones about who songs ain’t written, about whom nobody talks and who we all too often overlook and take for granted, then it’s not all bad.
    what i try and do is appreciate the bounty of good in the endless, quotidien, small acts of people near to me, rather than try and find some good at all in the grand, world-changing ones of those who we can only ever glimpse from afar and that, too many times, only disappoint in the long run…
    perhaps, indeed, it is when the small becomes large, when the unknown become known and when everything is about them and no longer about what they do, they we start to look too closely at who they are, forget what they have done and admire them less for it…
    on the other hand, it may be that once they rise and rise until even ivory towers do not tower high enough, that they forget the reasons they climbed them in the first place, set aside what they meant to do and spend their time and efforts on staying there above all other considerations…
    i dunno, but i do know that my cynicism is simply the product of my advanced age and a lifetime spent wondering at how strangely the world works…


    He makes some valid points about our need for heroes and because of this we seem to kid ourselves. IN essence we’re all human and are flawed and most heroic images usually dont stand up to scrutiny. Apart from Nelson Mandela for me he was flawed but he did what he could with the hand he was dealt and his courage through adversity is something truly inspiring
    The point i came on to make however is heroism in the modern sense is usually created by Media and since we live in a patriarchal society the chances of a female mainstream heroine arising are small.


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