From Shania to Oprah: powerful words from inspiring women

For International Women's Day, we've gathered wise words from top musicians, actors, authors and more

For International Women's Day, we've gathered wise words from top musicians, actors, authors and more

This Thursday marks International Women's Day — a day to honour the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

So to mark the occasion, we've gathered powerful words from some of today's top actors, directors, musicians, authors and more, including Shania Twain, Gal Gadot, Lindy West, Sarah Polley, Oprah Winfrey and more.

They talk about their professional lives and personal moments, feminism and family, how far we've come and how much farther we have to go.

Shania Twain

The only way that I survive is through optimism. I need to know, and I believe, change will come. I know that. It's a fact. Change is inevitable, and change will inevitably bring something better. Maybe you're going to go down first, but you will eventually come back up again. 

q, Nov. 30, 2017

(Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Stagecoach; design by Heather Collett)

Roxanne Gay
Author, Bad Feminist and Difficult Women

We have this idea that, as women, we're supposed to make nice and play nice. And I really want women to feel permission to be themselves and that includes a range of emotions. 

— q, March 8, 2017

Lena Waithe
Actress, screenwriter

It's about changing the way we do business, and it's about really putting people in positions of power who are others — who are women, who are women of colour, who are queer people, who are trans people, who have disabilities. People who understand the world in a way that most people don't. I think if we really empower those folks to be in a position where they can hire, in a position where they can make change, I think things will look different. But if everybody in positions of power are straight white men, then I think that is also a part of the problem. We have to start making sure that our leadership looks like our society.

q, Jan. 15, 2018

(Courtesy: design by Heather Collett)

Sarah Polley
Director, actress

I think we need to look at what scares us the most. We need to look at ourselves. What have we been willing to accept, out of fear, helplessness, a sense that things can't be changed? What else are we turning a blind eye to, in all aspects of our lives? What else have we accepted that, somewhere within us, we know is deeply unacceptable? And what, now, will we do about it?

The New York Times, Oct. 14, 2017

Gal Gadot​
Wonder Woman actress

There are such misconceptions as to what a feminist is. Feminism is about equality. I want all people to have the same opportunities and to get the same salaries for the same jobs. I realize I'm doing what I want to do because of the women before me who laid the groundwork. Without them I wouldn't be an educated working mother who is following her dreams. I wouldn't be here.

Glamour, March 7, 2016

Oprah Winfrey 
TV and publishing mogul

I want all the girls watching here and now, to know that a new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say "Me too" again.

Golden Globe Awards Speech, Jan. 27, 2018

(Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images; design by Heather Collett)

Shonda Rhimes
​TV producer, screenwriter and author

As a woman, what I know is you can't approach anything from a point of view of "I don't deserve" or "I'm not going to ask for because I don't want other people to get upset." 

Hollywood Reporter, Jan. 17, 2018

Danai Gurira 

I think the presentation of women is both fierce and very much feminine. I loved the way the women were shown being people that reach their fullest potential and live in it with a fearlessness and don't lose any part of being women. The myth is that's what happens, or women have to disguise their strength and I love that this is a world where that is just not the case.

q, Feb. 16, 2018

Danai Gurira talks about the hype around Black Panther and why the film's value is more important than any records it might break at the box office. 14:55

Lindy West

Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time — that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are secondary to men's pleasure and convenience.

– From her book Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman

Rachel Morrison
Cinematographer (Mudbound, Black Panther)

There's this idea that there are more female cinematographers now because cameras are lighter, which is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Cinematography speaks to everything that women do inherently well: It's multitasking, it's empathy and it's channeling visuals into human emotion. Little by little, I realized that I was an anomaly, but I tried not to focus on it, or to, at least, see it as a way to stand out in the crowd and bring something to the table that most people don't.

New York Times, Feb. 21, 2018

Buffy Saint Marie
Musician, educator

[Me Too] has been around since before the Old Testament, and it's taken a long time for show business to confront it. And God bless every one of those people who has come forward. It's a thing not only in show business but it's in education, it's in business, it's in corporations, it's in families, it's in neighbourhoods. You know that kind of bullying, that kind of oppression. But it's carried out not only on women but on men and boys too, and it's just plain got to go.

CBC Unreserved, March 4, 2018

Janelle Monae

Tonight, I am proud to stand in solidarity as not just an artist but a young woman with my fellow sisters in this room who make up the music industry. Artists, writers, assistants, publicists, CEOs, producers, engineers, and women from all sectors of the business. We are also daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, and human beings. We come in peace, but we mean business. And to those who would dare try and silence us, we offer you two words: Time's Up. We say time's up for pay inequality, time's up for discrimination, time's up for harassment of any kind, and time's up for the abuse of power. Because, you see, it's not just going on in Hollywood, it's not just going on in Washington; it's right here in our industry as well. And just as we have the power to shake culture, we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well. So let's work together, women and men, as a united music industry, committed to creating more safe work environments, equal pay and access for all women.

– 2018 Grammy Awards, Jan. 28, 2018

(Christopher Polk/Getty Images; design by Heather Collett)

Sarah Jessica Parker

It's for all of us, whether we've been involved for weeks or days to see this sort of robust, enthusiastic stand of solidarity by so many. And I think it shows that not only is the conversation timely, but that the basic idea – the idea of equality and parity and safe work environments – are really not controversial. We just have to get the work done.

– On the red carpet at the 2018 Golden Globes, Jan. 7, 2018

Jessie Reyez

To men, if you have a daughter or a sister or a mother, I hope that you learn to empathize with what it means to be a woman in the industry. How much more aware you have to be and how you have to teach people how to treat you. You can't just walk into a room and assume the same amount of respect that maybe a male artist will get.

q, Dec. 21, 2017

Lucille Starr
Canadian country music icon

Gold records kept coming and it was a good feeling. … [But] the man I was married to at the time did not like that. He would do everything he could to make sure that I wasn't going to get ahead. … Every time a good break would come in, he wouldn't tell me about it. So then people thought that I didn't want to listen to the bookers. I wanted out, but nobody seemed to know. But eventually I went on my own, I had the courage to go on my own, and it all worked out for the best.

CBC Music, Sept. 5, 2017

Frances McDormand

Ok, look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed. Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we'll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight. Ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.

– After winning the best actress Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, March 4, 2018

Margaret Atwood

I think what gives me some optimism is the fact that people in the United States are not sitting still for attempts to limit them, the kinds of attempts that are being made. And those attempts are being made in many many different areas, including cutting off their access to health care, just for instance, so I think that the fact that there is a lot of pushback is what is going to weigh in on the side of this not happening.

q, May 5, 2017

Taylor Swift

I think that this moment is important for awareness, for how parents are talking to their children, and how victims are processing their trauma, whether it be new or old. The brave women and men who have come forward this year have all moved the needle in terms of letting people know that this abuse of power shouldn't be tolerated. Going to court to confront this type of behaviour is a lonely and draining experience, even when you win, even when you have the financial ability to defend yourself. Even though awareness is higher than ever about workplace sexual harassment, there are still so many people who feel victimized, afraid and silenced by their abusers and circumstances. When the jury found in my favour, the man who sexually assaulted me was court-ordered to give me a symbolic $1. To this day he has not paid me that dollar, and I think that act of defiance is symbolic in itself.

New York Times, Dec. 6, 2017 

Tanya Tagaq

People ask why I chose to be an activist. It's not a choice. We live this every day. It's our lives. It's our moms, it's our sisters, it's our our aunts, it's our brothers, it's our uncles, it's our fathers. This is our families, it's our livelihoods. It's our lives. It's me, it's my life and it hurts.

CBC Unreserved, Sept. 25, 2016

(Vanessa Heins; design by Heather Collett)

Rupi Kaur

I had publishers and agents and people in my life that were like, "What are you doing? You know somebody's going to come along and they're going to replace you if you don't sign this book deal. There's going to be another young poet." All of these very negative and toxic ideas, they were putting them in my mind — not purposefully, but it's just the world we live in. That there's only space for one woman or a few women, and if you don't take up that space right now, there just won't be space for you. And I was like, "Wow this is this is insane." And it makes no sense because why does my lifespan for success have to be so short, whereas I see men and they're in their 70s and they're in their prime? I was like, "No, I need to take my time and I need to give myself space."

q, Nov. 27, 2017

JB the First Lady

​We were talking about how women of colour, especially from the Black and Indigenous communities, our stories are from pain, and I wanted to come through a different door of the house and showcase that we are allowed to be happy. To be in love and to feel sexy. And not to oversexualize myself, but to talk about feeling sexy and my sexual expression. Being connected to my femininity and my sexuality and my sexual expression is an act of resistance. Because we're not supposed to be here, on so many different levels, as Indigenous women.

CBC Music, Aug. 10, 2017

Anne Murray

​Because they don't have to balance it. They have a woman at home balancing it. But things are changing in that regard. My son, for instance, he does every bit as much parenting as his wife. And every bit as much cleaning, and every bit as much laundry. It's very fair, and it didn't used to be that way. So I'm liking what I see in all of this. 

CBC Music, June 20, 2017

Kelly Oxford

I didn't think anyone was going to respond. And then millions of people responded... You feel like the world is against you, but when you open up and you share with other people, and you realize that they're in the same boat as you, that's when it feels like maybe the world isn't against you after all. 

q, May 2, 2017

Compiled by Jennifer Van Evra and Jesse Kinos-Goodin. Have a favourite quote you would like to share? Add it to the comments below.


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