25 Famous Women on Resilience and Rebellion

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As America continues to follow the plot of a young-adult dystopian novel, the only logical thing to do to process the reality of a Trump presidency is pull a Katniss and rebel — or go through the stages of grief and to try to find acceptance at the end of a bleak tunnel. Below, read on for advice from activists and leaders who’ve faced down hard times. Women like Emmeline Pankhurst, Maya Angelou, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talk about how to deal with terrible situations and what resilience and rebellion mean to them.

Michelle Obama

“When someone is cruel, or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level — no, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.” —DNC speech, July 2016

Hillary Clinton

“Do what is necessary to be resilient. Life is full of disappointments. I respect anyone who is knocked down and gets back up.” —ABC, June 2014

Emmeline Pankhurst

“Not by the forces of civil war can you govern the very weakest woman. You can kill that woman, but she escapes you then; you cannot govern her. No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent.” —“Freedom or Death,” November 1913

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

“I got some questions from people, like if everything is so bad as you’re describing right now, why are you so happy? I’m happy just because I don’t want them to steal my life, I don’t want them to steal my happiness and joy. Just take back your joy. And fight back.” —the New York Times, October 2016

Joan Jett

“Other people will call me a rebel, but I just feel like I’m living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you’re a woman. A guy knowing what he wants is a leader. A woman knows what she wants, and she’s a bitch.” —Reuters, March 2010

Marjane Satrapi

“I don’t think of myself as a rebel; I just say what I think.” —ABC News, February 2008

Jane Fonda

“It’s called resilience. And it’s a very mysterious thing. When I was first starting out, I’d go to auditions, and I knew so many of the gals. Half of them were far more beautiful than me, and the other half were far more talented, but none of those women made it. I’d wonder, Why did it happen for me and not them? Now I think it had to do with that core resilience. I was born that way, and they just weren’t. On my bad days I say to myself, ‘Fonda, you’re resilient, and you’ve never stopped trying to get better.’ That’s my mantra, and it’s saved me many, many times.” —W magazine, May 2015

Amy Tan

“I have survivor skills. Some of that is superficial — what I present to people outwardly — but what makes people resilient is the ability to find humor and irony in situations that would otherwise overpower you.” —The Telegraph, November 2013

Kim Gordon

“Women make natural anarchists and revolutionaries, because they’ve always been second-class citizens, kinda having had to claw their way up. I mean, who made up all the rules in the culture? Men — white, male, corporate society. So why wouldn’t a woman want to rebel against that?” —Elle, April 2013

bell hooks

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

Maya Angelou

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.” —Letter to My Daughter, October 2009

Yoko Ono

“Have you ever thought that maybe women are much more evolved and resilient than men as people?” —her Twitter, November 2016

Grace Lee Boggs

“A rebellion is something that is developing as an explosion coming out of the righteous grievances of a community of people.” —Democracy Now, June 2015

Cheryl Strayed

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” —Dear Sugar, February 2011

Patti Smith

“Some of us are born rebellious. Like Jean Genet or Arthur Rimbaud, I roam these mean streets like a villain, a vagabond, an outcast, scavenging for the scraps that may perchance plummet off humanity’s dirty plates, though often sometimes taking a cab to a restaurant is more convenient.”

Amy Poehler

“I see life as like being attacked by a bear. You can run, you can pretend to be dead, or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy.” —The Guardian, July 2015

Mary Karr

Have you learned anything from the kinds of stories that strangers tell you?

“Mostly, I learn about how resilient we are. The world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild.” —The New York Times, November 2015

Janet Mock

“My grandmother and my two aunts were an exhibition in resilience and resourcefulness and black womanhood. They rarely talked about the unfairness of the world with the words that I use now with my social-justice friends, words like “intersectionality” and “equality,” “oppression,” and “discrimination.” They didn’t discuss those things because they were too busy living it, navigating it, surviving it.” —Redefining Realness, February 2014

Audre Lorde

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” —A Burst of Light: Essays, 1988

Elizabeth Gilbert

“Well, I mean, I do think this is a very clear thing. Terrified people make terrible decisions. Terror and fear make you irresponsible. They make you not think very clearly, right? And they make you willing to do almost anything to get rid of that awful feeling … we’ve seen politicians who find ways to exploit terror and fear in order to get short-term power or sometimes long-term power. Because if you can figure out how to hold the reins of other people’s fear, then you can control them for a while. And so one of the very most powerful ways to not end up being controlled by that is to remain more curious than you are afraid. I think any time in the community that there’s anybody who’s keeping their head, I think it’s a benefit to everyone around them. I think everything is contagious. Our fear is contagious, but our courage also is. And our courage makes other people be able to be more brave, and come out of their houses, and come out of their shells, and out of their fear.” —On Being with Krista Tippett, July 2016

Yuri Kochiyama

“People have a right to violence, to rebel, to fight back.” —The New York Times, September 1996

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“I am a strong believer in the ability of human beings to change for the better. I am a strong believer in trying to change what we are dissatisfied with.” —Interview magazine, May 2013

Nina Simone

“Bad times, but I wasn’t unhappy … What kept me sane was knowing that things would change, and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did.” —I Put a Spell on You, 1992

Rosa Parks

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation, February 2000

Malala Yousafzai

“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.” —The Huffington Post, September 2013

25 Famous Women on Resilience and Rebellion