Feminism Lifestyle

Women Who Inspire Me #1: Joan Didion

Women Who Inspire Me

This is a new blog series that I’m going to be undertaking. And the title is fairly self-explanatory: women who inspire me. My best friend mentioned that she thought it would be a fascinating and somewhat useful read to hear about the women in my life that I look up to.

And I agreed with her.

I’m going to use this series as a platform to talk about who and why these fantastic women inspired me as a child, a teenager, or continue to inspire me to this day. It’ll be a bi-weekly series and hopefully it will introduce you to some fantastic new women, and help you think about who your own influences are. 

It was hard to know where to start. My gut kept saying to start with my mom, who is definitely an inspiration, but I wanted to avoid a cliche. So don’t worry mom, you’ll be on here soon.

I’m going to start off this new series with the incredible Joan Didion. 

Joan Didion

For those of you who don’t know her, Joan Didion is an American journalist and writer who got her big break writing for Vogue and then documenting the underbelly of the free-love movement in California in the 60s (Slouching Towards Bethlehem). 

It doesn’t hurt that Didion always seemed unbearably cool. I love this quote from Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic: “Women who encountered Joan Didion when they were young received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem was our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

I first encountered Didion in a Spanish class in high school. We read her book-length essay “Salvador” in Spanish and I loved it. It documented her time in El Salvador at the height of their civil war. There weren’t many female writers out there who were doing what she was doing. After that, it cinched it. I was a girl obsessed. (At university, I studied International Studies with a focus on conflict and security in Latin America so Latin American politics were a surefire to pique my interest.) 

I love Didion because she is a phenomenal writer. I love her because she was one of the trailblazing female journalists for those wanting to cover stories that were traditionally “unfeminine” (war, politics, drugs, etc). I love her for being sharp and incisive. But she’s probably most famous to the general public for her book “The Year of Magical Thinking” that dealt with her grief after unexpectedly losing her husband (she later then lost her grown daughter in a 18 month period of time). But whilst she’s a very serious author, she can also be hilarious. Case in point: 

It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.
From “On Self-Respect” for Vogue

Whilst I can never get fully on board with all of Joan Didion’s beliefs (especially her political ones) she is still talented, brave, stylish and unabashedly herself. So here’s to you Joan Didion, who inspired countless women to sip their own glasses of whisky whilst at their typewriters. 

I especially recommend reading some Didion if you were a fan of Emma Cline’s “The Girls“. 

There’s currently a documentary about her on Netflix called “The Center Will Not Hold” that I highly recommend. 

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