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: β€œWomen 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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  • I came late to the work of Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking was recommended to me during a period of intense grief last year and it felt like a lifeline to me in many ways. I have since been working my way through the back catalogue and I have to agree – she is a very inspiring woman! X
    Sophie Cliff

    • She’s absolutely wonderful. I’m glad you found Didion when you did. Is there anything else of hers you particularly loved? x

  • This is going to be an amazing blog series!

  • Oh, I’m so so so excited for this series! There are so many women (mainly in the political sector) that have inspired me but I look forward to hearing about more women from you πŸ™‚

    • Who do you think your top 3 are Jordan? x

      • Ohhh this is hard! I’d say my top 2 are Angela Merkel and Condoleezza Rice. 3rd place is a hard one – there are a few up-and-coming women (in their 20s) in politics (junior House of Representatives or State Representatives) who should be interesting to watch in a few years!

        • You must be excited/nervous with everything that’s going on in Germany at the moment! X

          • Yes! Especially because my boyfriend worked on Merkel’s campaign earlier this year (and seeing how things are going, he might be working on the campaign again soon!). I’m also really, really curious about the 2020 election in the USA because there are no strong candidates (so far!) on either side and both parties need to go through major reforms (hopefully more new women!).

          • Both parties in America need to go through MASSIVE reforms but I’m afraid that they won’t. The inflexible thinking but party leadership is boggling. Personally I’d love to see the end of the two party system in America.

  • Uu, I love this post series already! I didn’t know all this about Joan Didion but she definitely sounds like an inspiring woman! Slouching towards Betlehem is on my reading list, but now I can’t wait to read it!

    Lii
    https://byliil.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks lovely! If you could name your top 5 inspirational women who would they be? X

      • Wow, that’s a hard question! Number 1 would be my mum always! πŸ˜€ And my best friend would come closely second. Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai are both inspiring and I could find several inspiring women from history books. At the moment I love Margaret Atwood’s writing, I like to follow how Jennifer Lawrence is speaking about providing a good example for young girls, Emma Watson for talking about equality and sustainability. Iris Apfel is very inspiring for her style and lack of care for what others think. So I guess there is many more than 5, but I rarely rank them, but rather just like get inspired by the vast amount of inspiring women who do inspiring things!!

  • I can’t wait to see the documentary on Netflix – I’m still not finished with The Year of Magical Thinking, but I absolutely love her writing.

    • She’s such a character. I also want her wardrobe but that’s besides the point πŸ˜‰ xx

  • I really like this new serie. This is very inspiring and so uplifting and I love women supporting each other.
    Lucie, xx

    http://thefrenchpier.blogspot.com/

  • Diana Maria

    I love the idea of this new series, I have one called Women We Love and talk about inspiring ladies too! Joan sounds amazing, female journalists and writers are very inspiring for me as I write on the side and have always dreamed of being a trailblazing female like this one day. She must be so strong to have gone what she has gone through. xx

    Sending light & love your way,

    My Lovelier Days

    • She always come across as the most incredible woman. And seems to keep a pretty dry sense of humour about it all. I’ll definitely need to have a back read of your series! X

  • This new series is perfect, and I’m excited for every single wonderful woman you feature!! Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  • I’ve never read anything by her, but now I have to! My goal was to read 12 books by women this year. I think I’ve only read 4 or 5, but my reading habits have fallen to the wayside and I need to pick them up again. I appreciate that you can enjoy her work even while not totally agreeing with her. I think we need more of this right now.

    • I definitely go out of my way to try to read books by female authors! Didion has a really interesting political past – she flip flopped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats quite a few times (I think she was even a Nixon supporter). Personally, her beliefs are fairly conservative compared to my own, but she’s a brilliant writer and definitely a female trailblazer! x