Anya Thakur is a UN Women advocate, teen celebrity journalist in the Los Angeles Times and Medium Women’s Voices Editor.
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Model Gigi Hadid has frequently broken the mold. Representing Reebok Women, such as on recent images she shared outfitted in gloves and sportswear pictured in a boxing ring and poised to punch while her hair is plastered to her forehead with sweat, presents a marked change from her usual red carpet looks. Bare-faced and taking a bold, athletic stance, she shows a different side of herself, and how she believes in self defense and duality and diversity in the portrayal of women.
Previously, a fan grabbed and attempted to lift Hadid as a prank, who reacted with self defense tactics and was able to break free. She received criticism for not displaying “model behavior” at the time.
But she responded by advocating for her rights to protect herself from a potential threat at a time when no else intervened to defend her and the need to empower and encourage girls to stand up for themselves rather than silence or shame then.
“The first article that was posted about the incident was headlined: ‘Not model behavior. Gigi aggressively lashes out and elbows fan in the face after he tries to pick her up. The supermodel angrily hit an unknown man before running to her car.’ That’s when I really got pissed,” Hadid said. “First of all, it was a woman who wrote the story with that headline. What would you tell your daughter to do? If my behavior isn’t model behavior, then what is? What would you have told your daughter to do in that situation?”
Princesses can be warriors, too
And actress and activist Emma Watson is likewise unafraid to show women and girls they can be both strong and feminine. Watson took self defense classes with Lina Khalifeh of SheFighter, the first self defense studio for women in the Middle East, and lauded and conferenced with Khalifeh, along with eight other activists, on challenging gender stereotypes at the One Young World Ottawa conference.
Discussing playing heroine Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, she shared how her view of the character had evolved through being cast in the role.
“Girls are told to be the delicate princess,” Watson said. “Hermione showed them they can be the warrior.”
Following in their footsteps
On a trip to India this summer to further the work of ShePower, a global organization I founded in partnership with MetoWe to empower and uplift women and girls, I viewed the opportunity to connect with my culture as an extension of my women’s empowerment work as a UN Women advocate and the president of GirlUp Dallas and to further UN Women’s mission to ensure a fair and equitable future for all.
Through empowerment and self defense workshops for girls in underserved communities in parts of rural India, promoting safety and encouraging women in Coimbatore to drive their cars or motorbikes independently, wear helmets on motorcycles for safety which is typically only done by the man seated in front, and take charge of their lives, and disseminating women’s health information and destigmatizing periods, I worked to better the lives of women globally.
Ready for anything now
And with Shefighter’s Lina Khalifeh as my guide, we worked to help each girl and every child unlock their fullest potential.