The most powerful women of 2011

This year darkness has hit me in the face more harshly than ever before. I’ve been feeling unenergetic, like I can’t get anything done, that the only thing I do is move around aimlessly in darkness.

Of course it’s not true: there are many things happening in my life that require a lot of energy and focus, but somehow the darkness has a creepy way of undermining everything and making me forget the things I do.

I was looking at the list of 45 most powerful images of 2011. I have no idea who has collected the list and with what criteria, was too lazy to do the background research. Based on what I’ve seen and read on social media, the photos have a strong Anglo-American emphasis. I’ve read some criticism towards the choice of photos, not so much the photos themselves.

Interestingly, I don’t really see politics, I see people. I hear their stories, I relate to their losses and grief and most importantly, I think the messages of the photos are universal despite the clear Western emphasis of the selection.

Photos lingering on my mind are the following (you need to check the list as I did not want to copy photos here without a permission):

  • no. 44: Chinese bride hanging out the window in her wedding gown
  • no. 43: woman hanging onto a street sign in flooded Bangkok
  • no. 7: protester getting pepper-sprayed right in her face.

Being a visual thinker, I started analyzing why these photos seemed so powerful to me. There were many others that moved me, but as I was thinking about the whole set, these three surfaced.

Do they have something in common?

The photos are all about people, and more specifically, about women. Something major is happening in their lives right that moment: one has tried to commit suicide, one has perhaps lost a home, one is getting violently attacked by the police.

All three women are holding on to something: one to her pride, the other two more physically – one to the street sign, one to her fellow protesters.

There’s movement in each of the photos. You can almost feel it: the limp and hopeless bride being pulled back in, water flooding past the lady who’s perhaps just taking a break from swimming, nasty pepper-spray flying right to the eyes of the protester in an otherwise static situation – no one is moving, both protesters and police are holding their positions.

I don’t believe the situations the women are facing are final. I believe they will all survive and be stronger afterwards.

I admire each of the women. The young protester reminds me of some of the student politicians I’ve met through the years. Very brave, not afraid to face whomever is on the other side, standing by their beliefs. I wish I was more like that. The woman in the middle of the flood reminds me of remaining calm in a time of crisis. To me, she does not look hopeless and sad at all, quite the contrary. I wish I could face major setbacks in life with serenity and calmness.

And then there’s the bride. In a way, she has made her own decision after her fiance dumped her on the altar. I respect that as it requires a lot of courage. I wish I had more courage. On the other hand, she may have been forced to take the leap because the shame is simply unbearable. As shame always comes from the surrounding society, maybe it wasn’t her own decision after all. However, the message I see in this photo is a positive one and it’s coming from the society: there is no need to kill yourself, we will lift you up and you can continue your life with a different plan.

So, to sum up the messages of these three, very powerful photos: whatever happens in life, take it with calm and cool. Be courageous even though you’re afraid. Remember that you don’t have to make it on your own. If you let them, people will help you.

♣ In the meantime: Finland is electing a new president for the nation next year. Panel discussions are on TV on a weekly basis. I think you just choose the candidate who shares your values. Politics is always about values.

♥ Song of the day: Sting, The Pirate’s bride

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