Crossposted at Of Means and Ends.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is featuring a set of feminist trading cards from the late 70s called Supersisters that were designed to spread feminism to a younger generation.
Published in 1979, the Supersisters trading cards were a playful, informative, and accessible way to spread feminism to younger audiences. The series was inspired by Lois Rich’s daughter, an eight-year-old baseball-card collector, who asked why there weren’t any pictures of girls on the cards. With a grant from the New York State Education Department, Lois Rich and her sister, Barbara Egerman, contacted five hundred women of achievement and created cards of the first seventy-two to respond.
The sets featured artists, politicians, athletes, activists and more, and more than ten thousand sets were sold.
Some Twitter conversation earlier in the week got me thinking about what a modern-day set of these cards would look like, and my mind has been spinning with ideas ever since.
While a lot has changed since 1979, women still face institutional sexism, harassment, rape culture, and many other scourges we’re all aware of. There’s still a pressing need for role models that inspire young women and show them what’s possible.
I could go on for days with ideas, and a short list leaves many blind spots, but I’m going to start with ten and I hope you will add more in the comments.
- Barbara Lee. Once a young single mother receiving public assistance while returning to college, Lee has represented the the 13th congressional district of California for the past 16 years. She was the sole member of Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, a position that proved prescient. Her leadership is so admired here in her district that people put “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me” bumper stickers on their cars.
- Michelle Alexander. One of the most compelling books I’ve read recently, Alexander’s The New Jim Crow lays out the case that the war on drugs has created a new system of racial segregation and her arguments have inspired activists to take on our mass incarceration epidemic.
- Amy Poehler. Not only is she a living rebuttal to the tired argument that women aren’t funny. She’s also lent her celebrity to such causes as building young women’s self confidence, domestic workers’ rights, and fighting rape culture.
- Melissa Harris-Perry. Just watch scholar and MSNBC host Harris-Perry’s amazing conversation with feminist icon bell hooks at the New School.
- Maria Bamford. Bamford shares her personal experiences through quirky comedy that helps remove the stigma from mental illness. Also, I had tears coming out of my eyes from laughing so hard when I saw her perform live.
- Ai-jen Poo. As Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Poo helped pass the nation’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.
- Laverne Cox. Actress and advocate Laverne Cox came into the spotlight through her role on Orange is the New Black. She uses her platform to advocate for transgender rights, including fighting for CeCe McDonald, who was sentenced to a long prison sentence for defending herself against a racist, transphobic attack.
- Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor went from growing up in a Bronx housing project to being the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. She made a strong case that a Latina would have a unique perspective to bring to the law, and has vigorously argued in key women’s rights cases such as the recent Hobby Lobby case to deny contraceptive coverage based on a corporation’s religious preference.
- Rebecca Solnit. Solnit writes eloquently about social change and justice, including the fascinating A Paradise Built in Hell about communities coming together in the most difficult of circumstances and Infinite City, a unique atlas that captures the San Francisco Bay Area from military-industrial-ties to queer history sites and more.
- Jessica Valenti. Writer and activist Valenti founded Feministing.com ten years ago, a blog that has brought accessible, intersectional feminism to millions of readers and raised awareness about critical women’s rights issues.
Now it’s your turn: what people would you put on a new set of feminist trading cards? Share your ideas in the comments so we can go into the weekend inspired to learn more about some amazing leaders.