“I am sure he said to himself, ‘Watch me make them scamper,’” she said. She stood her ground as the aircraft came close. “I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.” –Amelia Earhart
Eighty-six years ago on a May 20-21 1927 a young pilot made the first solo transatlantic and first non-stop fixed-wing aircraft flight between America and mainland Europe. The Ryan monoplane aircraft named, Spirit of St. Louis, carried Charles A. Lindbergh 3,600 nautical miles from Roosevelt Field, New York to Paris–Le Bourget Airport, in 33 and a half hours. Five years later on May 20, 1932 another pilot made a solo transatlantic flight that spanned from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to a pasture at Culmore, north of Derry, Northern Ireland, that lasted 14 hours and 56 minutes.
Amelia Earhart had become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but with a pilot already crossing the Atlantic in a solo flight, why is it that we also make it a habit to celebrate the achievement of the female pilot? The short answer is because it is still necessary to recognize and show young women positive role models in a time and age where they are still not treated equally to men.
What Earhart accomplished in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5b inspired women all over the world to go out and achieve their goals. She made them feel as though they really could do anything if they put their minds in the right place and believed that they too, like their male counterparts, are human and are just as important.
Earhart didn’t just set numerous records as a pilot and write best-selling books about her flying experiences, she broke mental barriers and stimulated the brilliant minds of other women to also achieve something for themselves. Earhart was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots, and joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party, and was, of course, an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She made a difference then as a wonderful role model, but she is still needed now in an age where women are still not treated equally.
The majority of popular society depicts a degrading image of women who are less than their male counterparts, and certain well known entities continue to promote the damaging images in the media all over the world. Recently the usually heroic and confident Disney princess, Merida from the movie “Brave,” was altered to become a sexualized version of herself so that she could fit in with all of the other similar-looking Disney Princesses in sparkly dresses. With all sense of her character gone she has nothing left to help inspire the lives and minds of her young female fans.
“I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida,” wrote Merida’s creator Brenda Chapman to her local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal. “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good, but subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come-hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold,” she added. “To give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”
The sexualized version of the once inspirational heroine can still be bought by young and impressionable girls in the form of dolls, glittery tiaras and dresses among other things in stores everywhere. And it is just reinforcing the crippling societal belief that a woman is only worth something if she fits popular society’s thoughts on outward beauty.
In an age where thoughts about feminism (or those fighting for equality for everyone regardless of sex, gender, race or religion) are deemed as negative and unimportant, women of all ages will definitely need to reminded of their importance that they should be treated with equality just as members of the LGBTQ community, those of different beliefs, race and other minorities need to be encouraged and reminded. We highlight the stories of inspirational figures such as Amelia Earhart to remind everyone to rise above the hatred and the ignorance drowning the advancement of society in a sea of troubles, and to encourage everyone to move forward with their endeavors.