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On 8 March, thousands of events will be held across the world to help inspire women and celebrate their achievements. International Women’s Day has been held on the same date since 1913, the year that Emily Davison attempted to throw a ‘Votes for Women’ banner over the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Since then much has changed, and for many the focus has moved away from the negatives, instead honouring the positive achievements of women around the world – women like Major Priscilla Azevedo, who graces our cover and is interviewed by Bruce Douglas in this issue.
A few months ago a seven-year old girl became a surprise viral hit on the Internet with her letter to the executives at Lego. In her letter, Charlotte Benjamin berated the toy manufacturers for promoting outdated gender stereotypes: in her words, “all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and had no jobs,” while the boys “went on adventures, worked, saved people… even swam with sharks”. Emily Davison never experienced the Internet, and she wouldn’t have known what Lego was – but Charlotte’s complaint would have sounded all too familiar.
This Women’s Issue of Litro may be themed ‘The Fairer Sex’, but the women portrayed here do a lot more than “sit at home, go to the beach, and shop.” In Vanessa Veselka’s Just Before Elena the narrator is desperately coming to terms with impending motherhood, an emotional journey that has her finding religion on the back of a taco truck. Maia Jenkins – winner of this year’s GQ Norman Mailer Student Writing Prize – glances back at her own childhood, and the biology classes that defined her early relationships with boys. Then Erica Plouffe Lazure’s The Silent P takes a humorous glance at the battle between the sexes via a chance encounter outside the Men’s Room.
It’s in Bruce Douglas’s Pacification and its Discontents that we see how far modern women have come, as he interviews Major Priscilla Azevedo, the commander of Rio de Janeiro’s first Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) and the first Brazilian to win an International Women of Courage Award. Denise Muir explores the sexual politics of Barbie dolls in her translation of Mari Accardi’s The Grass is Even Greener… (L’erba del vicino), then Sonia Lambert takes us back to the Suffragette struggles with Smashing, set during the controversial window-smashing campaign of 1912. Finally, we chat to Louise Welsh, author of The Cutting Room and A Lovely Way to Burn, about strong female characters and the dominance of women in the crime genre.
Emily Davison might not recognise the housewives and princesses in the Lego catalogues, but I like to think that she’d feel a comradeship with the many of the women depicted between these pages – including Major Priscilla Azevedo herself. After all, they swim with sharks.