October 2016 issue editor's letter

Who better than Yuna to front our October 'empowerment' issue?

By Kate Guest | Published: 24 Sep 2016

Oct 2016 issue
Photo: ELLE Malaysia

When I was young my idea of a "strong woman" was a cartoon character pieced together by books and TV. She was a power suit-wearing man-hater who charged through life snarling at anyone who stood in her way. Always the witch, never the princess.

It didn't occur to me that I was surrounded by these monsters until adulthood. That's when I began to appreciate the strength of my mother, her three sisters and my grandmothers, all women who'd had their battles but still loved to laugh and did it well (although they sure knew how to snarl, too). Of course, since then I've met countless women who display strength in countless ways daily, but the "strong woman" tag remains problematic for me because all too often it's used to discourage qualities such as kindness or empathy. I think sometimes we mistake being a strong woman for being a bully. Kindness is a strength. Listening is a strength. Above all, supporting and promoting other women is a strength.

Women celebrating and encouraging other women is a basic but powerful concept that in recent years has been given the tag 'Shine Theory'. According to Shine Theory, we all benefit by empowering each other. (Last month, female staffers in Barack Obama's administration spoke publicly about using Shine Theory in the White House when men would talk over them or take credit for their ideas.) But should we support other women just because it will have benefits for ourselves, or should we do it because there are already enough barriers against female advancement without adding our own voices to the list?

We love thinking about things like this at ELLE, and so this month's issue is dedicated to female empowerment. I know it's a topic many of you identify with because the biggest stories ever published on were all by or about women making a stand, whether it was Rosheen Fatima fighting back against Ridhuan Tee's victim-blaming comments about rape in 2015, or Yuna standing up to misogynist online abuse earlier this year.

So there really could be no one else but Yuna for the cover. When we first featured her in May 2014 I remember feeling that she was on the verge of something big, so please indulge my smugness for a moment and let me say: I was right! Yuna has come so far, and it has been wondrous to watch (read Emma Chong Johnston's brilliant and emotional A Different Kind of Modern Woman on page 76 of the issue).

We meet more high-flyers in Game Changers on page 90, and illustrate them as superwomen (tongue most definitely in cheek). They plus the leaders in The New #Ladylike (page 70) brim with inspiration that I hope you'll remember on grey days. My own bit of empowering advice for those days, courtesy of the great Elizabeth Taylor, is old-fashioned but it works for me: "Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together." Time to power up.


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