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Girl Smarts: Why 'badass with a heart' is Women's Health's new motto

During a debate on the House floor in September, an 84-year-old male representative called a 51-year-old female rep a "young lady" who "doesn't know a damn thing."

Pramila Jayapal, the congresswoman, asked for his words to be stricken from the record, and she later told Vice, "There are lots of ways to compliment women of intelligence and substance, and calling them 'young lady' is not one of them."

When I tweeted this quote, most comments were of the "go, girl!" variety. But some suggested the congresswoman should "take the compliment" and that a 51-year-old woman being called a "young lady" was not condescending or sexist, but flattering.

Politics aside, it got me thinking about compliments. And how, historically, women have been lauded not so much for their actions or their character as for their youth and looks. It has become so ingrained in our culture, this way women are viewed, it even plays out literally.

To wit: In the world of "stock photos"—pictures that publications purchase to illustrate stories—the most-used images in the recent past depicted women half-naked, vulnerable, precious. According to a New York Times article, the top-selling pic of a woman from stock agency Getty Images in 2007 was a model half-naked on a bed, gazing sweetly at the camera; in 2008, her eyes are sensually closed as her shiny, perfect hair cascades down her bare back.

And then, finally, change. In 2017, the top "woman" shot is from far away, her face not visible as she hikes rocky cliffs. She's not precious or vulnerable. She's fully clothed. And it's a beautiful thing.

Which brings me back to compliments. This 2017 photo and Jayapal's actions embody what I consider the ultimate praise for a woman today: being a badass. Being honest, open, and passionate, and pushing ahead—despite the risks or potential for failure—because it's simply the most authentic thing for you to do.

There are so many ways to be a badass, and at WH, we celebrate these women in all their many forms. In just our November, I counted at minimum seven certified badasses—including our cover star, Krysten Ritter!

Whether their badassery is physical, emotional, or mental, there's one through-line for these women: They do it with heart. They do it not just for themselves, but others too. Being a modern badass isn't about being a bully, or being aggressive, or being of the "you can't sit with us" mentality. Exactly the opposite. At WH, our aim is to inspire and provide you with the tools to live your life as the most badass of badasses—a badass with a heart. It's our new motto, and it's even got its own emoji expression: \uD83D\uDC4A❤️

And, finally, to Congresswoman Jayapal, we'd like to give you an actual compliment: You're a real badass.

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