Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day to celebrate, according to the IWD website https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About, ‘the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.’ As the day draws to a close, I have to admit that I am a little ambivalent about what progress has really been made with regards to gender equality…and in fact ‘gender everything’ ever since the modern revolution of women’s rights started back in the 1900s. This question weighs heavily on my mind not just today, though I can’t say it does so every day either, but often enough for me to be compelled to blog about it on our special day, when all I really should be doing is catching up on some sleep!
Theoretically a woman like me – aged 44, with a privileged upbringing as my niece-in-law described it over the last family weekend (and not privileged as in ‘moneyed’ either, much more and pricelessly so), with my own family albeit not in the conventional, ‘married-with-2.4-white picket fence’ sense, with parents still alive and fighting fit, in a profession with the perfect balance of job satisfaction and challenges that stretch the intellect, able to make time to get my hustle on and tick off my bucket list – should be patting herself on the back with all her female relatives and friends in the same boat, or thereabouts, about how good we have it.
This past month alone though, I found myself wondering why I was the only woman in not an insignificant number of meetings of late; why at several high profile celebrity events, all the noise and hype was around male achievement when there were some ground-breaking contributions by women in the same time period; why in 2017, a young man in Australia feels it’s reasonable to imprison a woman for nearly 2 months subjecting her to what appears to be a brutalizing regime of rape and beatings (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/08/uk-backpacker-raped-held-captive-australia-out-of-hospital); why the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland cannot just admit to its appalling and inhumane treatment of young mothers and their children and allow their souls to rest in peace (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/07/catholic-church-children-buried-at-tuam-ireland); and why a father is more insulted by his daughter’s murderous breakdown as a result of sexual exploitation, than by the fact that it was his own friend who subjected the daughter to such, with intentions of moving on to his other daughter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37683927) . And I wonder about the multiplication factor that would be applied to all of these incidences, because they are not isolated by any means.
As each year passes, and more so this year, I cannot help but think of the millions of women all over the world whose lives do not reach their full potential whether it’s personally, for their families or their communities, simply because the laws governing their locality say that they are not worthy. I think of the hundreds of thousands of women who go missing every year into black holes of sexual and other forms of slavery. I think of those who are disowned by those endowed with the title of ‘family’ simply because they do not conform to the rules of their society that are designed to suppress their very essence, their womanhood. I think of those women in areas of conflict – including the conflicts we don’t hear about – who cannot be the mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, wives, girlfriends and comforters that they are meant to be and just want to be. It is mind-boggling to me that the men and other women who subjugate women like this, do mankind an indescribable disservice. Without mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, wives and girlfriends who are valued in the true sense of the word, society will eventually cease to function. This is not to proclaim superiority over men – but God did not create man alone.
Whenever I get around to reading historical accounts of women in society I often wonder where it all went wrong. The tales of ancient and some recent civilizations indicate that women at one point, long long ago, had a much higher standing in society. Then for reasons outside the scope of a late night blog like this, it slowly but surely fell apart. Fell so far apart that at the core of it, when all the glitter and glitz and gloss is peeled back, when you delve into the psyche of society, I must ask, is womanhood in 2017 any different from what it was in 1720? If one were to plot some extrapolation of gender progress over time and do some mathematical corrections that take into account changes in the key societal factors which are converted into some numerical value, would we see an exponential or even at least a linear growth in women’s standing in society? I suspect it will be far from either.
Perhaps what is the more important driving factor for gender equality is not how society defines us, but how we as women define ourselves. We now have a voice that most but not all choose to listen to, and we are using that voice now more than ever before. Already this year, women around the world, many who didn’t really need to, marched in their millions against a misogynistic President – not that he is the only one of his kind mind you. With that voice we are redefining ourselves, or actually, let me phrase that correctly, reclaiming our original and intended definition of ourselves, with the intention of marching forward, side-by-side with men, in all our womanly glory.