Women’s Day 2017…or is it 1720?

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.

IWD Logo for blog

 

‘A divine time to be a woman…’

So about 6 weeks ago, I took one of my regular ‘time outs’ – where I am out of the office not to go on vacay, but to just have a ‘normal life’ as I see it: unrushed breakfast with my household, nice calm mid-morning nursery run (oh yeah, the child still goes to nursery), read, cook dinner in more than 30 minutes and generally sort my life out. I also like to do quaint things like read a real live newspaper and listen to the radio: and it was from these 2 media that I got the idea of this my well overdue latest blog.

 

Article after article and radio segment after radio segment in one way or another just lamented about what a state woman were in today. One London radio station spent 40 minutes debating on how girls were apparently getting meaner. A weekly tabloid mag’s leading story was on the extent of cellulite on the thighs of 3 leading female celebrities. Another apparently newsworthy story was about how working mothers were putting their children’s health at risk: as they didn’t have time to cook nutritious meals for their kids they gave them more junk food instead. The other working women with no kids were just as dangerous simply because they had no kids, and worse, no hope of having kids as they had no man, so really what purpose did they serve? This onslaught on females was global: a story on the Nehanda Radio website, an online Zimbabwean radio station and webpage, which sparked debate on one of my current favourite sites ‘Her Zimbabwe’ (http://www.herzimbabwe.co.zw) was about an elected Zimbabwean Senator who essentially blamed the AIDs epidemic in that country on women – because they were becoming too attractive. So if women all shaved their hair, lost weight and dressed shabbily, basically no man would sleep with them and this alone would curb the spread of the virus. Furthermore these women should be circumcised – and I refuse to share his reasoning for this here as it is just too stupid for me to repeat – read it here for yourself (http://www.nehandaradio.com May 12, 2012). If I had had another week, I am sure I would have found more evidence for why we were such pathetic, mean, hapless harlots.

What was remarkable, and in some ways pleasantly surprising was the reaction that these stories evoked in me and the significant majority of the individuals who took part in the ensuing debates on these stories. Girls getting meaner? Heck, girls have always been mean to each other  – just as boys are mean to other boys. Just because we are females doesn’t mean we are all always going to be nice! At one point or another we were all either the victim of mean girls or had been girls ourselves. I remember being both; but get this, it was other girls that were my saving grace from both situations.

Working mothers not feeding their children properly? Well most working mothers are pretty smart and can cook and have freezers and so can batch cook nutritious meals to freeze and last a week. They work because most had a career they enjoyed before the kids came and they continue to work both out of enjoyment and necessity. They also work so that their kids can have an overall good quality of life and learn that you don’t get stuff from doing nothing.

And oh the horrors of childless, single 30-40 something women. Actually, many women are making a choice not to have children as they are far too busy having a life – and one that is not just centred on a career. Our generation were raised to take it one step further than our mothers did  – educate ourselves to the hilt and become self-sufficient. With that comes a certain element of freedom that includes not having to be limited by having children. I say this as a proud mother, who cherishes her child and takes her role of Yummy Mummy seriously, but I am well aware of the things I have sacrificed – temporarily I may add – to raise another human being. Many of these childless women are in happy marriages/partnerships and see no need to alter the dynamics with the pitter patter of little feet.

And for those women that choose not to have a husband/significant other, or have let go of the one they had, life could not be sweeter. First of all, whilst marriage can be a wonderful union, increasingly many now care less if someone has decided to partake in that union or not. As we mature, it is clear that the important thing is to have a relationship that is functional and makes one happy however that union is presented. For many women, who have relinquished their hitched status it’s all about having a second wind – having been there, done that and worn the apron, there is no need to go round that block again.  Women are now freer than ever before to find their functional happy union (FHU) in more ways than one. They can forge these FHUs off-line if they are ‘old-fashioned’ or on-line if they are into ‘modern love’. They are more confident to break the ties when ‘it just ain’t happening’ with no fears of not finding another. And if they don’t find another, who cares, as the commitment of a FHU can be at whatever level they choose – see the rise of the ‘sex buddy’ phenomenon – self explanatory – amongst perfectly well adjusted happy and single women.

 So the days of lamenting over the sorry state of women are rapidly fading away, because we are far from being in such a state. We have a new found freedom and a plethora of opportunities  – clearly more than I have alluded to here. We can only but thank our mothers and grandmothers and ancestors before, whom through divine guidance from our Creator have got us to where we are today. May we take up the gauntlet to share and positively exploit this mindset with the countless other women who are yet to experience this joy, to generations that will follow, and of course to our wonderful, beautiful partners in crime, our men!