Today is International Women’s Day. Have you checked out the hashtag? Follow #IWD2015 on Twitter and you will find an immense amount of online material that promotes and celebrates women’s achievements today, as well as clearly outlining the many challenges we have ahead of us. From the Cabinet Office to the UN and from Red Magazine to the He for She Campaign, Twitter is alive with articles that are inspiring and motivational.
But, I’m a little overwhelmed. The sun is shining and there are events taking place all over London to mark this one day in the calendar year focusing on women’s rights and women’s fights. I should go! I should be there! But there’s so much I want to read about, so much more knowledge I want to gain and so much I want to write about. I don’t feel equipped to discuss this subject in the way that I want to. I should stay here and read! I should learn!
There’s so much to take in that I’m not sure what to read or where to go or how best to contribute to this world movement. I want to read it all, I want to do it all, I want to learn more and gain more and then I want to talk more. I’m sat in the sun trap in my living room, drinking tea and scrolling through Twitter when I realise that somewhere between retweeting and blogging, I am contributing. This little corner of the internet is my contribution. Sure, it’s not big. It’s not necessarily new or helpful, but if you have visited my blog on International Women’s Day you will see that I’m talking about it, that it matters to me. I figure that the more people who write about it, photograph it and talk about it, the more people will realise that this day matters. Over time, it won’t be just a day that matters, it will be a change that happens and a culture that exists.
Malala Yousefzi is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is a Pakistani activist for female education and I first discovered her a couple of years ago during an interview on Radio 4. I listened to her story, hearing her talk about being shot on a school bus, and I couldn’t quite comprehend the life she had experienced. In 2013 Time Magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She’s 17. She’s incredible.
Emma Watson, obviously best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, was appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. People all over the world talk about ‘that speech’ and her role as a vocal feminist in Hollywood, and I have to admit that I find her totally fascinating. She spoke about being called ‘bossy’ as a child and realising (at the age of eight, none the less) that nobody called the boys such a thing.
I too was labelled a bossy child and hated it, but I never thought for one moment that it was because I was a girl. I thought it was because I was doing something wrong. More recently, I told my Nan that my boyfriend does all the cooking in our house. He’s better at it and he enjoys it, whereas it bores (and stresses) me to tears so it seems like a no-brainer. She was shocked and appalled and, after warning me that he will leave me if I don’t change this routine, she looked at me and said, “Well I certainly hope you do all the ironing.” I don’t. We, like many people these days, iron as and when we need to and the clothes that need ironing rarely get worn.
My Nan’s comment has made me laugh and I’ve told this story many times. People enjoy it because it shows us how much as changed in the last fifty years. I haven’t challenged my Nan because, as they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe that’s true, but today I want to try. I want to ask my Nan, “why should I do the cooking?” and when the inevitable answer of “because you’re the woman” comes out of her mouth, I want to challenge her. Softly of course, she’s 87 and doesn’t deserve me ranting at her. She does, however, deserve to know that she now lives in a society that is different to the one she grew up in. I want her to understand women in 2015 and I want her to be proud of what I do do, not ashamed of what I don’t do. When I’m 87, I hope young women will help me to understand the world I’m living in so I know how far we’ve come.
If the bigger picture seems a bit too overwhelming for you on this Sunday 08 March then, if nothing else, I like the idea of using today to appreciate the women in your life and the men that support the progress of women. There are many women in my life who fight for equality and who fight for the policies and processes needed to enable equality. I like that I am surrounded by these strong women at work and at home; it keeps me focused and keeps me fighting.