How utterly brilliant was it to see all the posts across social media last week celebrating International Women’s Day? Aside from the few tools who asked when ‘International Men’s Day’ was going to be. Err…every other bloody day since the beginning of time. It’ll be the same bunch of crackpots who ask why we aren’t having a ‘Straight Pride’ celebration in August. It never ceases to amaze me how some people cannot fathom that it is the struggles that different groups of people have faced and overcome that warrant a celebration. Whenever I saw a new post, it prompted me to think about how far women have come, how far we have to go, and what I admire most about the women in my life. I managed to come up with quite the list! Historically speaking, women, their opinions and ideas have been dismissed as unimportant or inferior but changing times have seen a shift in attitudes. From Oprah’s recent ‘Time’s Up’ speech to Emma Watson questioning what her tits have to do with feminism; big-name, female powerhouses have inspired people of both sexes around the world.
As Oprah and I aren’t yet on what I would call friendship terms (although I’m sure we will be one day when she needs presidential advice), I looked quite a bit closer to home, to my immediate role model. My mum is what most people would call soft; she avoids conflict in the same way Donald Trump avoids Mexicans. We’re very different people, my mum is overly empathic and I…am not. This is a lady who wrote a book and donated all the proceeds to charity, rescues animals, and used to lose sleep worrying about the children she worked with. But whilst she’s soft in her nature, she’s probably one of the toughest people I know. Despite being a single mum at eighteen, she conquered parenting in a way that I can only dream of. In such a way, in fact, that when we had the ‘birds and the bees’ talk, I was astounded that I had a biological dad. I’d never once considered that in the five years we spent on our own that anything was missing at all. My mum’s strength isn’t about being a force to be reckoned with, but in the way she is sunnily optimistic, thoughtful and selfless, even when life hasn’t been a bed of roses.
Whilst I was pregnant, I bought a book entitled ‘How To Raise Strong Girls’ after watching a right bloody mess of a woman on Love Island who constantly cried when she didn’t get male attention. I have already mentioned that I’m not overly empathic, so yes, I looked at this woman with contempt. Sorry, Zara, but you put the fear of God into me. I wanted my daughter to be resilient, independent, and have the utmost self-respect; not to be a blubbering wreck over boys, so I read the whole thing from cover to cover in less than a day. It may have been a slight overreaction to map out eighteen years’ worth of parenting in one day, but pregnancy will make you do some strange things. As I finished the final chapter, I felt much more hopeful about shaping my daughter into a strong woman that don’t need no man.
As it turned out, the book didn’t offer a miracle solution of how to make sure your child didn’t turn out to be a wet blanket, always seeking validation from others through romantic escapades. It was mostly common sense and setting a good example. Maybe Zara made such a holy show of herself because she was from the disturbing world of beauty pageants where women are literally stamped with a mark out of ten for their aesthetic attributes. It’s no wonder the poor cow felt so insecure. Vanity is not a quality I would encourage anyone to nurture, the whole pageant thing gives me the creeps. No doubt that these women are pretty, but I wouldn’t want to take any of them on a night out. That could possibly be because I strongly suspect (and I could be stereotyping here) that they don’t have a brain cell or a decent bit of banter between them, they look pretty bloody boring to me. Not that I’m an expert only eighteen months in, but I’d say if you want to raise a strong woman, it’s probably best to swerve anything that makes her think her life should revolve around her makeup routine. Anyway, Zara gave me a comprehensive list of ways I should avoid acting, and I’ve spent enough energy dredging up those awkward memories of her for now.
To balance the scales from the uninspiring, superficial world of beauty, I should probably clarify some of the characteristics I do admire in women. I wouldn’t have to look much further than my immediate family and friends to see an abundance of these qualities. Some I know have been through terrible life-changing events, and still show compassion and understanding to others. They’ve laughed when they felt like crying. They’ve asked me how I am when I was not the priority because they are innately kind. I seem to have friends who are comfortable being bold and outspoken, and they can all hold their own in a debate. They are interesting and quick-witted, intelligent, adventurous, forgiving, modest and loyal. We all take risks, and they haven’t always paid off, but it’s true that the person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything. It doesn’t discourage any of us from trying again; if you want something, why shouldn’t you go all out to get it? Everybody I know has weaknesses. We know ours, and there’s a strength in that too. Recognising that you don’t have to be stoic about everything and to ask for someone’s help takes courage. I was exceptionally slow on the uptake to have this realisation, but now that I have, I have no idea why I was so determined to go it alone. We need each other. I don’t know a single woman (or man for that matter) in my life that hasn’t made a monumental cock-up of a situation, but it’s amazing what a few supporters in your corner can do when you’re at a low point. For all the tears we’ve cried together laughing, a few have been in sadness and it’s that humanity that connects us all.
One of the main emphasis in various recent speeches is of women standing together. Building each other up and offering support. Recognising that there is strength in numbers. Talking to each other. Feeling connected. From the early feminist movement, it’s apparent that without unity, our efforts are much less effective. One Suffragette would not have had the same impact on our voting rights as a group did. One person saying ‘me too’ would not have revealed the devastating extent of hidden sexual abuse. Good on these celebrities for using their platform to inspire the women around them, because we all need a pep talk from time to time to remind us that we are flipping fantastic, so don’t f**k with us. Women are beautiful beings (I wouldn’t say this about myself right now as I type this on my couch, rocking a homeless-chic look, but I’m generalising) but it really is what’s in our minds and that’s attractive, along with our determined attitudes and fierce personalities. Thank God it’s being recognised! We might be a few steps away from taking the world by storm at a Golden Globes ceremony, but all the ladies I’m surrounded by are making small ripples in the pond of life that show how phenomenal women can be.
P.S. Oprah, if you’re reading this, DM me for my number. #Oprah2020