The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. During my time in Russia, it was a time of year when all of the men and most women celebrated the ladies in their lives. Men showered women with flowers and raised their glasses to toast the fabulousness that is women. Women, much like every other day, celebrated and supported one another, but with just a bit more sense of sisterhood and infinitely more booze.
As a woman and as a feminist, I’d rather not just have one day when the work, worth, beauty and burdens faced by all women are given the spotlight. I’d rather we applaud ourselves and are celebrated every day. I’d rather we were equally rewarded, equally valued and equally represented in all aspects of life and in every corner. I’d rather we worked towards righting the injustices and eliminating the gender-specific barriers which make life more difficult for women every single day until they were a distant memory.
Still, the fact that I’m admittedly privileged is not lost on me—my husband is a feminist (and at times more so than I am!), I live in a society which places great value on the work of women domestically and beyond the home and I am afforded specific protections which prohibit discrimination against me based solely on my private parts. These are all great things, and for them I am grateful.
That isn’t the case for all women. Far, far too many women. And, not just those who live in lesser developed places, but also women who live in my own society. Whether it is allowing women and girls to attend school, work outside the home, drive, vote, voice their opinions, marry whom they love / wish, choose when and under what conditions to have children or when and with whom to have sex, every day should be an opportunity to make gender equity and justice a reality. For all women. Because all women are of value. All women are beautiful. And, all women should be celebrated. In all our diversity.
On this International Women’s Day, the words of the brilliant Maya Angelou come to mind. Whilst recognising and grieving for the difficulties and outright horrific conditions in which some women are forced to live, I am mindful today (and everyday) of just how amazing women are. Here’s to all of the truly phenomenal women in the world, particularly those who have enriched my life so, so much.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s sizeBut when I start to tell them,They think I’m telling lies.I say,It’s in the reach of my arms,The span of my hips,The stride of my step,The curl of my lips.I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.I walk into a roomJust as cool as you please,And to a man,The fellows stand orFall down on their knees.Then they swarm around me,A hive of honey bees.I say,It’s the fire in my eyes,And the flash of my teeth,The swing in my waist,And the joy in my feet.I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.Men themselves have wonderedWhat they see in me.They try so muchBut they can’t touchMy inner mystery.When I try to show them,They say they still can’t see.I say,It’s in the arch of my back,The sun of my smile,The ride of my breasts,The grace of my style.I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.Now you understandJust why my head’s not bowed.I don’t shout or jump aboutOr have to talk real loud.When you see me passing,It ought to make you proud.I say,It’s in the click of my heels,The bend of my hair,the palm of my hand,The need for my care.’Cause I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.
Maya Angelou, ‘Phenomenal Woman’ from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.