The concept of International Women's Day is one I love. For those who still aren't sure what it is, it is a day celebrating women's achievements of all types, and the day serves as a focal point for pushing for the women's rights and equality. Whatever the state of the world and gender equality has been in the past, whatever improvements are made there is still gender inequality in various parts of our lives. From the inequality in wages and salaries to the lack of promotion opportunities when you are pregnant (something I have experienced), from the segregation of 'girls' and 'boys' toys in the shops to the hyper-sexualisation of teenage girls in marketing materials. But it affects men too- I talked to stay-at-home dads at playgroups who said they felt marginalised not just by the business marketing but by mothers in the playgroups themselves. So I believe International Women's Day is as important to men as women. We all benefit from gender equality, it's not about bringing equality to the lowest common denominator- it's about bringing everyone up.
I have thought about, written about and discussed feminism and gender equality a lot in the last three to four years. This coincidentally corresponded with the breakdown of my marriage, not because he was anti-equality but because the more I thought the more I realised how many choices in my life had been made to fulfill other peoples beliefs in what I should be- daughter, girlfriend, mother, wife. I started to think what other things I could be - businesswoman, lover, writer, entrepreneur. Then as I kept thinking and talking about this, I realised all these labels were irrelevant, it is about being true to ourselves and what we want to achieve- listening to our hearts and minds- not society's stories, the cultural norms forced on us, or the desires of others. Women like men can choose to strive for any path they desire- if that is a business one, an artistic creative one, or a desire to build and care for a family- all of these choices should be celebrated. The joy of the era we live in is that we can now choose (hard though it can be) to ignore those voices and follow our own path, and we can choose to move in cycles following our hearts to a new path.
So today on International Women's Day I celebrate my sister who is also a First Class Economics graduate, a talented dressmaker, a chartered accountant, who presently made the choice to be the full-time parent at home for her three amazing children. She loves it and chooses to do it, in the future she says she will choose to develop her other skills too and a new cycle will begin for her. I celebrate the friend who can no longer work due to illness but respects her body's need to rest and heal, while she infuses those around her with her stories and life. I celebrate one of my previous clients who runs a tattoo clinic and has just launched her own brand of aftercare care balm, while bringing up her son. I celebrate my friend who has travelled the world, returned to work for a few years and is planning her next adventures in travel, I celebrate her sense of fun and love and excitement she breathes into everything she does. I celebrate the woman across the other side of the world who tends to her children with no support, no money, little food, water or health- I celebrate her sense of love and care for those around her. I celebrate the women who fight for equality in the face of not just words that may hurt but in the face of violence- I am humbled by her strength. I also celebrate the men who can see the inequalities and fight for equality to be restored to people whatever gender they identify with. Finally, because I believe that we all must do this- I celebrate myself and the choices I have made that mean I stay true to myself, I celebrate my love of my family, friends and the world around me- which make me who I am.
Tell me what you are proud about yourself today, and what other women you are celebrating today.