Today is International Women’s Day.
So firstly, Happy International Women’s Day to all the fabulous women all over the world. This day is not only dedicated to you, but is a celebration of the respect and appreciation for all that you stand for.
Every year on March 8th we observe this day, and although it has been around for many many years, it’s only been in very recent years that we’ve really started to acknowledge it, particularly now that we can share almost any message on social media. In fact, I actually praise the rise in strength of social media for bringing days like this to the forefront and allowing us to share our thoughts and opinions.
The theme for this years IWD is ‘Planet 50:50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality’. A call for gender equality worldwide. One word pops into my mind, and that is Feminism. The true definition of a feminist is, a person who believes in the social, political and economical equality of the sexes. Based on this definition, I am a feminist. I believe that men and women should have equal right, equal say and equal action. Many completely look at feminism the wrong way and think that it’s women hating men and that they gather together burning their bra’s and fake eyelashes, that it’s women refusing to let men buy them dinner and that they aren’t feminine… or most wrongly of all, that all feminists are women. These couldn’t be further from the truth, because I can’t remember the last time a woman put her bra on a BBQ just to expect equal pay in return! Similarly, I’m more than happy for a guy to treat me to dinner… a girl gotta eat!
Those who do not fully understand the meaning or do but choose not to say that they are a feminist; I feel a little sorry for you. And here’s why…
I’m so lucky to have so many amazing women in my life, true role models in every sense. Women like my mum that inspire me to do better, support my decisions, keep me positive, encourage me in testing times and have my back from day 1. Because of the women in my life, I never feel like there’s something I can’t do.
I’m going to pick on my own experiences here. I’m a Hindu Indian Gujarati girl that has been brought up in a traditional but modern family. Like most Indians, I have a huge family; plenty of women and plenty of men, plenty of birthdays and too many weddings. Being Indian brings a whole heap of cultural understandings and a ‘way of life’ if you like – a way that I don’t always agree with. Traditionally (more historically), in my culture women are seen as the caregivers of the family, the ones that look after the family. The men are the providers and tend to have the final say on most family/home decisions, and they tend to view their opinion as the correct and sacred one. Double standards are super prominent in my culture. Often men are deemed more powerful, and want to have control over most things and want to show that they are the strongest species. Yet, women are expected to cook, clean and attend to men and the family no questions asked. How a man has this impression when some can’t even clear up after themselves at the dinner table is beside me… but it’s the reality, and to be honest, when you care for people, you do a lot of these things anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to batter being Indian (I love being Indian) and many of the men in my family are amazing role models, most noteably my father, who is a true provider and hero in every sense, but we can’t shy away from the JOINT effort it takes, or should take to raise a family, to contribute to society or to help this world go round.
To me, the women in my culture are the most powerful, they are the backbone of a family. For without them, most of us wouldn’t have a warm dinner to come home to every night, we may not have someone who is on it with the laundry, the ironing and making sure you have a clean environment to live in every day. Sure if men were circumstantially made to have to do all these things, I’m sure they would find a way and learn, but throw a woman into the mix, and almost automatically she is put into this role. Why? Because in some cultures, that’s just what women do. But it shouldn’t be. And this is where people lose the understanding of the true value of a woman- when this becomes ‘culture’.
These kinds of things have made me look into this further and I’ve realised, its not just my culture or others from the developing world, nor has it got much to do with religions, it’s a worldwide issue that affects every single one of us every day. It’s present on social media and every day banter and in language.
A major part of my being is that I am British, born and raised in England so have inherently accepted this culture and I think, is the part that certain members of the traditional Indian community have real difficulty understanding and accepting. On top of this, I went to an all girls secondary school, where in my year group over 15 girls went to Oxford or Cambridge- the same as the amount from the boy counterpart of my school (I’m not saying that going to Oxford/Cambridge is a measure of success- but as they are the two best Universities in the country, it’s important to realise the equality amongst those who get in). I loved going to this school. It didn’t teach me to hate men nor did it not allow me to know other boys! I learnt that women and men are equal, that they should have the same opportunities and they can equally go far in life. So why, in mine and many other cultures is there still this gender role imbalance?
There is nothing in the Hindu religion to suggest that men are more superior than women. Hinduism depicts personifications of God that are both men and women and throughout the year there are numerous religious days that solely celebrate a woman figure in Hinduism. It is just culture. A culture that we have been born into. I sometimes feel like when you are born, you are immediately given a label depending on whether you are male or female and that transcends through the years as you grow older. It almost subconscious.
When I get asked, ‘clear up the table’ or ‘make the tea for everyone’ or ‘can you make round chapati’s’ (even as a joke) it’s done merely by men and women that are victims of Asian culture. It’s not right… but I guess they can’t help it. That’s how they’ve been brought up themselves- what difference do they know? It’s only now that they are starting to get challenged. The things that you were once ‘expected’ to do as an Indian girl, are no longer the norm. Now, more than ever before Indian women are stronger, have more of an equal say, and can finally shine as true heroes.
And thats because a woman is equally as capable as doing what a man can do. More women than ever are soaring to the top and we are acknowledging those who really do excel. Let’s not disregard all that men do, they are wonderful, but it’s time women were recognised for all that they do at the front line as well as behind the scenes. To me, equality is about having the same opportunities… it is then up to the individual, man or woman, to choose what they do with that opportunity. If you want to be a stay at home mum or dad- great, if you want to be the director of your own company- amazing. There should be an outlet for any man or any woman to pursue exactly what they want to do. Once this is understood, we can start to create and build a new equal culture.
Women are everything, and if you’re lucky enough to experience knowing, speaking and living with truly fantastic ladies, you will appreciate all that they do, day in day out, without a question. So, to address what I said at the beginning of my post… I feel sorry for you if you don’t have an understanding of this and therefore can’t see how amazing women are.
To me, the most powerful woman I know, is my mother. My greatest role model and all round superwoman. So much of what I know, believe and how I live is because of her. My mum isn’t powerful because she has authority being my mum, she’s powerful to me because her feelings, happiness and wellbeing as well as an acknowledment of the sacrifices she makes daily are some of the most important things to me and I have a level of respect for her that in indescribable. She’s irreplaceable.
The topic of feminism shouldn’t be what’s ‘trending’ right now, only to be forgotten about sooner or later. More so we should use that energy to educate people and encourage equality and use it as a platform to appreciate one another. Feminists don’t look a certain way (amidst another misconception that they do). Anybody, no matter your size, colour and even gender can be a feminist. If it wasn’t for her, kings and queens would not have been born. So today, I encourage you all to become feminists; look at your mum, your wife, your sister, your grandmother, your girlfriend and tell them that they are amazing and that you appreciate them. Because they are helping to shape the world, for the good. Educate yourselves and others on the matter, or better yet, appreciate the woman that gave you life- then we can really start to move towards planet 50:50.
Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.