International Woman’s Day, in the post-feminist west, must seem a bit redundant. When it feels like there’s a day for every cause and group you could be forgiven for thinking it’s overkill. However, in spite of my egalitarian feelings over positive favour of one sex over the other (in any form!), I think its a good way to think about the unique perspective that women have. Virtues that are not exclusive to women but that women may display or use more readily. Things like collaboration, a key virtue of science; compromise and empathy, vital for politics; creativity and insight, skills of the blue-sky thinker are displayed in the kind of women celebrated today.
It’s all very well for a collective pat on the back and declare that women’s agency has been won quite nicely thank you very much but it wouldn’t be the truth. Close to home we still see girls making the choice of young motherhood because, really, they had no choice at all. Professional and academic women having to be careful what they say less their employer or superior think they’re going to quit and/or go on maternity leave. Girls born in this country but with other cultural backgrounds (no I don’t exclusively mean one particular group) not in line with the cultural mainstream are not afforded the same opportunities as their brothers. But further afield these issues fade into the background.
Although it’s easy for us to wring our hands and say “oh we wouldn’t let that happen in our country” or feel great pangs of post-colonial guilt or be compelled to swoop in and be the saviour of the oppressed, none of these things are helpful. None of us who are where we are today got here by being infantalised. We got here because we had opportunities.
Today’s a good day for remembering some women have grabbed opportunities with both hands because they know the value of those chances. We, too, therefore shouldn’t be complacent and take the path of least resistance.
Also, many women haven’t had the chances we have had so we need to work as a whole planet to make sure those that don’t have those chances can get them. Simple things like education, food and health care that everyone needs are a start! Or to put it another way, their maybe a young girl in a Syrian refugee camp right now who, with a chance, might be the next great scientist or artist or, more importantly, anything that she wants to be.
P.S. I wrote this with good intentions (yeah, I know what the road to hell is paved with) so I hope it doesn’t get up anyone’s nose. If it did accidentally occur I in no way mean to belittle people’s personal experiences, we all have our own cross to bare.