Today is International Women’s Day. In China women get a day off. In Italy women are given mimosas (the flowering kind) and in the UK men all around the country roll their eyes and wonder how this can be ‘a thing’ when Mother’s Day is already looming and they have to regale us with daffodils and cups of tea and a vaguely stressful lie-in.
I shall be trundling off to CHANEL (#untoldjoy) as their guest speaker to tell the story of why I have just founded MotherSister. So that lets him off the daffs.
2018 has started with a feminist bang like no other. This is our time. We have #metoo #timesup and super-engaging questions like: can you be a feminist AND wax/like men/wear heels? Thanks in great part to social media, we have been able to connect in an electric network of sisterhood. The word ‘feminism’ was Merriam Webster’s most searched-for term in 2017. (I have visions of men frantically Googling to prove it means ‘unshaven-angry-man-hater’ or women wondering quite how to explain why it really doesn’t.)
This year, IWD’s hashtag is #pressforprogress. I half hoped the press pack would contain a large button with PROGRESS slathered across in big red letters so I could push it, bring about equality and get back to sorting the washing.
Hashtag we might, but let’s jog along the line a bit and do something whilst the wind is blowing our way. In literally the most depressing gender parity stat of 2017, equality will be ours circa 2086. By which time I suspect gender unity will be brought about as we realise everyone, male or female, is petrified of The Robots.
Glorious Gloria (Steinem) and I agree on many things. Equality won’t come without activism. Thankfully without climbing a tree in dungarees or standing outside waving a placard. And I don’t like the cold. Or heights. Urban Activism is what we have. It’s what Mothers use all the time. Mumsnet, MothersMeetings, NCT. We talk, we hustle and huddle and strive and organise and get it done. The brokers of change are in Westminster. Like it or not (mainly not) change will come from the backbenchers. And we need to tell them how it is for women now because trust me, most of them simply don’t know.
Right now before The Next Thing comes along, we need to harness our POWER. Apart from an incident when I was 16 on an Austrian ski trip in an awkward situation with an inappropriately-older Israeli ski instructor called Ronald, I had no idea I had power until I was in my late 30s. I spent most of my banking career dressed like a cross between Jimmy Cranky and an air hostess. I wore cufflinks and swore a lot.
So when I see Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton embracing in pant-suits, I feel a pit in my stomach. If I can give my daughter anything, it will be to realise she has power. To be who she wants, how she wants. To say no, to say yes, to say ‘listen to me’. Or as GS says ‘be more cat.’ Cats don’t give a sh*t what you think about them. That’s how I look back on my 20s: I wish I’d been more cat.
What we have now is Mother power. The moment you realise you’d cut off your extremities for someone, un-anaesthetised, you realise you have a certain strength. We can channel our efforts for equality in our shopping choices and our words and at home and make sure our kids have STEM toys and our daughters can be pirates and our sons know their way around a kitchen. And that’s enough.
If you don’t fancy shouting you’re a feminist, or activist, or are frankly – and understandably – too tired, maybe make a pledge to do something womanist. Back your Sisters, other Mothers, club together and see what you can do with your power and voice.
Send an email to your MP if you were kicked out of work for using your womb. BE an MP. Just don’t doubt your power because if we don’t shout it now – and shout it loud – they just won’t hear us.
Go ahead ladies, make some noise.