It is International Women’s Day today.
As you will have guessed from yesterday’s blog, I’m not a great celebrator of days.
Books should be celebrated every day, as should mothers and fathers, men* and women, and anything else you care to mention, including, if you like, pancakes, veterans, sparrows, fools and Pi...
Yes, Pi... That one falls next week on March 14th, but only in America where they have an entirely different understanding from us about how dates work. If April had 31 days, the British would, of course, celebrate Pi day, too, but we’d do it on 31/4, when it’s supposed to happen. Get it? Got it? Good.
So, it’s International Women’s Day today.
I am ambivalent about this.
On one hand I want to show my sorority with women. I love and admire women, universally. I have struggled with them at times, and they rarely like me as an individual, which saddens me. I have been a staunch feminist since I was first aware of Erin Pizzey and Germaine Greer, and Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana. I have fought with them and against them, and I have ranted and raved, and, in the end I have lived a life.
As a woman, I want all women to stand proud and speak up for themselves and each other. I want us to be who and what we can be, and not compromise our beliefs or ourselves for any other human being. I want us to choose education and work, and I want us to be self-reliant and dignified.
On the other hand, I want us to have a spectrum of choices that includes raising our own children, and that might mean staying at home, as I did, and sacrificing or coming late to a career, as I did. It might mean men and women choosing to adopt what look, to the outside World, like traditional male and female roles, as the husband and I did. It might mean a woman handing the power to earn, and status in the World that goes with that, back to the traditional male role, as I did.
I will say to any feminist who asks me, and cares to listen to the answer, that I made good choices for myself, and that I stand by them. I was never torn between my work and my children. I never felt guilty for leaving a crying child in the care of someone else. I was never devastated that I was absent for any of my child’s milestone moments. I never felt like a second class citizen or a drudge, and I never, ever felt that my family was in any way taking advantage of me. I never regretted that we didn’t have a second car or an annual family holiday or a pension plan. We had something else. We had time.
I did sometimes miss adult company. Walk down any suburban street during any weekday afternoon and you’ll be greeted by rows of empty, silent houses. Women are at work and children are in daycare. There is no one to spend time with. Those communities are like ghost towns. Thank heavens I was able to move to a bustling town centre when my children were still babies, and thank heavens that the husband works at home.
Raising my children was the best job that I will ever do, and, honestly, it was over very quickly. It was my full-time job for only seven years, and both of my children were safely taking themselves to and from school within fourteen years of the job beginning. That time represents only a little over a quarter of the years I might expect to spend working.
I understand that staying at home with my children and being a single-income family was a luxury of sorts, and a course of action that many families still believe they cannot afford. Perhaps working towards keeping a bigger portion of childcare in the home is an ideal that we could address if there was the political will for it. Conventional forms of feminism seem to fly in the face of that political will, but I wonder if that’s something that might be up for discussion if more feminists like me stood up to be counted.
I hope that Women will celebrate their womanhood, and that men will too. I hope that there will be sorority among women today and everyday. I hope that women will continue to be the amazing people that we all know they can be, and I hope that they will always exercise their choices... All of their choices... in all the forms they take.
We are women. We are the equals of men. Laws, both social, and those imposed on us in our patriarchal, first World societies have not always reflected that; but natural law, our sense of justice, of fairness, tells us that men and women are equals.
If I could urge women to remember one thing today, it is this, that they are equal to men, but that does not mean that they have to be the same as men. Our differences as women are some of the many things that we should be proud of, and some of the things that we should celebrate today and every day.
* For all of those who might be interested, Men’s day falls on November 19th.