Friday, 8 March 2013

International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day.  There will be a whole host of what I know will be amazing posts on Any Other Woman today as they have asked their readers to write about 'What being a woman means to me' specially for the occasion.

I have of course sent in my own thoughts on the subject (I have no idea what time it's going up at as there will be lots of different posts all day so you'll just have to keep checking and reading all the other fab posts!  Edit: Here it is!) and am particularly looking forward to seeing what everyone else has written.  I know Katie has written something shouty (sorry, RAGEY - even better!  Also, while looking for that tweet which I remembered seeing, I got SO distracted by all her other tweets I've been gone for ages, I need to pay more attention to twitter apparently I've missed a lot of good stuff!) and I'm sure there will be plenty of serious and thought provoking pieces to read.  I'm not so good at that.  I should be more outspoken about feminist issues but I just don't think I'm that good a writer.

My effort is more light-hearted (you know I love sharing photos, right?) but does touch on the feminist side of things.  My post is exactly what the brief says - what being a woman means to me which is, as it happens, everything.  I sent it in to Claire and received the usual, reassuring and positive response that it was a great post and they'd love to post it (they're so lovely and encouraging!).  I then did what I wish we women wouldn't do but are often guilty of.  I started having The Doubts.  I was worried that it wasn't good enough, that people wouldn't get it, that they'd think I was showing off.  That's not my intention at all but then as I think about it more, I guess I kind of am showing off a little.  I am proud of all that I've achieved and that I have not been denied any experiences because I am a woman.  I have other feminists to thank for that.  The ones who fought to be seen as equal.  To be able to do the same jobs as men and be paid accordingly.

I was immediately reassured by the lovely ladies at AOW Hen Do, when describing my post, they all knew exactly why I'd written it and thought it was a fab idea.  It's been said before, we need to speak to ourselves as if we're talking to a friend.  Why are we so quick to play down the amazing things we've done?  I know so many women who are properly amazing (yes, you ladies of AOW, readers and all), yet always play it down (we love the 'drivel' posts, but they're never drivel, they are marvellous!).  Have you ever had to write about yourself?  A personal statement to get into university?  A covering letter for a job application?  It's SO difficult, but it shouldn't be so hard to talk ourselves up.  We are amazing, we can do amazing things.  We should shout about it more!

I'm lucky that I have a job where I do get paid the same as any man doing the same work does.  I know that's not always the case depending on the job/career.  I'm grateful I was given the opportunity, with a lot of hard work, to do something I love and be a professional woman and still go out there and have fun doing crazy things, travelling the world and experiencing all it has to offer.  This wouldn't all have been possible just 60 years ago (although as far back as 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the US to receive a medical degree).  It just wasn't the 'done thing'.  I'm SO glad things changed!

Another thing I love about being a woman is that I get to do all these things IF I want to.  I can work hard yet still stay home and bake or make clothes or have fun with other old fashioned style pursuits like all the crafting I've been doing lately.  I love that I can be baking one day and crawling about in the mud the next, taking photos or doing some crazy activity like skydiving.   I also admire the women who decide not to work, to stay at home with their children.  I hope to be able to do the same one day, like I remember my mother doing for us, and even when she did go back to work, she was always there when we got home from school.  I loved that and hope to do the same for my own children.

It's our responsibility to use the opportunities we have open to us nowadays and to keep working on the ones that aren't quite there yet.  I hate that in some countries I've visited I've felt so restricted as a woman and unable to do things I take for granted here.  I know how lucky I am not just to get to experience so many amazing places and activities but to be able to take so much for granted in day to day life.  I wish all women around the world were able to do the things they want to do, be it work or play or vote or drive or in some cases just to be safe or have the freedom to choose where to go or simply what to wear*.  If I were to visit my parents in Saudi Arabia now that I'm married, I'd need a letter of permission from my husband to travel without him.

I am happy to show off what I've done because I'm out there making the most of the fact that I can, due to the women who campaigned for it, enabling me to have a well paid professional career which means I can travel and do all these things.  And if I decide one day to jack it all in to stay at home, I'll be proud of that too because that's the best part - the right to choose.  I don't want to feel that as a woman I HAVE to do it all (oh the pressure THAT puts on us all, the same post from Anna is applicable here too!), but I love the fact I CAN if I want to, just maybe not all at the same time!

I hope my post on Any Other Woman's International Women's Day celebration is taken as I meant it, as inspiration to live life as an adventure, however you want that adventure to pan out.  And although we still have lots to fight for as women to be truly seen as equally deserving of the same rights and respect as men, we should still be grateful for what we are able to do, thanks to the fabulous ladies of the past.

It seems I have gone a bit serious and this post is longer than I anticipated, I just suddenly felt the need to write more relating to my post on AOW today.  Incidentally, there's an interesting looking film on BBC2 tomorrow night at 9pm about the women who went on strike for equal pay, Made in Dagenham, very timely.

*In most areas of Saudi Arabia, and particularly in Riyadh and the central part of the Kingdom, women wear a full-length black covering known as an Abaya, and cover their heads. Women who choose not to conform to this dress code face a risk of confrontation by Mutawwa and possible detention/arrest. Men should not wear shorts in public or go without a shirt.
Many areas of life in Saudi Arabia are segregated by sex to ensure that unrelated men and women have no possibility of mingling (a punishable crime). Some Mutawwa try to enforce this normally by asking for proof that a couple is married or related. Women who are arrested forsocializing with a man who is not a relative may be charged with prostitution. Some restaurants, particularly fast-food outlets, have refused to serve women who are not accompanied by a close male relative. In addition, some restaurants or cafes do not have a "family section" in which women are permitted to eat. These restrictions are not always posted. This is more common in Riyadh and the more conservative central Nejd region.
Dancing, playing music, and showing movies in public are forbidden.


Unknown said...

Bex this post is bloody brilliant! I'm so glad I was all busy at work yesterday and wasn't on blogger last night to see a draft of this, I loved reading it for the first time here on this wonderful blog :) xxx

Claire H said...

Bex - don't have The Doubts! From what you were saying on Sat your IWD post for AOW sounds awesome - plus I totally agree with every word you've written in this fabulous post too, you are definitely able to write about feminist issues!

Also, I really liked Made in Dagenham so if you get chance to see it, do.

Claire x

Crysta said...

Bex, your photo's inspire me to become a better photographer, so I would love to see more of them! I agree that we should learn to show off a bit more. We should encourage ourselves the way we encourage our friends and be kinder to ourselves, too.

Katy said...


I had the exact same feelings as you. But AOW and the community makes everyone feel better about themselves. Everyone is so supportive! I'm sure your post will be excellent.
Also I think part of it is a British thing as much as a female thing (just saying), if we were Americans maybe we wouldn't have as much of an issue?

Unknown said...

I'm so excited to see the actual post if this is just the adjunct to it!

Zan said...

Great post Bex! The restrictions on women in parts of the middle east get me all riled up too.

And you should totally be proud of all you've achieved and have. Nothing wrong with that at all!

Also - Made in Dagenham is a great film!

Bex said...

Thanks everyone! I'm loving all the posts on AOW so far, I keep thinking - me too! I love it and hate it at the same time when someone else manages to write what I'm thinking so eloquently, why can't I do that!? I'm glad somebody always can though, that's why I love AOW so bloody much!

Crysta - bless you, I'm so glad I inspire you with photography - although as you will see, the photos I've chosen are OF me, not by me.

Katy - good point, it could just be a British thing (with the exception of The Apprentice contestants of course!) Maybe they're the reason we don't do it more - we don't want to have sound-bites like some of the crackers they sometimes come out with! "I truly am the reflection of perfection." or "I'm like a really fine tuned switch. If I need to turn it down then I turn it down. If I need to turn it up, then I turn it up" Seriously! Fear of sounding like a pratt, that's what it is!

(Also, I was in hysterics at some of these quotes I found while searching for the above... When's it back on again!?)

Frances said...

I'm looking forward to seeing your AOW post if this is anything to go by. Not that I'm one to talk, but we should be proud of the things we achieve and remember what the women of generations before us did so that we can achieve those things.

On a different note, have you read "In the Land of Invisible Women" by Quanta Ahmed? It was a real eye-opener in terms of the culture in the Middle East (I appreciate you'll know much more about this already than I do though!).

Bex said...

I haven't read it but it sounds fascinating so I've added it to my Goodreads list, thanks Frances!

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