International Women’s Day celebrates women everywhere. It applauds achievement and tenacity, but also supports women who are displaced or disempowered. This years’ theme for the auspicious day is ♯BalanceforBetter. As an observed calendar occasion, IWD has only been going for 9 years, but the very first recorded Women’s Day being back in 1909 in New York. This was a suggested celebration by Theresa Malkiel, the first woman within the Socialist Party of America to rise from a factory worker to a leader. However, it took 101 years for it to be recognised globally, and for IWD to become what it is today. It is a day to look backwards and forwards simultaneously.
Malkiel was a huge advocator of education for immigrant women within America. She toured tirelessly, speaking out not only about education and women’s rights but also about racial segregation within the Socialist party. This lady wanted equality, not just for women, for everyone. She wore her heart on her sleeve and had the courage of a lion, but few people will have even heard of her. Until I started researching the history of International Women’s Day, I hadn’t either.
Within this research, I also found that the theme of balance is not so new. Previous years’ of IWD have touched upon gender equality. It is little wonder really, as it is something we hear ourselves and others speak of every day. We strive to work less, enjoy more, or exercise more while allowing ourselves the little treats here and there. Balance is threaded through every teaching, every life lesson.
So whilst I cannot speak for Theresa Malkiel, it gave me pause. Did she have balance in her life? Did she feel fulfilled or like she had achieved what she wanted? Did her campaigning make a difference? So many questions arise when you are faced with a day that celebrates women’s achievements.
When we look at public achievement, we see public plaudits. We witness a sea of clapping hands or big glossy pictures in magazines and newspapers. So often we see Instagram posts of shiny people wearing their best outfits and grinning. Shaking hands with notable people.
And so often we see these posts—less as a bastion of what we can achieve—more a poster for the absence of our own achievements. So seldom do we take stock of our wins, big or small. We don’t note how we have changed our own lives or affected the lives of those around us. We are told that us girls have to stick together, and we have to be proud of each other. This is true, we have to love and nurture each other. So when faced with these feelings of jealousy or bitterness, we feel guilty for feeling them. Looking at others’ achievements can give us a bad feeling within ourselves. It is uncomfortable. So we bury the thoughts deep, feeling hot and ashamed.
I just want to put this out there: Those feelings are valid. It may not be right to compare yourself to others, but it is what we are taught to do every day from childhood. The only way to combat this is to take time to celebrate you. Don’t hate yourself for it. Today of all days, look at yourself in the mirror and smile at what you see. Write down your gratitude, your achievements however big or small, and own every single one of them. Be honest with yourself, think of what you would like to achieve and set little goals. Big or small, it is your life, your desires.
In the interest of balance, hold women you admire in your heart and look at yourself as you would at them. Because; every day is an achievement. Every day is something special. Maybe nobody has noticed. Be your own audience, take stock and reward yourself.
A few days before this, Oxfam Canada published its annual Feminist Scorecard, tracking government action to deliver on a feminist agenda. It is an interesting concept. One I couldn’t help thinking would be great if implemented in our own lives. Perhaps not a feminist one per se, (although that would be awesome) but a record of how we are living, what we are achieving, and how kind we are being to ourselves. At a time when technological advances and social media are pushing our attention spans to the max whilst making us feel both more empowered and yet less fabulous, we need to ensure that we focus on what we can do in our lives to feel good.
Today all women can have a Mother’s Day. We are all mothers of our own destiny, of our own designs and creations. There are people out there who won’t even know about IWD. It isn’t just about this one day. It is about being aware of your power. We all have it, but sometimes it just isn’t the type that gets column inches or its own website. But the power is there, in spades. So pick up the handle and start showering yourself with that shit!
I Love you all