And how you don’t need to be Michelle Obama to make a change
There’s this meme about how when you get married, it basically means having to buy all the cards and gifts for your husband’s family forever. It basically sums up everything I dislike about the female race and how we’re just supposed to be good little, subservient girls and get on with it.
It starts in the playground with ‘boys are stronger than girls’. It carries on into your teens when cat-calling is considered a compliment. It evolves into adulthood when, as above, you become merely an extension of your husband. Even when you climb the career ladder all the way to the top you still get screwed over when you want to have kids. It doesn’t matter that there is now shared parental leave or flexible working because society still sees child rearing as woman’s work.
How do we confront these stereotypes and smash the stigmas? I’ve no idea. What I do know is that International Women’s Day isn’t just a chance to share cute memes and empowering quotes. It’s a reminder that every single day means showing up as someone who isn’t going to put up with this shit.
Stop buying the gifts and cards, stop telling yourself its your job to organise the childcare, stop thinking you can’t ask for a pay rise or tell someone leering at you to fuck off. Most of us aren’t going to be CEOs or world leaders. We won’t change the world from our three-bed semi by hashtagging IWD. We need to make the choice every single day to stop being polite and say ‘yes’ to asking for what we really want.
I’m not husband-bashing by the way, and I think marriage is a wonderful institution but our position as wife and mother is the easiest place to begin finding our confidence and passing it on. It’s not funny that men ‘can’t’ do the food shop and why should you be the only one working flexibly to pick up the kids? We need to make small steps in our own back yards to show the world we won’t accept what it’s telling us any more.
And we need to lift each other up to do the same. Tell your friends they absolutely can apply for the job they think they won’t get, remind them all the time that how they look does not change what they can do and smile at every single woman you see because tiny ripples cause big waves and one day, together, we can bring these outdated ideas crashing down.
Possibly controversial but stop using filters! They perpetuate the idea that what you have to say is less important than how you look. How often do you see men using filters? Stop talking shit about other women because it pits us against one another and stops us being stronger together. Stop thinking you aren’t good enough because you are. When you find your own strength, you pass it on which means we will only get stronger.
I’m not stupid; I know we won’t fix the atrocities across the world by refusing to put a wash on. But just because we can’t directly do the huge things doesn’t mean we don’t have the power to start doing the small ones. We are raising boys and girls to carry on what we’ve started. Show them a woman that won’t take no for an answer and a man that knows she’s an equal. Raise boys to clean the bathroom and girls to take out the bins and let them be amazed that the world once thought women weren’t as important. How will our daughters run the country if we don’t show them they can take charge?
I’m not saying International Women’s Day boils down to birthday cards and who does the bins. I once punched a guy in a club because he wouldn’t leave me alone despite several polite and very clear requests to do so. For me, IWD, comes down to each and every one of us not standing for things we don’t think are fair. Whether that’s huge political issues or someone thinking they can invade our personal space.
These double standards are the building blocks on which inequality stands. Women are derided and mocked when they demand more, they are called hard work or high maintenance for not putting up with every day injustice. My mum taught me early on to stand up for myself and every time I’m called a bitch I’m grateful to her for teaching me not to care. I might not be blazing a trail like some of the incredible and inspiring women taking over the world but, right now, in my own little corner I’m not settling for less or saying sorry for my standards. You can call me a bitch like it’s a bad thing but I think women living life on their own terms will only ever lead to something good.