Society: International Women’s Day

My first experience with International Women’s Day was as a 16-year-old school girl in Australia. School captain, a bit of a swot, and treated to a fancy breakfast in a Brisbane hotel with a few ‘inspirational speakers’. Truth be known, I can’t remember who they were. No doubt sports-people.

Just over 10 years later, I find myself in London and acknowledging another International Women’s Day. I won’t be marching or burning my bra. I don’t think that’s entirely necessary to consider myself a ‘feminist’. However today, fresh at the top of my mind, is yesterday’s article in The Independent.

The interview was with Annie Lennox, who called for women to “wake up” to the fact that feminism has been relegated to the backbench and girls today are riding on the crest of the work of their predecessors.

But why should we listen to Annie Lennox? The woman is inspiring, to say the least. Stunning and soulful, she’s had an amazing career that has spanned generations and genres. She’s been called the greatest white soul singer alive by VH1, and one of the greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone. The woman rocks, right? These days, she’s not so much walking on broken glass as walking a virtuous line of political and social activities, raising money for HIV charities in Africa.

This morning, she, along with other high-profile females, which last year included Sarah Brown, took part in the Women for Women ‘Join Me On the Bridge‘ march through London, starting at Borough Market, and ending on the South Bank after crossing the Thames at the Millennium Bridge, on to Westminster and then back to the South Bank.

The ‘Join Me On The Bridge’ phenomenon started in the most remarkable circumstances that you’d never guess it has become a worldwide event. It all began with the women of two small African nations, Rwanda and the Congo. They are survivors of war. Victimised and terrorised, survivors of a genocide that left more than 800,000 people dead. Women from each side, several hundred, marched for hours to meet on a bridge between the two countries. They were, in effect, setting a precedent and building a bridge between women around the world who have been touched by war.

And now, women all over, whether touched by war or growing up in Beaconsfield, are repeating the same poignant, significant and deadly important feat of meeting on a bridge to love each other, to celebrate peace and to exult in being women.

It is truly something that I think we have lost touch of. The power and the importance of being women. It’s what Lennox was talking about in the paper yesterday. She asks, “Why are we not valuing the word feminism when there is so much work to be done in terms of empowerment and emancipation of women everywhere?” It’s an important question. Why don’t we value feminism anymore? She says: “Why are we sitting comfortably within our own bubble and thinking it’s all been done and, really, living with the full benefits – all the things that have been achieved so far – when so much of it was done by our great-grandmothers?” Turns out, it’s because: “We, ourselves, are obsessed with celebrity culture and we think that this is all there is, that the Western world is all there is. We take things for granted. I think we are complacent; we’re hypnotised by our consumerist culture, hugely, which is just so luxurious and fabulous.”

She has captured it perfectly. I’ve long held a fear that media today has a lowly expectation of women. All the content out there for girls is centred around us being consumers of celebrity, fashion or sex – and that’s about it. Aren’t we allowed to think about other things too? Of course we are. The scary part is the thought that maybe a lot of girls just don’t want to be more than that. And then men come to have fewer and fewer expectations and lo and behold, we’ve regressed 50 years – we’re Stepford Wives, all be it with the knowledge of [insert a recent A/W ’11 fashion show here] and how to give the perfect blow job.
Video of doves being released from Millennium Bridge for International Women’s Day


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