International Women’s Day
Here it is! Our very first blog and what better way to launch than in celebration of International Women’s Day. Each one of us has written a very personal piece about what International Woman’s Day means to us, and I think you will agree, each blog offers a very unique perspective on why we feel its important to celebrate IWD.
IWD’s started way back in 1911 and was supported by one million people. Today this movement belongs to all groups ‘collectively’. It is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Each year IWD has a theme and 2020s theme is #EachforEqual. It is a reminder that our ‘Collective Individual’ actions have a direct impact on our communities and societies and we have the power to influence, shape and encourage harmonious relationships, both personally and professionally across the world.
I know that many people find this sort of thing a bit excessive. We have a day literally for everyone and everything and by celebrating a certain gender aren’t we just moving away from the central theme #EachforEqual 2020? Maybe! And I’d be hard pressed to disagree with you. But then I think, how many women do we actually know that have made huge contributions to our society and communities? You’d have to look it up! I did! And found the likes of – Sophia Duleep Singh; Daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh (right hand man of Queen Victoria from the age of 11), Goddaughter of Queen Victoria and an original Suffragette. Noor Inayat Khan; The Russian Spy Princess, SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent and first female wireless operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance during WWII. Nancy Astor – elected as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton, November 1919, making her the first woman MP to take her seat in the House of Commons thus changing the face of politics for women. And 2021 saw the rise of the power for woman from the Black Community and BLM, our Indian Farmers – the women who farm side by side with the men, who are still not entitled to the same rights as their male counter parts. These are to name but a few. Science, Medicine and the Arts have many more. Many women have come before us and laid the foundations for women to stand up, challenge and create change. Creating change is about the shifting of Power.
“It means thinking collaboratively, about the power of followers not just of leaders. It means, above all, thinking about power as an attribute or even a verb (‘TO POWER’), not as a possession”. (Mary Beard. Women & Power. A Manifesto. March 2017. pg87.)
This years theme is Choose to Challenge. It’s a call to action for people of all gender identities to raise their hands in support and solidarity, sharing images on social media using the #ChoosetoChallenge and #IWD2021 to encourage others to stand for a more inclusive world.
Here is a woman who I know who continuously challenges “norms” and thus striving to empower me, my brothers and sister in being the sort of people who enable others. My Mum left her home (India) in 1976 and moved to England to build a new home and life with my dad. My dad had already moved here in 1974, was quite established and at ease in his new surroundings. When my mum arrived she lived with my dad’s brother and his wife. It was the done thing back then. You supported your family members, helped set them up so that they could get to a position of supporting themselves. Mum didn’t work at the time as her BA in Art and Typing course held no value here in the UK, so as a way of easing her into the system and running a household, my aunt awarded mum the responsibility of the weekly shop. With a weekly budget of £15 mum had to be quite economical in buying essentials for a family of 5. My uncle and aunt had a young daughter too. However, one day mum decided to buy herself a pair of knickers, and why not. But as she did, she instantly felt guilty. The money wasn’t hers and she would have to explain where the 50p had gone. Ashamed, my mum asked dad for the money to pay my aunt back. Mum and dad soon moved out, set up their own home a few hundred yards down the road from my uncle and aunt.
The lack of qualifications didn’t leave much option for mum, so she started working from home doing piece work whilst raising 4 children. The sowing machine became her trusted friend and she was impeccable on it. She’d make many clothes for us, both Indian and English. She even made my school trousers because I couldn’t find any that fit properly. And I remember being the envy of every girl in my school. My style was unique, you couldn’t get these trousers at the usual outlets and it made me feel like I had some kind of superpower – handmade by my mum. I remember an episode where dad had fallen ill with sciatica and was bed bound for months. It was the late 80’s and we’d had a great storm which led to heavy snow and power cuts across the town. We were between the ages of 5 and 10 collectively and we’d gone shopping with my mum. We had no car at the time, my dad was the only driver. I just remember the four of us and mum carrying back as many bags as our little hands could carry in the cold snowy weather. We couldn’t carry much which meant we didn’t have much. So mum learned to drive in a bid to support my dad and continue raising the family. She never once complained. She continued to not let setbacks hold her back from a kind of personal development. I started university and my brothers and sister were now at secondary school. This gave mum the opportunity to go out to work and with that came a sort of freedom which gave her confidence. She did the same job – piece work, stitching shirts for a local, bespoke menswear clothing factory. She’s made shirts for Ray Winston, David Beckham and Daniel Craig and still got paid a pittance! However this work allowed her to make friends outside of the community. She came into contact with many different viewpoints which sometimes challenged her and other times supported her in her growing confidence of how she wanted to be seen in the community.
My mum learned along the way and taught other women what they could achieve. They didn’t need to just be indoors cooking and cleaning as was the oath set before them – they could also go out to work. They could do it all, if they so wanted to! She learned to give power and share it just by doing. Mum has now retired but that just leaves her time for other things. She goes to the gym at least 3 times a week, sometimes doing two classes a day. And that just takes my breath away. She receives criticism from the community that a woman her age shouldn’t be going to the gym but mum knows why she does it. It was the same reason she chose to go out to work. It’s mental and physical well-being. The mind and body need stretching in order to grow and she understands that and mum has passed that wisdom down to her two daughters and granddaughters. Her resilience and spirit to learn, to push herself is still there and she just gets on with it without boasting about it.
For me Mum is the embodiment of Power; humble and dignified. I always wonder about the day my mum boarded that plane. What was going through her head? Did she think she would ever see her family and friends again? Her own mother and sister whom she left millions of miles away. Would she be welcomed in her new home? How would she cope, what sacrifices would she have to make? What if her marriage to my dad was nothing like what she thought it was going to be? Moving to a new town is a huge deal let alone to another country where you have to learn everything from scratch. You build a new culture, make new friends who become your family. You bring your values and understanding of where you come from and marry it with where you seed yourself. My sister and I have it somewhat easy because of the generation of silently strong migrant women before us. We can go and buy a pair of knickers, with our own money and not think twice about why or how. The freedoms of such simple acts are afforded to us because of women like my mum for whom buying a pair of knickers was embarrassing almost shameful. I leave you with this wonderful quote…
“We can never forget the pioneers, the women who first dared – ours is such an easy task compared to theirs”.
Lady Nancy Astor, 1928 ~ Women of Westminster. The MPs who changed politics. Rachel Reeves. 2019 pg11.
Happy International Women’s Day.
T. B. C…
What does it mean to be a man?
Funny question to ask on International Women’s day, right? But let me tell you why it’s relevant. Now I don’t know the statistics, but I can bet there’s a fair few males who, like me, have been raised in pretty much single parent homes by none other than their mother. And if my life is anything to go by then there’s also a possibility that you’ve had more female influence in your life than male.
But what does it mean to be a man?
Well, it’s the women in my life who have shaped my understanding of what it is to be a man. To be as honest a man as possible. To be kind. To be open. To look at adversity and say it’s OK. To look into darkness and see light. To be responsible, and to know when to curb your tongue – something I’m constantly learning from my mother, and yet to master.
Growing up I saw the male influence in my life abuse the women. I didn’t witness domestic physical abuse, but I did witness emotional and psychological abuse. It made me and my brothers move away from that male influence because we knew there was something inherently wrong. However, that move away came, not over night or from weeks or months of observing, it came from years of understanding and studying how my mother dealt with abuse, and that was with dignity and honour. I know you’re thinking; how on earth can someone deal with extreme abuse with dignity and honour? Because she didn’t fight. She didn’t react. And for years that has baffled me because my take, as is probably yours, is to leave – get out. But she took it. Why? Because she was teaching us boys a vital skill and that is to learn and observe. Learn and observe how not be. Watch how I do things and watch how I always come out with dignity, honour and unscathed whilst the other continues to wind themselves up with games and cunningness. As I say to my peers – stay quiet don’t change who you are and watch how this person or persons ‘unstitch’ themselves. A practice I use regularly with extended family, work colleagues and egotistical dark triad individuals who pop in and out of my life. I get this from my mother. Don’t retaliate. Don’t change your energy. Don’t respond. Just be.
Now my mother comes from the Indian sub-continent and was born and raised in a time where you just deal with abuse and shut up. Culture mixed with societal pressures, combined with twisted takes on religious narratives run rife in many households, thus by-passing even the most liberal and intellectual male minds. Why? Because these patriarchal societies have never had to emotionally mature, therefore males belonging to these societies have never had to mature. It is the setup. This cycle will continue to be prevalent in our society whether British or other. It is in all societies. It just so happens that in the West the speed at which patriarchy is being challenged is quicker than in other parts of the world.
So, I am very fortunate, grateful and humbled by the women in my life, in particular my mother, because they have taught me through their actions how to be a good human. How to be a good ‘man’ in a world where I have every opportunity to be egotistical towards women and get away with it unchallenged and unscathed, but I chose not to because whether you do it to a woman, man or animal there is something inherently underdeveloped in working in such a primitive way. Sure, these primitive people will be successful and will always find their tribe, but it is about how you want to be. What person do you want to be? That question is tougher than what you think because the practicality is hard. But the practice is what is Abrahamic, it is biblical and it is prophetic. You may feel unrewarded for turning your cheek, your peers will think you’re unintelligent and you may be mocked and loose friends. But that is only in the interim because quality people will see who you are. They will see your intelligence. Just like how I see my mother’s, and how I implore you to see yours.
So, you see, without my mother and my aunties (my aunties who have gone through what my mother has), I would not have practical knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a man in the world that I belong to. To always try to do right – morally. To allow people to have meltdowns and not be affected by it. To be kind, caring and loving even if you know you won’t get it back. Because actually, you are the intelligent one that isn’t working with ego but humanity. And you are the one that can change people through your actions – not by shouting or emotionally blackmailing.
I urge you to sit with your mothers or your biggest female influence and ask them, why? Why do you do what you do? Stay open to their answer and listen to them. Like really listen. They may just change your life.
Happy International Women’s day.
T. B. C…
So here’s my first blog post.
Happy International Women’s Day!
What a day to celebrate. This week we found out that we are (finally) getting rid of the ‘Tampon Tax’ – there are a surprising amount of anecdotal evidence online to show how enraged this makes some men – and this article:
Admittedly, this is a study about the entire world. The ENTIRE WORLD. It found that there are no (zero. None) countries in the world where there is actual gender equality. This is before we go into intersectionality. So before I despair entirely with the world, here are a few of the things I am thankful for.
- Hold property on the same terms as men. Last year I was in a position to buy my own house (with help). I own it without a partner, meaning it’s all mine! I never thought I’d get here.
- Serve on a jury. I served on a case a few years ago and it was the most fascinating thing I’ve done. But it really showed me that we need gender equality on juries – the nature of the case meant that the women’s voices were so important.
- Open a bank account or apply for a loan. I have done both. Thanks Suffrage!
- Drink on my own in a pub. Well. I could, but I’m avoiding that so my life doesn’t spiral down into drunkenness.
- Become an accountant or lawyer. I don’t want to. But I could.
- Have a right to equal pay. Hmmm. That’s a tricky one. Much more complicated. But I have a right – it is enshrined in law.
- Be considered a person. Oh yeah, that’s right. In 1929 a Canadian women had to fight to sit in the Senate. Before then, she was not ‘qualified’*. *She was.
- Obtain a court order against a violent husband. Again, done this. And I was believed. And I didn’t have to fight for it. However, this only became law in 1976!
- As a single woman, get the contraceptive pill. 1967. Because I might be promiscuous. Or something. So glad I don’t have a ton of unwanted babies now!
- Access a legal and safe abortion. Just knowing that I can do this in this country means I don’t have to worry about all kinds of things. Research has shown that restricting abortion doesn’t stop it, it just makes it far more dangerous. The position in the U.S is particularly worrying at the moment, it seems to be going backwards in progress.
So these are 10 things I looked up (thanks, telegraph.co.uk) that I can do today. Surprisingly, it is still legal to make a woman wear high heels to work.
The thing I am most thankful for though, even after all this, is all the women and men who have my back. There are loads of them out there and I’m blessed to have a wonderful circle of people that raise me up, push me on and stop me giving up when things can get bleak. I hope they feel the same way about me.
T. B. C.