It's been a tumultuous 12 months since our last International Women’s day - much has changed and even more has been gained in the last year in terms of equality and women’s rights.
The day has historically been one to celebrate - its origins however were born of necessity rather than celebration, at a time when women were second class citizens and at a crossroads in their fight for equal rights.
In 1914 for example, IWD was held in Germany and England and was dedicated to women's fight for the right to vote. Women marched from Bow to Trafalgar Square in London. The noise was raucous and undeniable - women were desperate for change. In many countries it was indecorous for a young woman to go out in the streets without a male consort or female elder - the first World War would of course change this. Nevertheless it was a source of deep perturbance for women who were secretly plotting a female revolution the likes of which the world have never seen previously. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be for another four years that they would get the right to vote in both Germany and England.
Photo: The Week.
The very conception of a women’s day brought with it much difficulties, especially at a time when women were free from the shackles of war. Wartime accounts detail how “unaffected” the women were by the trenches, often demonized for their exemption from the fighting - even though of course they were barred from participation.
"There are so many occasions when a woman is in a tight spot which only she herself can face, that it is rather rare to find her trying to share her burden or ask for assistance on the ground that she is a woman" - Eleanor Roosevelt, My Day, 1939
It’s a day that has come to represent defiance, derision, unity and inclusion, a day that resembles for SWAAY, a Christmas of sorts, where we’re allowed a pause to reflect, not only on the merits of our female peers, but on those of our ancestors - on the women that began the revolution to get us where we are today. It's day that we can look forward to a future where perhaps a women’s day need no longer exist - because women and men will live equally - unburdened by ubiquitous differences that science and molecular biology determined we would have.
Change is a scary and mutilating concept - 1. because it is mostly irreversible; and 2. because life cataclysmically shifts.
Developing women’s rights became a cataclysmic, irreversible and inexorable change rang in by the twentieth century. And now here we are into the second decade of the twenty-first century and we are allowed the luxury to stand still and admire how far we’ve come.
Yet there are those, most recently perhaps in the European parliament that would still propose women as the inferior, more undeserving of the sexes. In order to belie my repulsion(and many of my peers) - I wish to very proudly announce the achievements of women in the past 2 months in possibly the most braggadocios way possible, while also gleefully regaling the tales of the women who got us here.
Katherine Johnson, pictured above, was the subject of one of the year's most celebrated movies Hidden Figures. Johnson was one of the 'human computers' used by NASA for Alan Shepard's record-breaking flight in 1961, for which she provided the trajectory analysis.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
— Maya Angelou
After the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, Vladimir Lenin made Women's Day an official holiday in the Soviet Union. Women participated in wartime efforts, and a figure much celebrated in Russian World War II accomplishments is that of the female sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko. She is credited with 309 kills and is perhaps one of the most renowned snipers in history. Wartime women have since become normalized because female participation in armies and warfare is a modern adaptation of the history we no longer have to abide by. While there still lingers a stigma attached to female soldiers, it is becoming normalized, especially in the past year with female legions forming to counter the patriarchal and consuming threat of ISIS.
Photo: Lean In
Marne Levine(pictured above) is Instagram's COO and is representative of a generation of women no longer accepting the demonstrable glass ceiling rule of thumb for women in tech. It has been a breakout few years for female executives in growing industries such as tech and design and Marne's achievements both at Instagram, and Facebook are a testament to the future of women in these industries that are finally realizing the benefit of female influence at the helm.
The demonstrations held by women across the world after the Inauguration in January were the largest ever by women in written history. Much has been said about the significance of the marches and whether or not they were merely tantamount to a fleeting anger with Trump's win and Hillary's loss.
This is not the case.
March 8th 2017 is not about the 2016 election and it is certainly not about protesting the man who currently holds the oval office. Rather, it is about where women can go from here - what we can do to ensure equality and how we can achieve it. So whether you're participating in 'A Day Without A Woman' strikes, abstaining from laundry or cleaning duties, calling your boss out on sexism in the workplace or simply wearing red and luxuriating in your feminine glow - enjoy the day. It's all yours.
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.