Hello to all but especially to all the women on International Women’s Day!
Yes, that time of year seems to come around all too quickly, but it is so nice to have an opportunity on my 366-day blog to write about it. First of all, let’s see what UN International Women’s Day is all about. Here is a good quote I found earlier online which puts it well:
“Today we mark International Women’s Day, which celebrates women’s economic, social and political achievements – and the things that make our role models fantastic. WHETHER it’s a close female friend, your boss or your mum – we all have women we look up to.” Here is a link to the UN International Women’s Day website: http://internationalwomensday.com/
I have never been what is known here as “a feminist” although I have known a few in my time, some lovely and some a little over the top but I suppose it depends on your life experience and background. You would think I would have become a rabid feminist as I come from a family where “the male” was almost idolised and my three brothers were treated as ‘gods’ who were to be revered.
They could not be seen doing housework – although I think an exception was made for washing the dishes! But I’m sure that’s because my father always did the dishes after tea, despite a full day of hard manual work, so how could Mum enforce this one? No, I never ever felt the need to trumpet the cause for women’s equality and felt quite comfortable in my own little female world.
But, I do think there was something else going on here and as I got older I saw it very clearly. It showed me that things were not as they appeared in my Lebanese household. You see, despite the MAN IDOL thing, it was my Grandmother who ruled the roost! And the same was true of my mother. I saw it also in my aunties as well. THEY were in charge. In fact, the men were almost frightened of them. Hilarious?!
So, in my mind, I got the message to humour the men and not ask too much of them, but let them know fairly and squarely who was REALLY in charge. No need to be a feminist. I married a man who has always participated in work in the house and there has never been a problem but there was indeed a problem when my son Daniel went to high school and I recognised that I faced a dichotomy within me.
What happened took me by surprise. I had a rule that the teenage children learn to do their own washing starting in the holiday period. This worked fine when Maria (a girl) began high school but when Daniel’s turn came (the boy) I felt this incredible tug within me that it was somehow wrong to let (heaven forbid) a BOY do his own washing!
Maria sensed this turmoil within me and she clearly pointed out the unfairness of it if I did not expect Daniel to do the same. Oh, it hit home to me that the apple had not fallen far from the tree after all! So, taking my courage in my hands, I persevered in insisting that Daniel do his own washing. He whined and went on about how unfair it was (probably sensing my vulnerability) but I stood firm and the washing got done.
Later in the year, Daniel had cause to go to Sydney for a week on a soccer playing week with the school, and the boys stayed in cabins in a Caravan Park and what happens after a few days away? Washing needs to be done. None of the boys knew how to use a washing machine – except – for Daniel! He was a hero and saw for himself the benefit of it. I think he grew ten inches at that time and came home with his tale of rescue. We still laugh about it to this day.
There would be occasions when I faced this same issue again in different forms, but I recognised that if I wanted the generations to behave differently, I would have to be the one to make the changes and break the patterns of behaviour that another generation held. Perhaps I have championed the women’s cause after all, in my own subtle way?
So, this is my own personal story and the bit I did to change those ingrained ideas that you do not even know are lurking there in your subconscious. However, I have always had wonderful role models who I am sure gave me the strength of spirit to believe in myself. This was especially clear when I went to university in my forties despite my mother telling me when she was alive “Theresa, girls just don’t go on to study, they get married and have babies!”
It was useless when I was a young girl arguing with her, but I did try. Oh, how I tried! And I cried. I desperately wanted to be a teacher but in the end she won so off I went to work in an office. My mother, a seamstress, thought that a job of this kind was a definite step upwards on the social ladder!
The person who influenced my wanting to be a teacher was the nun who taught me at that time: Sister Mary Valentine. She got me to teach history to some of my fellow students in my spare period and they all improved, but her influenced was in so many other ways too.
About five years ago, during a reunion of my Junior class where S.M. Valentine (Val White) was present for the first time (long gone from the convent, now married with grown up children) and I told her how much her encouragement had meant to me and the influence she’d had on me. She could hardly believe it! She tried to dismiss it but the other girls present would not let it go and finally she was able to see the truth. No one was more amazed than this woman.
So, I want to herald my role models today and thank them for what they gave me. My middle sister was another person. I watched her as an awesome mother and I decided there and then, that I would not be a “yelling mother” like my own dear mother who learned this behaviour from her mother. Yet, I know my mother did give me so much especially in the cooking department and in loving me despite my arriving “by accident” when she had enough four already!
In closing today’s blog, let me just say that I read the following online which made me aware that my little story is nothing compared to the women in third world countries who have not really seen the impact of any true liberation for women:
“8 March – International Women’s Day. UN Women Australia’s theme for 2012 is Women’s Economic Empowerment. They are promoting the Partners Improving Markets Project which seeks to improve conditions for women in markets in the Pacific. This program raises funds to support women selling fresh food in markets in Papua New Guinea, the Solomons and Vanuatu. Over 80% of vendors in these markets are women and they are often subjected to bullying and violence from market managers and middle men buying their produce.”
Also I read in the Courier-Mail online: woman have been told to do “more blokey activities such as play rugby and become miners” by the Australian Graduate School of Management. This is a bit of worry and seems a little extreme, but hey, whatever makes a person happy is fine by me! Read more of this article it at this link: http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/women-told-to-do-more-blokey-activities-in-international-womens-day-message/story-fn7kjcme-1226293817242?from=public_rss
It is however, good to get “the big picture” and see things outside of one’s own frame of reference. so today, spare a thought for the women who are still fighting for equality and have every right to call themselves “feminists” but I am sure they do not even know the term exists!