It is International Women’s Day on Friday.
Last year, I marked it on my blog with a post about Save the Children’s campaign to give women around the world access to reproductive health care.
This year, my thoughts have stayed a little closer to home, and I’ve decided to acknowledge some of the many incredible women who have had a direct impact on my life.
I started the post thinking I would just mention one or two, but as I started writing I found myself overwhelmed – in a good way – and I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down like that.
Women get a lot of stick sometimes, for their cattiness or for being seen as too competitive. True enough, there are some rotten ones out there… but there are also some incredible communities of women who support and nurture each other, and they are far more worthy of our attention. I count myself very lucky that in my life so far the good eggs have outweighed the stinkers by far.
Starting way, way back, I was born into a FAMILY that was full of brilliant women – aunties, cousins and grandparents who spanned the full spectrum of what women can achieve. There were some who had dedicated their lives to their families, and had worked hard to create loving homes for their children. There were others who had achieved great success in their careers. Some had travelled across the world; others still lived in the houses where they had been born. They were, to a woman, kind, patient and interesting – from the big cousin who would play games with me at family parties, to the Great Aunt who would regularly post books to encourage my love of reading. How lucky I was to be a little girl growing up not with one role model, but with dozens. What a great start in life, to be surrounded by women who made me feel I could do and be whatever I wanted.
They also gave me the confidence to go out into the world and choose my FRIENDS carefully. I have never been one to surround myself with lots of people for the sake of it; I prefer to have a small group of very close friends. I would say there are half a dozen or so folk who fall into that category. At one point or another, I’ve lived in close proximity to all of them – either at primary school, high school or University. We have all seen each other at best and worst of times. We have laughed, cried, danced, hugged, puked and partied with each other. We have turned from girls to women in each other’s company. Now we are spread out right across the world – from Islay to Australia – but I still have a bond with every one of them. We may not always email or write as often as we should, but when there is news to share – good or bad – these are the people I turn to. They are some of the best women in the world, and I love them dearly.
Of those friends, I was the first to marry, and the first to have a baby. That was odd, in some ways, but it led me to my next group – the MUMS. There is no experience that can forge a connection like being crowded into a room together with twenty other pregnant bellies and twenty other terrified looking husbands, to learn about pain relief options in labour. I didn’t do NCT classes, but I did NHS ones, and pregnancy yoga, and met some really lovely people in the process. It sounds a bit holier-than-thou to say it, but becoming a mother really does change you, and we were able to see that change in each other as it happened. Our little groups kept meeting up for coffee once the classes had finished – and one-by-one we would disappear for a couple of weeks before coming back with a snuggly little bundle of baby to show off. We exchanged horror stories about our births, compared notes on how feeding was going, commiserated with each other about the lack of sleep… They may not even realise it, but for the first few months it was those chats over cake and coffee – those wonderful women – that kept me just about sane.
After a year or two, when I finally felt like I’d got to grips with motherhood, and DorkySon was allowing me a good sleep every night, I turned on my computer and started writing. That was when I first discovered the BLOGGERS. Of all the women in the world who have a bad reputation, ‘mummy bloggers’ are probably top of the list. Bitchy blaggers, right? The Mummy Mafia? I’m sure, that as in any community, there are one or two like that. But my experience of these women has been overwhelmingly positive. The vast majority are funny, intelligent and incredibly self-aware. It’s not all nappies and cupcakes – the bloggers I know have as much to say about national politics as they do about playground politics. They campaign on issues they care about, raise vast amounts of money for charity, and rally round to provide the most incredible support for anyone in the community who needs it. Some of the bloggers are people I have coffee with every few weeks. Some I see a couple of times a year at an event or a conference, and some I’ve never set eyes on, despite reading their posts every day. They are ruddy brilliant women, and I’m proud to be one of them.
The last group of women I want to acknowledge is one I don’t really have a name for. I guess they are the closest things I have to real-life GUARDIAN ANGELS. They are the women who were in exactly the right place at the right time and – knowingly or unknowingly – gave me exactly the support I needed. The schoolteacher who instilled in me a love of words, and showed that it’s okay to push boundaries both internal and external. The student midwife who raided her own lunchbox to get me a drink when I was in labour and there were none available on the ward. The colleague who takes nonsense from no-one (including me) but has a strong, kind heart and is always outraged by injustice.
There are too many of them to list, but every single one of them gives me another reason to love women, and to love being a woman myself.
Have a great International Women’s Day on Friday, and maybe take five minutes to say thank you to the ones who are important in your life.
You might also like to check out some of the other IWD posts that have been linked up over at Lulastic.
In the middle of writing this post, I spotted something that ties in very nicely. There is an exhibition called Travelling the Distance in the Scottish Parliament at the moment, by an artist called Shauna McMullan. It is 100 handwritten sentences by and about Scottish women, sculpted in porcelain. To tie in with the exhibition, the @ScotParl twitter account is asking people to write their own short sentence about a woman who inspires them. If you don’t write a long post for IWD 2013, this is still a nice way to join in. If you hashtag it #travellingthedistance they will RT as many as possible.