Every International Women’s day, Peggy Lees’s I’m a Woman plays in my head on a loop. Despite its outdated lyrics, which I must admit I do cringe at, I like the song. I sometimes conflate Peggy Lee’s version with Olivia’s lip sync from The Cosby Show.
“I’m a wooooooman W-O-M-A-N”
Happy International Women’s Day!
What to talk about today? In my first (and only) IWD post on this blog I wrote a long heartfelt rant and Ms. Angelou rounded it off nicely. This time I thought I might celebrate some female writers. Anything really, I just couldn’t let the day go by without sitting down to write.
Today my office organised a meeting/conference/whatsmacallit in honour of International Women’s Day. I had attended the session last year and enjoyed it, even though it quickly became a how do we juggle motherhood with our careers type of talk.
The most notable thing I took from today’s session was something one of the speakers said. I cannot remember it verbatim, but to paraphrase: “Just because you suffered does not mean others that come after you should suffer as well”
Girl oh girl, isn’t this the truth. The first thing that came to my mind when she said that was this interview clip from Seeing Allred– a documentary about famed (infamous?) women rights lawyer Gloria Allred. I have scoured the internet fruitlessly for a clip of this interview. All I know is there was a white haired male host, and three guests one of whom was Gloria, the other Zsa Zsa Gabor, and the third a woman I cannot identify.
Gloria: I don’t think that our daughters should have to trade sexual favours in order to get a raise.
Unidentified female guest: Why not? We did.
My first thought on hearing this was Wow! Things really have changed. Nobody could say that on air now. But how much have things really changed? There has been progress alright, women all over are doing things our grandmothers couldn’t even dream about, and we are occupying spaces we never knew existed. Still it is not unusual to hear people say: “women of nowadays are nothing like our mothers” before descending into a romanticisation of the struggles the women before us had to endure.
We the women of nowadays are apparently lazier than our foremothers; we don’t like to cook or clean like our mothers did, some of us are even too lazy to push our babies out (C-section? Our mothers would never!). Our mothers were up at 5am and cooked seven course meals three times a day without complaining. We the women of nowadays are loud, brash and unfeminine; we dare to argue with men and assert our rights and independence. It’s no wonder we the women of nowadays cannot keep a man; we are too busy trying to be like men. Oh how the men long for women of old whose first name was suffering and middle name endurance. The women who rewarded infidelity with prayers and kisses. Everything that has gone wrong in the world is because of women’s rights.
It will never cease to amaze me how people who have watched their mothers suffer want this same suffering for their daughters or how people can justify foolishness by saying their mothers endured it. Did our mothers suffer just so we could carry on the legacy of suffering? The women before us fought so we could have easier lives, and we continue to fight so the women after us may benefit from it too. Saying women of nowadays cannot endure suffering as well as the women before is not an insult, it is something to be proud of. Our mothers crawled so we could run.
Unfortunately some women who crawled want to see other women crawl as well. Some women who have had to suffer are resentful of women of nowadays who seem to get everything handed to them. Why should this man be fired for harassing his female employees when I had to endure that for years? Why should this woman get to put her feet up and relax at home when I spent my life slaving over a hot stove and cleaning after everyone? Why should she be able to do as she pleases when in our day we were punished for that? All my life I had to fight, so why should these women get it easier? This crabs in a bucket mentality is so harmful. A shared experience should make one more sympathetic to the plight of others but instead in a lot of cases it just makes people meaner.
This reminds me of life in boarding school. The senior kids were the alphas and everyone else had to bow to them. The suffering and humiliation we suffered from seniors made us more sympathetic to younger ones right? NOOOOO. We couldn’t wait to be seniors so we could inflict the same pain on those below us.
So when the unidentified female guest said “Why not? We did” I was shocked, more at the fact that someone would say that publicly but that a woman would even wish sexual harassment on another woman. I would not have been surprised if she said “oh please I woke up every morning before the crack of drawn to start cooking for the family so why can’t you?” but I guess like most people I just hold sexual harassment on a higher echelon.
That you experienced a hardship does not mean everyone else who comes after you should face the same. I understand it may be hard not to be resentful, and it may be difficult to be happy about a change you yourself never got to benefit from. Still we’ve all got to try.
Today like all other days, I am happy to be a woman. I am especially happy-grateful even-that I am a woman in the 21st century. I am proud of women all over the world who have done their part for the advancement of womankind and I hope to be able to help in my own little way.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman