its seems apt to post another one of my guest writers today – as its international women’s day, who can be more inspiring than my friend Debra Bourne – as she quietly goes through her days challenging and progressing the rights, needs and feelings of the female, she is forever dividing her time, spirit and good sense amongst all her family and colleagues. deservingly she has just been publicly rewarded – read her fine words.
If there’s one day to celebrate the arc of female accomplishment, it’s surely today. Wednesday March 8th 2017. The 118th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Although technically speaking, Woman’s Day didn’t become an international affair until 1911. Inspired by the prior activities of American socialists, this was the first time that over a million women from Austria, Demark, Germany, Switzerland amongst other nations, signed up to the strategy to promote equal rights for women, including suffrage. Having participated in London’s spirited Women’s March earlier this year, even after a hundred years of activism, there’s still a whole heap of issues for us to address and improve upon.
I love and respect men, but I deeply love being a woman. Equality and the respect for difference have always been incredibly close to my heart and as a founder of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk (www.allwalks.org), which challenges the industry’s dependency on unachievable body and beauty ideals by promoting diversity in fashion;these values remain pretty central to my life today.
So that said, before any further ado, please may I encourage you, whether you are male or female to sit back, relax and grab a cup of tea before taking a moment to truly appreciate either yourself or any of the wonderful women in your life: Mothers, sisters, friends, daughters, grandmothers, role models or simply generous strangers. Let’s give it up for the multitude of acts; big, small, heroic or tedious, (in my book, tedium particularly warrants some love), that have touched your life over the year.
At this point, I’d like to share my appreciation for my dear and longstanding friend, Christina, who as the creative energy behind this gorgeous blog invited me to write this piece. In addition to both working in creative-led industries and sharing a mutual love of modernism, design, ceramics and photography, we’ve been close friends since our children; Maude and Johnny were three years old. Now, with our kids in their eighteenth year, I continue to admire Christina’s tremendous thoughtfulness, generosity, many talents and impressive time-management, juggling skills. Thank you Christina for your love and friendship.
The qualities of friendship, solidarity and feminism strike me as both distinct and somewhat interwoven. Love, trust, harmony and respect; all values at the heart of true friendship are core to the spirit of solidarity, albeit that the context is societal, rather than personal. So how do we express our values as women in society? In our many roles? And in return, how does society value us?
These questions are clearly too big to fully answer here, but they flag an invitation to share one of rules that I personally try to live by. I respect that you may not share my belief here, but taking a lead from the classic proverb, “charity begins at home“ which points to a person’s first responsibility is to the needs of ones own family and friends”, I feel its crucial that the first celebratory pit-stop on the road to a fulfilled womanhood begins with a responsibility to meet my own needs and find time to celebrate myself.
To know ourselves. Trust ourselves. Love, accept, pleasure and respect ourselves, as women, whether that be physically, emotionally or mentally, may sound like a simple and vain task, but in reality it’s a frame for a lifelong, conscious commitment.
Valuing ourselves as women is a serious business. If we don’t take ourselves seriously, then who will? Let’s not dismiss our dreams as dizzy ideas, but pursue them doggedly. To practice a path of self-love passionately, might even safeguard our bank balance. Given that some say that today’s psychologically astute society willfully targets and exploits female vulnerability for immense commercial gain. L’Oreal Paris was ranked the worlds number one in 2016, worth a record breaking, $13.69 billion. Not exactly small fry.
Rather than fear aging, our years of accumulative experience contributes to a reassuring sense of self-knowing. When we arrive at a place of true female maturity, our secret gift is not a puerile self-absorption but a wise liberation and deeply sustaining self-confidence that removes or significantly reduces the need for other people in our life, to be holding an affirming mirror up and this is immensely empowering. Each of us has the potential to become a well for our own wise-womanhood. We just have to willingly choose to drink its water.
Through my work in education or campaigning, I am often faced with younger generations of women who’ve feel inadequate and anxious. They have mistakenly given the responsibility for their self worth, fulfillment and general happiness, over another entity, whether that be a significant other, a partner, a job or a powerful cultural force like celebrities the fashion world or pornography. In addition to its’ role in marketing and selling clothing, fashion is a powerful carrier of messages about our bodies, our identity and self- esteem. An area of wider impact that it’s not generally keen to take responsibility for. As a global authority on appearance and taste, the fashion industry has the power to seduce way too many young women, particularly those intent on relating to such a reductive and literally superficial version of their womanhood, by prioritising appearance and an external sense of self. Without any attention to the beauty of inner growth, it’s no wonder that the fear of ageing, even in ones twenties can be the cause of such consternation.
I can’t help feeling protective over our young women. I want them to give them an helpful pointer. Having psychologically dethroned their mothers, as most of us did, during the required separation space of adolescence, many teenagers will step out into the world looking to become their very own ‘different from their mum’ woman. Disguising their financial interest in these adolescent consumers, fashion brands are particularly sophisticated at shape-shifting, morphing itself continually and pertaining to be the oracle of female happiness. “Come over here and we will tell you what it means to be a woman.” Aside from the occasional editorial gems, freely giving valuable insights, conditions generally apply; namely economic ones. And whilst the promise of happiness and attraction is proffered, It is essentially available if you are willing to endlessly subscribe to: do, buy, groom, eat, not eat, change and wear the following…and this list is the short version.
Compliance with dedication might buy a short shot of feel-good female status but not for too long. It’s in the commercial self-interest of these self acclaimed authorities on womanhood aka the fashion, beauty, diet, or even fitness industries, to swiftly adopt ever-changing trends and enthusiastically re-instruct you with new and improved rules that potentially bind you in dependently maintaining a lifetime of perfecting femininity.
Don’t get me wrong, I can love fashion, it was my industry for over 25 years and I know its power to magnificently adorn the female form. Fashion can be fun. However, it’s not fun when it’s at the expense of ones’ autonomy. Fashion can be a great tool for self-expression, but again, it’s a concern for the emotional vulnerable among us; Those who ask the wrong stranger for directions and whilst seeking self-validation, unconsciously fall prey to its’ demands. This is why, amongst other reasons, I enjoy spending my time, in whole-heartedly encouraging women to not give their power away and walk tall and savvy.
So without wishing to deny International Women’s Day of any of its’ valiant remit, whether that be female empowerment, international protest, political activism or addressing other global urgencies that touch all our hearts and lives in some way or another; I invite any women who have graciously stayed with me to the bottom of this page, to take a quality chunk of this 118th, IWD day, to stop, value and deeply appreciate the woman under your own nose. She is unquestionably worth it and not because a billion dollar brand says so. Use International Women’s Day, to begin an intimate relationship with our best friend – Yourself. Once your well is full, sure, go conquer the world and stand in solidarity, but please, do not advance from Go, without taking a deliberate dose of self-loving kindness to quench the thirst of your own being. In the name of solidarity, please offer a drink to a sister. Then, my friend, the world is most definitely yours.