International Women's Day 2019: Women Who Inspire The Hell Out of Me
International Women’s Day is a very special day to me. Why? Because women AMAZE me. We are truly phenomenal creatures – Beyonce’s line: “Strong enough to bare the children, Then get back to business” comes to mind. But the miracle of our bodies aside, what we go through as women connects us. There’s some things only another woman would understand. International Women’s Day is a celebration, an acknowledgement and a way to continue the fight.
So I wanted to share about some women who have been deeply inspiring me lately. Women, who I think fight for what’s right.
By now, you may have seen the articles about the Facebook group called: “Stefani Germanotta, you will never be famous”.
I honestly have no words,
Except these ones:
Lady Gaga/Stefani Germanotta, you are fearless.
From the moment Lady Gaga hit the radio airwaves, she has been nothing but authentic and fearlessly herself. She has been a passionate defender and activist for so many causes – she wore a meat dress. I mean. Nuff said.
But more than that, she put the haters aside. Someone making a hate Facebook group says a lot more about them, then it does about the person being hated. People who bring people down like that, do so because of a deep unhappiness inside themselves. Lady Gaga, or Stefani, probably knew that – BUT to actually be strong enough to put it aside. To keep going. Well, that’s heroic.
Now Lady Gaga is making history – and we are all better for it.
I don’t think anyone who knows me will be surprised to see Michelle Obama on this list. I recently posted on Instagram about reading ‘Becoming’ – I’m stilling thinking about that book.
Michelle Obama owns her story – even the parts where she didn’t want Barack to run for president. But one of the best bits about that story is that he wouldn’t until him and Michelle and agreed on it together. That’s a partnership. And a partnership like that only happens when there is mutual respect. One of the things that blow my mind is that Michelle Obama never wanted to the First Lady – yet she was the most incredible First Lady. She embodies loves, acceptance, inclusion. She’s full of wisdom, compassion and understands the deep and complex issues in society. She’s “when they go low, we go high”.
In the book she says she’s an ordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life – and she might feel that way, but let’s be honest: she’s an extraordinary woman because she decided to be herself despite the messages around her that say black women aren’t good enough, and everything that happened from there was because of that.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one day I’m going to meet Michelle Obama and tell her how much I love her and this book. (And also how much I freakin’ loved those Balenciaga sparkly boots. It takes a special kind of woman to pull off all yellow.)
I love Jameela Jamie (isn’t that the greatest name?) for so many reasons. I love The Good Place. I love her posh British accent. I love her lush hair. And I love her fearless activism.
She feels blessed to have a platform and a voice – and she’s going to bloody use it.
After being slandered in the media for when she put on a little weight, she was sick of being reduced to a number on a scale. She was sick of having a number on a scale dictate how she would feel about herself that day – so she started @i_weigh. Which measures her accomplishments and what she’s really made off.
If you want to soak up more Jameela Jamil, listen to her episode of Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, where you’ll hear from two fierce queens, who are living their best lives. She explains the whole story behind @i_weigh and I recommend listening. (Also both her and Jonathan commit to pooping their pants – it’ll make sense when you listen.)
And if you’re not convinced that Jameela is a fierce queen who’s her for the sisterhood, I’ll leave you with this quote from her:
“I truly believe that making women obsessed with their image is a clever way to take our eyes off the ball. It means that we’re not thinking about business as much as we could. We’re not sleeping as much as we could. We’re not able to grow the things that matter in our lives because we’re so busy panicking about our bodies. What a genius way to stop us from becoming equal. How can we be as powerful as men when we’re worried all the time? I’m done with standing back and watching women be hurt.”
And, most importantly, my mother
You see, I’m extremely privileged. I’m white. I got a good education. I grew up in a safe environment. My parents are still together. While we didn’t have a lot of money, I wanted for nothing.
But my greatest privilege is that I come from a long line of strong women.
Women who didn’t necessarily label themselves as ‘feminists’ but who knew that women were just as intelligent, capable and worthy as the man sitting next to them. Women who have been faced with hardship and judgement, but persevered with faith, integrity and strength. Women who taught me that my gender doesn’t make me weaker or lesser, but stronger. And it all started in my home – with my mother.
My parents have a true partnership. People today are still shocked when I say that my mother didn’t cook dinner or buy the groceries, my father did. Yes, in 2019 people are still shocked by that. I know, I don’t get it either. And he was doing this in the 90s, so I can only imagine how people reacted then. While my father did the washing, the cooking and the grocery shopping, my mother cleaned the house, organised us kids (and Dad, if I’m honest) and did the million other jobs mothers do. One of my parents doesn’t wait on the other, they each have a role. Which meant I’ve always seen them as equal, they’ve always treated each other as equals, which is why I don’t understand when other people don’t.
It isn’t until recently, in my twenties, that I’ve realised how blessed I was to have a strong female in my home, who sub. (My boyfriend does all the cooking, and when people are like “seriously, ALL the cooking?” I simply say, “that’s weird – my dad did too.)
But my mother is more than just a female role model. She’s selfless. She’s strong. She’s loving. She’s faithful. She’s loyal. She taught me to wear bold colours and prints. She taught me to appreciate shoes (and buy too many of them). She’s committed her life to making this world a better place, the best way she knows how. And she’s worked hard to be the one of the best parents I’ve ever had.
Not everyone is as privileged as me, not everyone gets to learn from their mother that being a woman is a blessing, that being a woman makes you strong. So today I want to acknowledge that privilege – I want to acknowledge my mum, my Shaz, who always supports me, no matter how bad my decision, and taught me to be independent (but who also tells me she saving for my wedding).
Women who work hard every day
I was at a Women in Comms & PR conference a couple of years ago and one of the panelist said:
“True equality is when there is as many mediocre women in high power positions, as there are men.”
And if that doesn’t deserve an Amen, I don’t know what does.
The sad truth is that men are promoted on potential, women are promoted on excellence. Men are expected to be ambitious, women are meant to be grateful for everything they get. But I want to acknowledge YOU, likely a woman who works hard everyday, to be the best she can be. Who has to suffer through a million and one messages that tell her she isn’t good enough, and decide every day that she is.
You got this, girl. You are a queen.
We are in an exciting time. Women have realised that it’s the patriarchal system that’s pinned us against each other – and we’re having none of it. The consistent thread in all these women – from Michelle Obama to my mum – is that they learnt to just be themselves, to own their stories, and to support other women.
So take time today to honour the women around you, show gratitude for the battle's fought to get us where we are today, and to honour yourself. But, most importantly, let’s ensure that progress towards true equality continues for women of all colours, across the globe – because the battle hasn’t been won yet.
“Here’s to strong women – may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them”
P.S. Mum, thank you and I love you. (I know you’ll read this because that’s how supportive you are.)