Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Like International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. It's a celebration of how far women have come from preparing the pottage in the tent and washing the menfolk's feet to being full partners in running the world. And also a reminder to keep fighting for the right to be full partners and whatever it takes to achieve this - usually issues to do with pregnancy and childcare.

Candi at Looking For Blue Sky has written why she doesn't like International Women's Day. You can read her post HERE. She ends with the words:

"Don't get me wrong: I love my children more than life itself.  I just don't love the way that society views me now that I am a mother.  And until that changes, International Women's Day is pretty meaningless."

I started a comment in reply to Candi but my thoughts on this subject need their own space. So here they are.

Men don't need to fight for equality in the workplace. There is no cause, fight, or issue with men in the workplace. I don't think there is much of an issue either for women who don't have children. Except in religion (don't get me started), women who are free to devote as much time to their careers as men have pretty much arrived in the boardroom. 

The issues, therefore, are about childcare. There's also the care of elderly parents to some extent, so perhaps the issue is about the role of carer in any family. It doesn't matter which adult in the family is the carer - a mother, a father, a grandparent or a hired nanny/housekeeper. The point is that there needs to be a carer and that has traditionally, and obviously, been the woman. 

The facts of lower infant mortality, family planning, and washing machines free up the modern woman to the extent that she can go out to work and have a fulfilling career. If the family has alternative 'carer' arrangements there's no conflict. But modern medicine and technology don't negate the need for a designated carer in the family. By definition, the primary carer needs to be available for family stuff. 

I agree that girls should be educated as much as boys, for whatever role they choose as adults. And I believe they should have the choice. I agree that once a woman has chosen the career track and, if she has children, her family has an alternative carer, then she should have equal opportunities and remuneration at work. I agree we should celebrate that women have these choices when for so many centuries they did not.

I don't agree that society looks down on mothers. Who is this 'society'? Society is made up of many sub-groups and the one I would most like to identify with at this stage in my life - the homemakers, mothers, and carers' society - most certainly does not look down on me for being a mother. In fact, I used to feel looked down upon for not being a mother (before I was one) far more than I do now for having a job rather than running a department.

As a single mother this means I have given up on a lot of material things but I am not less, I am more for finding the joy in free entertainment and simple food. My place in society is not defined by my spending power. You can contribute plenty in non-monetary ways.

However, I would not say that society looks down on women without children. I would say that your personal vulnerability and ambition dictates how you see yourself in the eyes of 'society'. 

I never had big ambitions to conquer the world. I only ever wanted to be a mother and a homemaker. I have a circle of friends who enjoy and take pride in being the carers rather than the careers in their families. Most of them also work, many in high-powered careers but with the restrictions that go with being the family carer. And those of them who are lucky enough not to have to work for a salary, contribute loads by way of voluntary work and have much to be proud of. 

You can feel victimised in this role or you can relish it. It's not about how society views you, it's about how you view yourself. If a group of corporate big-wigs look down on you so what? Society isn't only those in the boardroom. Society is also the mothers, the teachers, the grandparents, the nurses, the shopkeepers, and the carers. 

International Women's Day isn't just about smashing the glass ceiling. We can also celebrate the power, for example, of the homemaker bloggers (mostly women) who have knocked the consumer world sideways with their online outreach and influence. We can celebrate women's business initiatives in the developing world that utilise the power of women to educate their children and raise their families out of poverty. I personally celebrate single mothers who have chosen to be included in the society of families even though they were not lucky enough find their life partner. 

I love being a woman in 2013 and this is why I celebrate International Women's Day. 


  1. I don't think that because I'm a woman I have been discriminated against. If I have wanted something in life, I have always gone after it. I have had nothing handed to me on a plate. Everything I have achieved I have done through my own efforts. I have always ploughed my own furrow and that didn't include children. Not through choice, but I was never with the right man at the right time. If International Women's Day can help raise awareness of the plight of women in developing countries, then I am all for it! Personally, I think that it is for them, not us. We all have the choice to follow our own paths, they don't. That's the difference.

    1. Good point. Although I like the idea that all women of the world are united in this rather than it's us doing it for them, which could be seen as a bit condescending.

  2. Great post and I nearly feel the need to write another post in reply! My experience of having children has been about control and also about being regarded as a burden to society by some because I am no longer paying my way, even though I am now working part time. Many/most of the cuts to services and benefits in Ireland have affected women and children, which reflects societies view of their importance in my mind. I had great flexibility from my last (female) boss, but I always remember that my clients must have thought that I had poor health as they were always told that I was sick not my children when I had to take a day off. And they weren't told that I worked part-time: I was just always 'in meetings' in late afternoon. Doesn't that tell you a lot?

    1. I agree that mothers who are the primary carers at home are not respected at work. I chose not to work in such an environment. I'm poorer but happier for it. That element of society doesn't define me.

      Government cuts are harder as you cannot opt out of being a single mother or a carer. I get it that it is usually the mother (i.e. the woman) who cannot and will not walk away but I think the "crime" here is being weak and vulnerable rather than being a woman - pensioners, and the disabled are also targeted.

      You are not a burden because you cannot pay your way atm. You are part of a good (if sometimes inadequate) system that we all approve of and nobody wants to abolish. The burdens are those who abuse the system, not you.

      I understand that you've been/are discriminated against. The debate is whether it's a gender thing or a disregard for the weak and vulnerable. This doesn't make it any better for you I know - sorry.

    2. I am genuinely pleased that your experience has been more positive :) I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree xx

    3. Can I have a quick word here, Please! I am a house husband after being made redundant 20 years ago. My wife worked until six months ago when she took voluntary redundancy when local government cuts took their toll where she worked. She decided to return to work when our son was born to both criticism and delight among her fellow workers. Strangely, it was the much younger staff who criticised. " I couldn't leave my baby with someone else". That 'someone else' was her mother. I was made redundant twenty years ago and after fiddling about with low paid temporary work. (My wife had earned more than me anyway) I decided to do the home care, cooking, cleaning, school run, by bike as it happened with a run along the sea front as a diversion. I was looked on by some women as unusual and soft. I was doing women's work as one woman actually said. Later I looked after my father in law who became seriously ill after mother in law died suddenly. The care became very personal just before his death. I also helped my sisters and poorly mother care for my own father who also died after four years of Alzheimer's and later my mother before her sudden death. (More women's work I was told, again, by a woman). My wife's ageing aunt required increasing care and as my wife could not do this due to her work I again stepped in with increasing care leading to eventual responsibility as her heart and kidney infections made her more debilitated, her dementia caused problems as well as worsening arthritis. I did all her cooking cleaning and hospital appointments of which there were many. We eventually found a care home and I did most of the visiting. I did this all to take the stress of caring from her shoulders.

      During all of this I discovered that many other men were finding it their lot because of marriage breakups or male unemployment. We men are becoming primary carers and I still hear women talking of 'women's work when confronted by men doing it. As for men not having to deal with issues at work please consider what my wife had to go through in her job as cuts began to bite. Name calling, laughing at someones misfortune, a show of friendliness to a face then talking derogatory behind their back and overall bitchiness and backstabbing as people jostled for position, all women.

      As Mother's day draws to an end I thank my wife for the effort and financial stress she went through in providing for our son. His architectural school gets no funding from the government and we or should I say, my wife has paid it all including necessary trips abroad, his working in China and costs of materials. She has sweated during the nights with worry at times but our son has done a marvelous job of his studies and the beautiful words on his 'Mothers Day' card says it all. Some women think that men can't do "WOMEN'S" work but we can and well.

      There are some amazing women in the world but some are poor specimens to hold up as women.

      God bless all women, mothers or not and single or not but only those who deserve it.

    4. And God bless all men who are willing to test tradition and do what is necessary for the good of their families. I am totally for equality in choosing the carer in a family - it should not based on gender but on more practical criteria. Thank you for your comment.

  3. I'd also like to celebrate men who put their families above their careers; this is for me the most important thing in life and should be seen as that.

    1. Yes but that's not Women's day its Family day. Women's day should not become about being carers and home-makers. It's about the choice to do this or go for the 100% career or anything in between.