This year’s theme is “Make It Happen”. So, to women everywhere: first, stand proud and tall for everything that you have achieved so far in the face of resistance and challenges. And, whatever else you have in mind to do, take another step, no matter how small, in that direction today.
Now here’s a confession. Up till very recently, I was among those who would be embarrassed every year when this day rolled around. I would think: “Why make a big deal out of celebrating women? We do what we have to do. Men don’t have a special day. Why this spotlight?” Some years, depending on how things were going for me, I’d think: “Dammit. It ought to be Women’s Day every day. Why just one day? What difference will that make? It’s just another elitist observance for those who have the time for such things.”
And, I would think all this despite knowing the history of the day and its importance in many countries where women are still exploited and not at all empowered.
This year, after having been in India for some seven months and, in light of recent socio-political events like the ‘India’s Daughter’ documentary ban, I am taking this day rather more seriously. Not only do I see amazing, hard-working women around me more than ever before, but I also see their everyday exploitation and mistreatment. This is not restricted to the lower classes and the less fortunate. I’ve experienced it first-hand many times myself. And, as I look back on my decades of living and working in the US and Europe, I see that the inequities and perceptions that I dealt with there daily, though nowhere near as bad, were also pernicious. The difference, with the latter, was that it was considered poor form to call attention to them, particularly in Corporate America. If you wanted to play with the boys, you had to learn to take the rough with the smooth. [This McSweeneys piece covers it well.]
So I no longer see International Women’s Day as some empty Hallmark-like celebration day to glorify women once a year with logos and hashtags. This is a day to recall those many brave and pioneering women who paved the way for us to sit where we do today. Also, to review how far we’ve come individually in our own respective journeys. And, in honor of all of these memories, to keep plowing onwards for gender equality in all walks of life — from the humble kitchen to the vast corridors of power.
For myself, from now on, I’ve decided to pick one woman each year who has inspired me in some way and to learn from her example. This year, I pick the woman who made me want to be a writer: Enid Blyton. And, though I’ve turned into quite a different writer and don’t necessarily agree with everything she has written or said, I still love that her books made me believe that I, too, could solve mysteries, be the best/brightest girl in school, and so on. It wasn’t just about a few hours of escapism but about discovering and accepting possibilities within my self and my existence.
Below is some writing advice from her that, though it may appear to be rather simplistic, is actually rather difficult to manage in reality, given the number of distractions and constant noise that surrounds us and occupies our minds 24×7. And, as with all good advice, it applies to more than one area of life.