I’m rarely lost for words, but today may be an exception. I am, of course, in favour of equality. And social justice. And fairness. And, for that matter, organic vegetables. My hesitation is not in the importance of this story, but rather a fear of jumping on bandwagons. Yesterday i wrote about toys for boys and girls, simply because it crossed my mind. Today i’m writing about Women because there’s a day dedicated to it and i feel i ought to. And that may be the problem.
By having a day dedicated to, or in celebration of, women, may in some way justify or exempt the other 364 days of this year that we tolerate inequality. And talking is not the same as doing.
Maybe things have to start with talking, but what would i know, as i write from a privileged position. I am white, male, English speaking and tall. If i just got fat and old and started cracking jokes about it, i’d personify the problem.
What can i share that will have meaning?
Stories of inspirational women?
My friend in the police who stood up when subjected to sexism and homophobia at work: does she know how proud i am of her? Does she know that i’m proud of her not for triumphing against adversity, but for being the best that she can be, for being a role model, for building our community, not just living in it?
My friend Laura who is unafraid to walk into a meeting with her two year old son, because why wouldn’t she? Who has been working in her community to build a Baby Bank network that collects and shares toys and supplies for parents with young babies who don’t have access to them. Building her community, not just living in it.
The pride i feel when i think about the work being done by the whole team at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, with their global Mentoring programme, helping women in developing and emerging economies to run their businesses better, to develop financial authority and hence political power to drive change.
Maybe the stories we share are less important than the fact we feel that those stories are worth sharing. That we recognise the magnitude of the challenges that we face, we all face, as members of an imperfect society.
Levels of sexual violence, levels of inequality, attitudes towards pay, conditions, status, all are out of balance. And not just slightly. At the current rate, it will take over a hundred years to close the pay gap. That’s not a solution: that’s saying ‘when we are all dead and gone, the problem can be solved by someone else’.
Celebrating inspirational women is a worthwhile activity: doing something to lessen the inequality is better. And that’s something we can all do, by asking questions, by offering support, by not tolerating the wrong answers.
So maybe it’s right that we have International Women’s Day and celebrate the ‘social, economic, cultural and political achievements women’. But maybe we should work hard to ensure that, in the future, there doesn’t have to be the subtext of #PledgeForParity.
If we are not all equal, then none of us are equal. If we live in an unequal society, we all lose. But if we are not actively working towards solutions, we are simply observers of the problem, and no amount of celebration will make up for guilt we should carry about that.