Today is International Women’s Day. Also today, eleven years ago, my mother died. So I find myself with a lot to think about this morning.
She never met the four, beautiful, joyful little girls that are my daughters – daughters that will grow up in a world where the equality of the population of half the planet is not as it should be. Where it seems to be regressing or, indeed, to have never progressed. I don’t doubt my own good fortune – my education, my situation, and the freedom of choice that I have. But there has been plenty of inequality in my life – subtle, ingrained, socially accepted inequality. And, socially accepted or not, it doesn’t mean that the world is as it should be for women, something that grows more and more evident to me every single day, despite my first world privilege. Not just this morning, I find myself looking at the world and thinking that it’s not the one that I want for my girls.
I don’t want them to grow up to doubt themselves, or feel inferior. I want them to feel equal with other humans, and fearless in their pursuit of what they want out of this short life.
I want them to understand that success does not just mean bucks in the bank; that it should mean first and foremost fulfilment, contentment and a determination to find their own brand of happiness; and that failure is not the end of something, just an indicator that a change needs to follow.
I want them to know that life is not a competition, and that it's fine to not compete if they don't wish to; to realise that their strengths and their weaknesses form pieces of a puzzle that will eventually click into place with the complementary strengths and weaknesses of others. If the pieces don’t fit, then they should move on and keep trying until they do.
I want them to grow up assured that they cannot and will not, as long as I have breath in my body, be controlled by an organisation who will decide the place for them is locked out of sight from the ‘decent’ members of society, to be degraded, belittled and abused, their neglected babies deemed waste and tossed into septic tanks, unworthy of remembrance; their dreams and the hopes, to which they are entitled, dismissed as shameful or invalid, their lives utterly destroyed by the actions of those who crave and think that they hold righteous power.
I want them to be able to decide exactly what is the right thing for them to do with their own bodies – not have to follow laws created by individuals who have no experience, or right to even consider the subject, much less legislate for it, and who lack the most basic humanity and compassion.
I want them to live without the fear of being casually assaulted because such things are okay, and brushed off as ‘locker room talk’, condoned by powerful leaders. And I want a world where it isn’t their responsibility to take the blame when they have done nothing wrong. I want them to grow up in a world where it is absolutely unacceptable for them to be told to ‘lighten up’ or called ‘frigid’ or ‘a slut’, or to feel that they do not, for one second, hold the power in their sexual choices.
I want them to be supported by other women – not to have their everyday choices judged or belittled – their appearance, their diet, their career; whether they choose to have children at 19 or 39 or at all, and if they do, whether or not they choose to breastfeed, co-sleep, to stay at home, or go out to work, or make whatever choice they feel is right for them and their children.
I want them to know that they can make mistakes and not be defined by them, but learn from them without being haunted by them.
I want them to be kind, to look on the world with compassion, to contribute in some way to making good things happen, but I want them to know that it is okay to do this quietly – that not everything has to be a crusade, and if it is done without ‘likes’, that it is still valid.
I want them to grow up in a world where people have taken responsibility for the planet so it has been protected for them. I want science to be permitted to explore ways to fight disease and to make human achievement something that makes this world better for its peoples.
I want them to grow up in a world of tolerance and acceptance, but never to tolerate or accept what is blatantly wrong.
I want them to know that they are entitled to love and to be loved, adored and cherished and to never settle for anything less. To know that they are valid and valued.
This, for starters, is what I want I want for my girls. To know that they are equal to live as they wish. And that if they live respectfully of others, then they too deserve, without reservation, respect in return.
By men and women alike.