As a women’s organisation this has got to be one of our most favourite days and today has not disappointed.
This year’s theme is so timely in my opinion as there is a definite shift in the women’s movement and it is for the better. Over the past 4 years in this role of leading The Well Women’s Centre, I have continued to look to women for inspiration. I have attended many events with women speakers both local, national and international. Just a few years ago I attended an International Women’s Day event hoping to be inspired and empowered. Yet I left feeling underwhelmed and even more insecure within myself. I wondered if other women felt the same.
I reflected on the messages we as a society were passing on to women. The message had changed over many years of the women’s movement. We are now painted as strong warriors who can achieve anything we want to. Rightly so, this is certainly a belief I hold. But the messages I seemed to be hearing over and over again were still so polished and censored. With each message there would still be a sense of competitiveness underlying. There seemed to be important pieces of these messages missing. Messages given to women, by women were still telling us that there was a lot we were NOT doing. I don’t believe that this is the point that was intended, but it seemed to be the collective thought of women. I watched around me women continue to strive higher and higher in all areas of their lives leading to burn out and feelings of not being good enough. Or I would see some areas in lives succeed yet it would be at the detriment of other areas as we pushed ourselves to do it all (this was certainly something I experienced and am still challenged with today). The women’s messages I was hearing was that we can do anything we want to, continue to strive, continue to work hard, continue to improve in every single area in our life. In no way am I disagreeing with that, but these messages still left us with a sense that we had to step up to achieve them ALL and all at the same time. We place so much expectation within ourselves already, and yet the messages I was receiving felt like a whole lot more expectation. This left me feeling exhausted and even more insecure.
Today as I have been around town attending many International Women’s Day events I am so encouraged and inspired to see a shift in the messaging. Today’s sense is that we can achieve what we wish to but it does not come without challenge and adversity. That we can step out in confidence but it does not mean our confidence will not be challenged. That we can achieve many amazing things in our lives, but it is not necessary to pretend that we do this without heartache. That we will succeed, but we won’t succeed in everything all of the time and that’s okay. What I find was missing in many messages to women in the past is vulnerability and authenticity.
However, this is not my experience today. Today I see many women now stepping out in the courage to reveal their vulnerability and how it shaped them to become who they are. This is so inspiring and so encouraging to know how many women more than before are supporting each other in the striving to overcome what may be holding them back. More and more we as women are creating safety nets for each other to be comfortable in revealing our adversity. This I believe is key to a collective shift and positive shift in the women’s movement. If we wish to see women achieve more we have to continue creating a safe zone for women to reveal their vulnerability and support the strength and courage it takes to do that.
This is still a battle being fought as women continue to stand up for the many inequities that still exist, but this year’s theme encourages us to continue in that challenge and to take new approaches in the fight. As we celebrate this day, reflect on the past and look to the future we as a team #choosetochallenge. Today we stand together and take the words from the International Women’s Day campaign theme and work to put them into practice.
“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”