On the 8th of March every year, I celebrate the women who have paved the way for me to lead the life I choose. To have a choice, in the first case.
Our shared history
International Women’s Day means looking back at the history of women’s movements, protests, riots, suffrage and ever prevailing strength. Understanding that women have put their bodies, their reputations and their families on the line so that I can vote in this year’s election, have safe and legal access to abortion and have the right to own property under my own name, to mention just a few.
Quite frankly, it baffles me when others can’t gauge the significance of the silent protestors and screaming rioters of previous generations. It’s clear to me to recognise those who came before, the centuries of injustice and silencing those women endured so that I could wear shorts on a scorching December day or drive to university each week.
Yes, we’ve had these rights for decades and yes it may be old news, but it’s worth taking a step back to comprehend how far we’ve come and who got us to this point in time. I’m not going to delve into a history lesson and catalogue a long list of women whom you should know—you can do that in your own time. Instead, I hope I impart to you the notion that acknowledging our past is the key to our future, in the fight for equality.
To me, it’s unfathomable not to be curious, not to possess this strong desire to learn the history of feminism. I can’t imagine riding on the backs of others and not acknowledging that I am. But, hey, not everyone is as vested in feminism as I am. And that’s okay. If there’s one thing I wrestle with at the core of feminism, it is the respecting of others and the differences between me and the next person. Come to think of it, maybe it’s because some humans don’t think feminism or, shall I say, the patriarchy, affects them. If only life were that simple.
So, I remember the hunger-strikers and the revolutionary leaders who came before. But by no means is my head stuck in the past.
International Women’s Day means celebrating the women around me now. My wildly strong group of chicas, some of whom I am still friends with since high school and all who I know will never leave my life. I cherish our differences. From potential PhD’s to teachers, journalists to carers, the women in my friendship group are all taking steps to discover their passion in their careers. One of them organises all group events and keeps us safe, connected and listening to the best new artists. Another can sketch any vague illustration idea you send her way, and designs tattoos as a side hustle to her law degree. A friend of mine dedicates her personal life and career to honouring the land, sea, earth and spirits from which she came, educating herself and others on Australia’s First Nations people and the steps we must take towards true reconciliation. I even have friends who convinced me to do a group TikTok with them.
Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Except not that first bit. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without every single one of them, and I hope they know how grateful I am.
I am grateful to the women in my family, from my cousins to my Nanna and my aunties, who have each imparted many lessons that will always stay with me. One of those lessons being sometimes it’s easier to let Grandad go off on a tangent rather than interrupt. At the crux of the kickass women in my family are my Mum and sister.
It’s hard to suppress my eyes from doing that annoying watering thing when I think of our memories together. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but I think it’s important that we all reflect on our mothers and sisters today. For the lucky ones, they are a solid rock in our life when everything else ebbs and flows.
My sister, Ali, has revived me from my deathbed in Chile after I drank the tap water. (Don’t do it, amigos. I don’t care how annoying it is to wait for that little white tablet to dissolve, don’t drink the tap water.) She’s peeled me off the ground post-break-up, careful not to mention the ex’s name as she reminds me that I deserve better. She’s fearless in so many ways, and I wish she could truly realise this.
And then there’s Mum. Mum is a constant in my life, and I’m lucky to be able to rely on that as fact. I’ve never had to worry about Mum not coming to the school assembly to see me being awarded the ‘trustworthy’ certificate. Or feel disappointed that she didn’t want to read the essay I got a High Distinction for. She always wanted to read it and nags me until I send her all the other assignments, too. Mum is always home when I get back from work, asking how my day was, and I hope I never lose sight of how lucky I am to have her. Even if she does make me watch ‘Married at First Sight’ on Channel 7.
The women I surround myself with are women whom I aspire to emulate. I pick up snippets of personality from each one, whether it’s money management, how to write a perfect cover letter, or how to determine the best moon cup to buy. I am constantly learning from these women and adapting myself and my beliefs along the way.
International Women’s Day is a day for praising the accomplishments of women, but I think it should also be about navigating and praising the failures. There is strength in failing —it takes courage to try something you suck at. Or go for something when you have no idea what you’re doing. Being out of your comfort zone, pushing yourself to go to that networking event where you know no one, being the only one to try that thing—that’s empowering. Even if you don’t get the job, you didn’t make a single friend, and it feels like it was all a waste of time, I promise you it wasn’t.
This year, the United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is “Women in leadership: Achieving and equal future in a COVID-19 world”. Central to the theme of leadership is the reality of failure.
Failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, remaining stuck is. Anxiety sucks. Panic attacks truly suck. But remaining stuck in a failure from your past will do you more damage than anything else. Speaking on the warrants of my own experience, I urge women to commend their mistakes, reflect on why they perceive it as a failure and put in the work necessary to keep moving forward.
It’s wired into our brains from the womb: you need to look like this Instagram model; you must always wear makeup to work so that you don’t look tired; oh, and don’t forget to smile. At all times. And if we don’t meet these requirements? You’re a failure.
We must unlearn this damaging mindset that we cannot fail. Because at some point, you will fail. You might muck up the job interview, or fail your first driving test, but the bit that counts is how you dust yourself off and get on with it.
So, this International Women’s Day, take the time to reflect on the history of this day and the women in your life now who inspire you to be you. Don’t forget to embrace failure. Faster. You’ll set yourself up for greater achievements in the future.