Dear little one, Great Granddaughter of mine.
I sometimes gaze at you and catch the twinkling eyeballs your Great Granddad passed on to our daughter, Ramona – peepers that have been handed down from skull to skull through the ages- and I am instantly transported to when Ramona was a kiddo herself. Those days when I was a young mum, your Nana was just a toddler, your Great-Uncle merely a bump and I spent far too much time blogging.
I am an ancient soul now, my typing hands are withered but my mind is still sharp (ish. Well, as sharp as it ever was.) I have just a few moments before Countdown begins (how glad I am this gameshow and it’s theme tune outlasted Caramacs and white rhinos), and on this International Women’s Day 2073 I’m going to exercise the privilege of the elderly and tell you about what it was like Back In My Day.
My, we have come far. We are FINALLY wearing the tin foil suits I dreamed of as a whipper snapper, and scientists have FINALLY cottoned on to the fact that no one cares about particle acceleration and all we really wanted from them was the ability to zoom about on our own personal jet packs.
But perhaps the biggest strides forward have been made for womanhood.
Some of this stuff is going to make your twinkly eyes pop, my love, in the same way it did when I heard about the world my own great-Nana was bought into- where women didn’t even have the right to vote!
Do you know, even just sixty years ago, we had actual bare boobies in the daily newspapers (er, these were big sheets of information that were already slowly traipsing the Road to Extinction) to titillate male readers? That women were hugely underrepresented in positions of leadership and that women across the board earned less then men for the same kinds of jobs? Even TOYS, little one, weren’t above the grubby grips of sexism and sciencey knick knacks were marketed for boys while girls got the beauty parlours. My darling, it was the norm for women to unquestioningly take their husband’s name, and the norm for women to be the primary care givers and stay at home parents.
Although we felt we had come far due to the wonders of fearless women before us, sexism and injustice reached into the crevices of every day life and made global statistics something to weep at. Women used to be the main producers of food globally, but the most likely to go hungry – and made up a whole two thirds of the world’s illiterate people. Violence against women and rape were constantly misreported by police, even in our own country victims held the blame. And this, this will make your jaw hit the ground; I clearly remember one week the biggest online clothing trader was selling “Keep Calm and Rape” tee shirts. And, oof, you really wouldn’t believe it, precious, but women weren’t even allowed to become bishops!
How thankful I am that things have changed for you. That due to a host of courageous people fighting the big stuff and addressing the small daily acts of sexism the world you are growing up in has been transformed. Never would these brave men and women who spoke up to their bosses, who rallied outside newspaper offices, who took their rapists to court, who created Twitter storms against companies, who faced condemnation from a whole village for taking on a typically male role, who were called “humourless” for calling out sexist statements and stereotyping amongst conversation with friends, never would they have seen themselves as warriors in the likeness of suffragettes. But they were shifting society bit by bit. And now the world is wholly different.
When I look (okay, squint) around the globe now I am astonished that I lived to see it. Half of the G20 are women, and women are equally represented in every single industry. Playgrounds are filled with all children wearing all the colours of the rainbow and playing with every toy under the sun without shame. The trade in human-trafficking has been all but totally dismantled and there is no significant gender angle to the impact of poverty at all. It would be absurd, these days, for workplaces not to support parents perfectly splitting child care and domestic violence has been cut by 90%. Young women can walk the streets without fear of being humiliated by the objectifying grunts, shouts and whistles of men.
Little one, you and your friends can now do anything, anything at all! It is perhaps hard to contemplate another world, where even just sixty years ago there were so many hidden barriers for young girls. That I, when looking at my little Ramona, along with many other mothers, worried deep, deep down and tried to think up ways of pulling apart these barriers. Where I even had to take a pen (it was this small pointy object that a dark liquid came out that enabled you to write on paper, er, which is this white, flat, er… gah, ne’er mind) to her story books and make some of the heroes female because mostly they were naff rescuees or love interests.
You have a crowd of men and women who have pounded a path of gender justice before you to thank. At the time it didn’t feel like much, perhaps there were some days it didn’t even feel like worth the bother. Some women even stopped identifying as feminist. But your generation can walk unburdened because other generations didn’t stop with the vote, or the criminalizing of in-marriage rape or the introduction of paternity leave but kept on and on until all objectification was stomped out and true equality was heralded.
Right,the Countdown bongs are punctuating my words now, it is time to sign off, sweet one.
Keep celebrating this day, won’t you? There may be no need to use it as a time to bash at the doors of patriarchy, but celebrate in memory of those times when gender equality was just a dream.
Love your Great Nana,
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