What if every girl in the world had access to education? What if women could walk home alone at night without fear of being attacked? What if those who hold political power reflected the demographic of the people they represent? What if 50% of leadership roles went to women? What if childcare was affordable and accessible? What if the media stopped using women’s self-image as a weapon to make us feel guilty and inadequate? What if we stopped enforcing gender stereotypes and started telling women and girls that they could be whatever they damn well like?
Can you imagine a world like that? Wouldn’t it be incredible?
It’s International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate women. To champion, empower, and advocate for equality. To raise our voices in praise of how far we’ve come, but,crucially, to look ahead and take action to create the change that needs to happen to bring true equality.
Getting fired up
I spent this afternoon surrounded by inspiring women at a workshop run by my local MP and all-round eMPowering woman, Stella Creasy. They take the name of Circular Firing Up Squads – don’t let that put you off – these are workshops designed to bring women together to get fired up, cheered on and – most importantly – to go and take action. To put ourselves forward, speak up, make ourselves heard and take opportunities. To encourage more women to step into leadership roles and create change – one woman at a time.
And here’s what I came away with.
I’ve just finished a 30 -minute YouTube workout in my bedroom. My face is its usual shade of post-workout mahagony and I’m feeling grateful that my window isn’t overlooked. Hauling myself into a downward dog in knickers, trainers and half-rolled up Karrimor t-shirt isn’t my best look.
I’m also on day 5 of Paul McKenna’s hypnotic weight-loss app plan, teamed with his book ‘I can make you thin’. Having to disguise his beaky-faced book cover and hope the size 16 Arial isn’t as easily readable on the tube as I think it is bad enough. But I’m also working through feeling guilty if I chew my food less than 20 times (muesli is MUSH, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!) or because I accidentally didn’t leave any of the delicious pasta I made for dinner on my plate like a reformed character.
This is the latest in what I jokingly call my ‘weight-loss fads’ to friends and colleagues. Though Paul disagrees – he (and many of his formerly fat and disturbingly convincing Amazon reviewers) says it’s a total change in your attitude to food. We’ll see how I’m getting on after 21 days of falling asleep to Paul’s hypnotic trance – spoken in tones not dissimilar to The Fast Show’s Swiss Tony. I half expect him to kick off with ‘losing weight is a bit like making love to a beautiful woman’. But alas, I remain disappointed.
Scrolling through the usual swathes of newsletters and junk mail in my inbox last week, I stopped to have a quick glance at an e-mail with an appealing title from a well-known ‘women’s’ magazine (received, no doubt, due to my relentless lunchbreak competition-entering):
“241 tips to help you feel fabulous!”
It popped up on my virtual radar on a gloomy October Wednesday – when the only fabulous element of my life was a fabulously angry-looking boil on my forehead – and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who welcomed its breezy, optimistic opening gambit. And 241 tips! 241! That much fabulous is dangerous!
You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I opened it and saw this:
Upon catching half an hour of Bridget Jones’ diary as I was drifting off to sleep the other night, I got to thinking about my own ‘Bridget-esque’ grapples with womanhood. I read the book in my early teens, and remember naively empathising wholeheartedly with the despair at having a ‘bottom the size of Brazil’, one you could park a bike in, needing to lose twenty pounds etc. I also remember it coming as a bit of a shock when, as an adult, I realised that my fellow ‘fatty’ weighed in at about 9 1/2 stone ( I’m not sure Zellweger ever did, but that’s beside the point).
‘WHAT A WHOPPER!’ I hear you cry. ‘I’m surprised she could fit in the seat on the planehome!’ and so on and so forth.
As a kid, getting ready to go on holiday mainly involved trying to sneak wholly innappropritate items into the suitcase I shared with my mother; an oversized plush camel, the grotesque red inflatable armchair that sat beside our real sofa for 6 months after I begged for it, or the bucket and spade I’d been bought on a day trip to Blackpool, for instance.