Today is The International Day of the Girl and this weekend I went to the Pankhurst Trust’s private screening of Suffragette, the movie, so forgive me, but my thoughts turn to feminism and equality today and rightly so – for all we have achieved and all we still have to do…..
First to my night at the movies. As the credits rolled on Suffragette, my face was wet with tears of gratitude and admiration for these awesome, brave and fearless women who gave up so much, some their lives, to secure us the right to vote. Before political equality we were powerless, with no or little recourse for injustice, no avenue to lobby for change nor had we even been allowed to step onto the first rung of the equality ladder. In fact, as the leading story in the film highlights we did not even have any rights over our children – it seems impossible to even contemplate today, but before 1925 our husband could give our child up for adoption without our consent??
After the film the audience was invited to engage in debate with several leading women including Dr Helen Pankhurst, the great grand daughter of Emmeline and grand daughter of Sylvia. I have met Helen before and she is impressive, but the audience were invited to pose questions to the panel immediately with not even a moment to celebrate our journey so far, or pay homage to the level of personal sacrifice given by so many to get us here. I feel this was a mistake as to inspire the next generation is it not important to know where we started and what we have already won?
So onto the questions — what are we fighting for today we asked, and what are the key issues? I was a little underwhelmed with the level of debate on the evening – it was predictable and uninspiring and if I was a young women it would certainly have not roused me into any kind of action, however, there was a stand out moment when an eight year old girl demanded to be heard and asked the panel how should she explain that she was a feminist to the boys in her class. Well I waited with bated breath for the answer to this one, but alas, her courage and gumption was rewarded with a few ‘arghs’ and rhetoric about how we are all equal. I reflected, how would Emmeline have answered her question, indeed, how would I have replied???
Well, number one I would have celebrated her courage and confirmed how important it is that she continues to put her hand up and ask, as asking is the beginning of everything – then I would have said …
‘Being a feminist just means that I can do anything that you can and I have a right to be, do and have anything I put my mind to. We are both the same when it comes to opportunities and work, and we should be treated the same. You are not better than me just because you are a boy.’
Would that do it? What would your reply have been?
I felt the night lacked inspiration, gratitude and celebration for all we have achieved in a relatively short space of time. Unless we can celebrate the massive leaps we have made, how can we encourage and empower the next generation to continue the journey? Who will we be writing a screenplay about it in the next 100 years?
Those of you who know me will be aware of my position on what we still have to do, I am not shy or retiring about expressing them on this blog, nor in my published work – but it has to be said, I get more and more frustrated by the ‘I’m alright, so all’s good’ or ‘If I can’t see it, it does not exist’ mentality in our society. This is summed up perfectly by a young girl on the video to celebrate International Day of the Girl when she says…
‘Until my sisters are free. I am not free’.
The journey to empowerment is not over until we are all safe, recognised and free. My husband does not beat me, nor does he emotionally control my every move, rape me or keep me penniless, but this does not mean I have the right to pretend this is not happening to other women every second of every day in every country in the world. Denial is not worthy of the sisters who came before us nor the daughters we leave behind.
Let me leave you with this fact……
Child marriage is illegal but is still happening in more than 50 countries. It effects 1 girl every 2 seconds. 50 million girls under 15 will be forced into marriages by 2020 and in some countries like Yemen and Afghanistan this is an extreme practice with girls as young as 5 being married to middle aged widowers. Find out more about this and speak up at www.tooyoungtowed.org
Sisterhood ladies, sisterhood!