I’ve always had mixed feelings about International Women’s Day. Whilst I love that it’s a celebration of women and all we have achieved, I also recognise that it’s a time to reflect on what still needs to be done to create true equality.
And it’s this reflection that bothers me. I see so many women who appear to be blinkered to what I believe true equality to be – everyone having the chance to pursue the same opportunities regardless of age, gender, religion, race but at the same time acknowledging that we aren’t all equally capable of the same thing due to limits in our physiology, psychology and genetic make-up. To me, true equality is about celebrating the individual as they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses and enabling them to do whatever it is they wish to do whilst recognising their limitations.
Yes, there is a lot still to do to ensure equal rights and equal pay and I’m all for that but not at the expense of men and that is very much the tip of the iceberg.
I see too many champions of women’s rights creating forums for man-hating and that’s where the problem lies.
I’m a huge advocate in raising awareness of domestic violence and too many of the online communities I have entered are little more than platforms to belittle men. Yes, it is a fact that more women than men are the victims of domestic abuse but this doesn’t mean all men are abusers.
The instances of men being victims of domestic abuse are increasing. Some of the stories I have heard are awful and make me feel ashamed to be a woman.
So celebrating International Women’s Day has a bitter taste for me.
I’m also an advocate of supporting women who are or have been sex workers. Because the sex industry isn’t going away, it is first and foremost, a service industry and the majority of its workers are there through choice.
In my opinion, true equality will be created when we have developed a culture that respects the individual and his or her right to be who or what they please.
Do I have an issue with women who choose to flaunt their naked bodies in order to gain wealth and fame? NO – it’s their choice.
Do I have an issue with women who work in the sex industry because they choose to? NO – it’s their choice.
I do however, have a massive issue with other women who decide that these women need saving because they are being exploited by men. They don’t and they aren’t.
The women that need help are those who are forced into the sex industry as a result of abuse, those who are threatened with all sorts of horrors if they don’t pose for the camera, if they don’t ‘put on that red light, if they don’t put out but ironically, campaigning to help these women in the seedier side of the sex industry isn’t as sexy or headline grabbing as a scantily clad woman only too happy to flaunt her assets for the camera.
It’s those women, forced to do things that no-one should have to do without consent, that need to be helped and celebrated on International Women’s Day. Help them to understand they can change their lives, help them to understand that there is no shame in having gone through what they’ve gone through, help them to understand that it’s not their fault. But also let them celebrate the fact that they’re still here, they’re alive and they can get through this.
It’s time that we as smart, intelligent women of the world who have the means and ability to create change start to make change where it matters rather than trying to create headlines and jump on the bandwagon that the sexualisation of women is a bad thing. The sex industry isn’t going away, it’s nothing more than a service industry with an incredible business model – I know, I’ve worked in it and I’ve researched it extensively.
Change needs to start taking place in our homes and our schools, where we learn to challenge unacceptable language and behaviour and respect that we all have equal status despite our very real physical differences.
Only when we can create equality in the home, which then extends outward into our society will we be able to say we are truly equal. When we as women allow our men to be men, our sons and daughters to follow their own path regardless of whether they like blue or pink, football or dolls, regardless of whether they prefer girls or boys, regardless of their gender or sexuality without worrying about what the neighbours will say, only then will we be truly equal.
And then I’ll feel happy about properly celebrating International Women’s Day, knowing that as a society we can all truly celebrate the fact that we are all equal and have access to the same opportunities should we CHOOSE to take them and that we don’t judge those who make different choices tot hose we would make for ourselves.
Whatever your opinion of International Women’s Day, I applaud it. Without an opinion we would not be able to bring about change.
To all of the incredible women I know, and those I don’t, who are getting on with their lives in spite of or despite appalling adversity, I salute you. And to all the men I know who support those women – thank you.
Happy International Women’s Day
On Safer Internet Day I’d like to share a story with you.
Having come out of a psychologically abusive relationship I had taken what I believed to be significant and sensible precautions to protect myself, both online and offline.
There had been a time where all of my social media profiles were hacked and pornographic images with my head super-imposed were uploaded to replace the profile photos I had. That resulted in a police caution for the perpetrator who denied any involvement in the incident. However, the images were removed less than an hour after the police visited his home so both I and the police remain convinced we had the right man. That wasn’t my ex but someone else I had been briefly involved with.
You see, it’s quite common for the survivor of an abusive relationship to end up in another abusive relationship. Their self-confidence, self-belief and self-worth have been ground down so much that they struggle to see any warning signs. Indeed, at the start of a new relationship, an abuser will be on their ‘best behaviour’ anyway so the warning signs are few and far between.
Some years after the incident outlined above, I had moved to a different town, was in a caring, healthy relationship and had started a new job. I felt safe, secure and able to breathe once more. So I received a shock when a letter was sent to my place of work for my attention. I couldn’t understand why or how the letter had been sent to my workplace instead of my home. A quick telephone call to the company who had sent the letter soon cleared that up, ‘we were given your work contact details by your ex-husband’.
I knew I hadn’t given him my work details. He had my home address, he needed that as we have a child together but I purposefully hadn’t passed on my work details because I needed to feel safe there.
I started an investigation because I wouldn’t be able to sleep properly without knowing where the ‘leak’ was. It transpired that my workplace had added my name to the staff list they had on the website without my knowledge or my consent.
My ex had set up a Google alert on my name so that he could track whatever I was doing and as soon as my name had appeared on my employers’ website, he found me.
My name remained on their website as by then it was too late, but my sense of safety and security was gone. Every time the office phone rang I would check the caller ID to ensure it wasn’t his number, every time an email or letter arrived from that company or someone with a similar name I would feel my blood pressure rise and my heart rate increase.
To someone who has never been in an abusive relationship, this would seem like a dramatic over-reaction to an innocent action. But to those of us who know only too well how an abuser can insidiously enter your psyche, this is a gross violation of our safety.
Not everyone wants to tell their employer that they are in or have been in an abusive relationship but employers should gain consent from employees if they wish to use their details on their website or anywhere where their safety could be compromised.
On safer internet day, please be aware of the dangers that aren’t quite so obvious and #staysafe.
Today is one of those days. I hadn’t realised that today is Winne the Pooh day until I was scrolling through social media whilst enjoying a cup of coffee this morning.
I love Winne the Pooh. When my son was new-born (he’s almost 15 now) his nursery was decorated with Winnie the Pooh and he had big 3ft plush toys of Winne, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore to welcome him home from the hospital. They became well loved ‘playmates’ until his dad decided they were dirty and too young for him and needed to be thrown out.
But that’s not the part that saddens me. You see, I didn’t choose Winne the Pooh to be my son’s theme. In fact, I wasn’t involved in choosing any of the accessories or décor for my son or his new nursery. It was all presented to me as a fait accompli and I had to accept it or be told I was ungrateful and mean.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist (and I hate to use that word as it’s so over-used these days) you will recognise what I’m talking about.
In the weeks leading up to my son’s birth I would regularly be presented with ‘gifts’ – a new pushchair and changing bag that I had no involvement in selecting or even having any input into.
And when I returned home from the hospital with my new-born son after a particularly traumatic birth, I was presented with a fully accessorised nursery adorned with Winne the Pooh decals, lampshades, curtains, mobiles to join plush toys taking up all of the room in the cot. You name it, Winne the Pooh and his friends looked down from in it or on it!
As I’ve said, I have nothing against Winne the Pooh but to have had him foisted upon me, with absolutely no input, at such a significant stage of my transition into motherhood turned me off him for a long time.
If I commented that I would have liked to have had some input into the décor for our son’s nursery I was told I was ungrateful and I hadn’t been involved because it would take the pressure off me. Excuse me? How many mums do you know who don’t want to be involved in the décor of their child’s nursery?
When I mentioned that I was planning on a different style of pushchair than the one I was presented I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about and I should be grateful that he had made the decision for me, particularly as my pregnancy brain was confusing me about what I did and didn’t want!
Winnie the Pooh – such a lovable, effable character but to someone who has been through psychological abuse such an inanimate object can take them straight back to a time of fear and darkness.
Thankfully, I have since had years of counselling, coaching and therapy and can once again enjoy Winnie the Pooh and friends for who and what he is.
Happy Winnie the Pooh Day.
Today it’s National Pharmacists Day and I’d like to say thank you to all of the Pharmacists out there who help us with minor ailments and provide their expertise to everyone who ventures into their local pharmacy, chemist or supermarket with a cough, cold, sniffle, sore throat or worse, to avoid waiting at and clogging up the GP surgery.
Sometimes we all need some help from experts to get better. If you spent the last two weeks making plans of what you’re going to do but have woken up today still wondering how on earth you’re going to execute those plans, you’re not alone.
To change my diet I enrolled in Slimming World, to increase my fitness I joined a running club. Both were full of experts who helped me to make tiny tweaks to what I was already doing to enable me to optimise my success.
In business, I work with mentors who can guide me. When my car needs fixing I take it to the mechanic. I go to the hairdresser to get my hair done and I see a therapist to keep my mental health on track. I have a life coach. And if I’ve got a cough, cold or sore throat my first port of call is my local Pharmacist.
In turn, I help lots of people to deal with things I’ve had experience in. I work with survivors of domestic abuse who want to turn their lives around and create their own Blockbuster Life. But in the main, I work with women over 40 who are reclaiming their life.
There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. To acknowledge you’re not the expert in everything is a strength, as is asking for help and support.
Who can you ask TODAY to help you to execute your plans? If you do nothing else, just identify who they are.