What is it about women’s relationship with women? Men just don’t have it. The way women are with women has always seemed more organic, infused in the blood and probably yes, more maternal or sisterly. There were times when I was with a man and aching to be with my female friends instead. While, to be fair, that was more of a reflection on the quality of the man that I was with, it also showed who I was myself more with.
Why don’t they have an International Men’s Day? ‘Because every day is international men’s day’ would be the standard answer but also because think of what the celebrations would involve. Now you know I am never one to generalise but I’m imagining troops of chunky legged, flushed men holding their drinks to the sky and giving each other hearty hugs with furtive gropes for some. So boys, let’s look at the women instead and – for a change – not through the gaze of a camera or the hazy pages of a magazine but what’s here and now.
We can look at all the inspiring women they are, and it’s great that there are so many – some of whom were listed in The Guardian today. But in doing that it’s easy to forget ourselves. The women who are political activists, controversial pop stars or CEOs of large companies are, without a doubt, to be congratulated for what they’re doing for other people. But we are all on an equal plane with them. While we are doing the dishes, working hard, managing our money, going on through painful times, we need to remember that.
When you think of an inspiring woman, it is so tempting to think ‘I COULD be one of them if I worked hard/met the right people/was more dedicated’. It’s easy to forget the alarmingly real truth. That is the beauty of it. You are now. It’s done, it just is.
Travelling in India for the last few months, there were times when it was tough to be a woman. Particularly when I was travelling alone, as Indian women don’t tend to do that. I got quizzical stares and sometimes malevolent ones. Once, when I was with another British Indian friend, we had to block our hotel door with furniture as we were the only women in the whole hotel and had been getting weird phone calls and glares.
It was clear that while women in the cities there enjoy the modernity we do of sipping lattes and chatting to boyfriends on their mobile phones, there were still deep-seated ideas of how a woman should behave that are the foundation and won’t shake. Then again, that’s not unique to India.
At the end of my trip I had to be a lot stronger, and strangely I think that would have been very different if I had been a western women visiting India. As a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman in India, I had to face my own inner critic about things I had been ignorant about and learn so much about how things would be for me if I had grown up in my native country – the good and the bad.
I suppose for me, my identity has always been spliced – British or Indian. The two combine in a twisted DNA helix of who I am and yet they are separate. Whether that gives me a stronger solidarity in my identity as a woman, I don’t know but it is something I am happily proud to be a woman today.
So today is about all of us and celebrating not just our achievements but, so much more importantly, who we are and who we have become.