Many years ago I spent 12 months living in Melbourne studying 20th century French philosophy. I was particularly focused on the works of Michel Foucault but in my spare time I dabbled in the writings of left wing, French feminists.
For fun… of course…
A lot of it was inspirational, groundbreaking and mind bending. A lot of it went over my head.
Then one day I remember sitting in class and feeling incredibly frustrated, wondering how on earth all this talk of the patriarchy and the feminine subject was in any way useful to the woman who at that moment was being beaten by her husband.
Up until that point I believed I would probably end up an academic, but as I walked out of the classroom that day, I realised I was far too pragmatic for that. I needed to meet with women, to hear their stories first hand, and learn practical tools to support them in changing their lives.
So that’s what I did. And I am thrilled that this has become my life’s work.
As I write this however, I’ve come full circle to fully appreciate the value in the work of these extraordinary intellects and the positive impact they have on women’s lives.
I appreciate them because I understand that changing minds, changes behaviour. That thought is the precursor to action and that all contribution feeds into the whole.
This was particularly brought home to me this week as I watched women stand up and be counted in the public arena of facebook.
Last week I announced an International Women’s Day giveaway. The competition was simple; be prepared to show up on my facebook page and tell the world one thing you value about yourself.
This may seem a trite exercise to some, but I consider it revolutionary and you might too when you take a moment to consider the history of this world.
A world where women have been silenced throughout the ages. A world which generates a seemingly immutable statistic – 1 in 4 women suffering physical violence at the hands of men they know and often love. A world where pay equity issues persist even in democratic nations which pedal the promise of equality for all. A world where women are burned, stolen and stoned to death merely because they are female.
Yes, in this space, it’s a miracle that any woman is willing to stand up and say I will be counted. I matter. I am valuable.
And so I applaud all who were willing to be seen. Here is a snapshot of what they said;
Helen: I love my enthusiasm for life, my passion and optimism
Leigh: My love for life
Colleen: My ability to keep trying to be a better person
Deborah: My ability to stay calm in a crisis, and my honesty
Melissa: My willingness to stand behind my decisions
Gillian: My insight about myself
Avril: My true belief of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you
Jordana: My resilience
Leni: My love
Clare: My inner strength
Belinda: I value my ability to be compassionate for others, my desire to show the same kindness to myself and my determination to catch myself every time I don’t (even if some damage has already been done).
Lindsay: The strength I have found and shown myself and others by being truly and absolutely myself regardless of how those around me may perceive any part of me they see
Gillian: Simple belief
Briony: My ability to pull myself through tough times with an inner strength I really value.
And so to Leni, for being the first to show up and speak up, to Avril for treating people as you would wish to be treated, and Melissa for your willingness to stand by your decisions, congratulations! Your gift is winging its way to you.
And finally, to top off today’s post, I leave you with the divine Ms Neneh Cherry and a song which has long resonated in my heart and mind.