March 08, 2019
Today is International Women's Day! A day of celebrating the importance of women and recognising how critical they are to success in all aspects of life: from the basic act of giving birth to life through to business, politics, entertainment, the arts... And a day of continuing to work towards achieving a gender balanced world.
So while eating my breakfast this morning, with BBC Breakfast on in the background on the TV, I began contemplating what such a day means in my own subset of the world. Actually, when I get together with my girlfriends, I feel like I regularly enjoy a celebration of international women. My female circles of friends (and male friends and family too, in fact) include a wide variety of nationalities from many corners of the globe. We laugh, share, learn, congratulate, support and help each other. That mix of nationalities, cultures and experiences enables us all to widen our perspectives. I also recognise and appreciate what women through time have fought for and achieved.
And then I heard something on the TV that made my mouth drop open in shock! The campaign theme for IWD 2019 is 'Balance is better'! Great tagline! Unfortunately, some of what I heard this morning on BBC Breakfast was not at all balanced and in fact just plain ridiculous and detrimental to women! A guest, a female Labour MP, supposedly quoting another high-ranking labour MP, stated that ideally all male labour party members should sit out the next party leadership vote so that a woman can be elected for the first time! OMG! Women should, can and will win on merit and not because men are deliberately excluded. What I heard from that woman, a potential representative of our country [sigh], is not "thinking equal" and is certainly not the way to bring about change, or the right kind of change anyway. Comments like that do not help advance women's rights or alter mens' attitudes. And paying lip service to gender equality by ticking off a checklist quota of women in certain jobs and industries regardless of merit or experience, simply frustrates me.
Balance and equality are about women and men working together and respecting each other. So, again looking at my own world, today I also express gratitude for the man in my life, my partner in all things. I am a strong, skilled woman, and I am probably capable of doing most of it all on my own if I had to! But where would the fun be in that? I need the balance he brings to our relationship. He supports me and empowers me everyday, and I also do the same for him. A combination of different skills and strengths. Together we are a team of equals.
There are many men who already have the right attitude towards gender equality, and who value and respect women and they are crucial to building a gender-equal world. I think that it is important that some of the public voices and representatives of IWD remember and recognise this. After all, the key word is "balance"!
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Jayne Leighton Herd is a professional abstract & landscape artist based in Wokingham in Berkshire, UK.