I have never understood why people shy away from the word ‘feminist’. It is one that I have always worn as a badge of honour and one that most of the women around me are not afraid to use. Sometimes, we have roared about it, and other times we haven’t. But it always seems to be a guiding principle in the way we live.
I’ve always loved this Dale Spender’s quote (one that Senator Penny Wong quoted last night on Q&A in her eloquent explanation of why she calls herself a feminist) because it shuts down any ridiculous comments about feminism being something to fear, or ‘against men’, which is a load of bollocks.
I am not sure if the women around me I admire and love and respect would call themselves feminists, but I certainly see them that way. They raise each other up, celebrating successes, commiserating losses, rejoicing in each others happiness.
When I think about the people who have impacted most on my life since diabetes, they are just about all women. Today, my HCP team is exclusively made up of women and I have been seeing all of them for well over ten years. It took me a while to find the right people for what I needed and it just turned out that the ones who were most compatible were all female.
The people I turn to when I am confused or angry or struggling with diabetes are mostly women.
When I was dealing with the devastating aftermath of miscarriage or the exciting and exhausting exhilaration of new motherhood, the people I wanted to talk to were other women with diabetes who understood the extra demands that diabetes threw into the mix. These were the women who provided comfort and love and a (virtual) shoulder to cry on. And the call of ‘You can do this’ resonated strongly through them all.
I am raising a daughter and one of the things for which I am forever grateful is that around her – and me – at all times are women of great strength, intelligence, compassion, bravery, brilliance and talent.
She sees that every single day in my mother, my mother-in-law, my sister, my sister-in-law, an extended family of assorted aunts and cousins, and my circle of friends who are nothing short of genius.
She sees it in many of her own friends’ mothers who speak to their daughters the way I speak to mine, and she, along with many of her own friends are already demonstrating that kickass attitude that some hasten to shut down by calling them bossy and pushy. When really, they are showing they have the skill and courage to lead.
And she is starting to search out her own hero girls and women, admiring and quoting Malala Yousafzai, shouting about girl power, reading books with strong female protagonists and demonstrating utter shock, indignation and disgust to think that girls are not at all times considered equal.
And she sees me. While I may not be the strongest, brightest, most compassionate, most courageous or most brilliant of the women around her, I do set an example of resilience and kindness. And we use diabetes as an incredibly effective teaching tool to show her just how lucky we are, and how she shouldn’t ever take for granted the privileged life into which she was born.
She knows that diabetes around the world is not a level playing field. And, more broadly, neither is women’s health, whether maternal, sexual or reproductive. Where a baby is born impacts significantly on their health outcomes. As does gender.
It’s International Women’s Day today. While I am using the day to acknowledge amazing women – those who have come before, are here now, and are our future – I am also using it to remind myself that there is still so much for us to do. The gender gap is not closed – not by a long shot. We need feminism, we need activism and we need days like today to remember what still needs to be done before women around the world are truly considered equal.
Women Deliver is a global advocate for women’s health, rights and wellbeing and promotes the importance in investing in girls’ and women’s health. Take a look at see some of their great work, which includes the infographic above.