Another International Women’s Day.
First, let’s celebrate all the astonishing change that has happened in the last few decades with a little Aretha.
I remember when that song came out. If you ever doubt that art can change the world, remember that song.
I remember the International Year of Women in 1975. I was in high school (yes, I’m rather old) and it had a huge effect on me, and on the world. I remember televised debates featuring Eve Mahlab. I remember the badges and t-shirts and rallies, and also the backlash. I remember reading The Female Eunuch – God knows what I made of some of it, since I was 15 or so. I remember reading the poems of Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Judith Wright and Audre Lorde. I remember feeling like my life – the whole world – was shifting, and it was. I remember my great aunt Madge, a veteran of the women’s peace movements in World War One, telling me: You’re just like we were.
I remember so many IWD rallies of the 80s, remember speaking at one (it must have been 1983) in the pouring rain, and I remember our current Prime Minister in attendance. I remember being abused by bystanders as we walked down Swanston Street with our banners. I remember fighting with countless numbers of men in suits in boardrooms about childcare, about discrimination, about at least keeping their stupid bosom jokes to themselves.
And now look. So much has changed. Yet so much hasn’t. So far.
(Here’s Kirsten Tranter on Why Women Writers Get a Smaller Slice of Pie, for example.)
I feel like every day we need to focus on what more needs to be done, and that’s just as it should be. But maybe we should keep this one day for celebrating and reflecting.
So today I’m remembering Madge and her sisters and my great-grandmother and her friend Vida Goldstein and that whole stroppy generation. I’m remembering the generations of strong women in my own family who didn’t want to make a fuss about it, but did change the world anyway – just by example. I’m remembering the women who marched beside me, then and always. I’m remembering the poets and the visionaries.
And I’m grateful.