Last night my daughter had 4 girlfriends for a sleepover to celebrate her 10th birthday. Five girls, each born in a different country. After 2 hours in, the decibel level was sky-high. I opened the cabinet to see what alcohol we had. By 11:45pm, my sons had snuck into my bed where they were lying horizontally and 3 girls were still awake. At midnight, I stared around trying to figure out where I would sleep. And wrote this.
10 years old. The beginning of a charged decade of …change. Yet, as I watched the girls interact, what struck me was just how innocent they still were. They locked the door to their room so they could draw. And giggled guiltily when they put on eye shadow. They went out into the garden to play on the swings and swim in the pool. They watched a kids’ movie and ate popcorn.
They didn’t talk about boys at all. They don’t know about the birds and the bees. Well one girl might. Poor thing has already started her period. *I managed to explain that phenomenon to my daughter so scientifically that she never bothered to enquire into the whole pregnancy thing. She still thinks that she and her brothers came along because her parents made a ‘decision’ to have children.
She doesn’t know that soon boys will be looking at her in different ways. She doesn’t know that she’ll need to watch what she wears. She doesn’t know that there are men who want to attack women. And grown-ups who like to molest children. She doesn’t know that there are some dads who won’t let their wives have their own bank accounts. Or that dads hit mums.
She doesn’t know that she may not get future career opportunities because she is a woman. Or that she may get made redundant after announcing she is pregnant. She doesn’t know that when she does achieve outstanding success, that there will still be male business associates who will say in the middle of a business meeting, “So when are we going to fuck?”
She does know how hard it is for mums to juggle careers and kids because she has seen my stress. She knows that daddy sometimes says that it is *his* decision because *his* salary pays the bills. She knows that children at school tease her because her mother is “fat”. She worries about being fat too.
On International Women’s Day, I am very conscious of how difficult and terrifying the world still is for women. And I hope that for my daughter and for her four friends, that any limitations in their lives will not be as a result of their gender, or of their religion, or of their sexual preferences, or as a result of government policy. And I hope that my sons grow up to be respectful and honourable in their behaviour towards all the women they encounter.
Finally, I hope I am doing enough as a mother to instil the values of justice, equality, courage, self-worth and compassion in my children.
What are your hopes for this International Women’s Day?