To my three beautiful sons, on International Women’s Day, there are so many things you will come to learn in your lives. Things about the world, about how unfair life can be, about love and disappointment and joy and how your mama is still a better reverse parker than your dad.
But above and beyond all that, you will learn about women. One made all three of you (twins Tommy and Henry at the same time!) and women will always be in your lives in one way or another.
My job as a mother is to teach you, to help you learn about so many things. These are the things you need to know about women.
As mentioned, a woman brought you into this world. Every person walking this planet is here because a woman made the ultimate sacrifice and grew them for up to nine months IN HER TUMMY and then had to get them back out again. That should automatically command a lifetime of respect and a good measure of awe.
If you ever wonder why you should give up your seat on the bus to a woman have a think about what her insides can do and if you still don’t think she’s earned the right to sit down over you then come and talk to me and we can go over the day you were born again. With photos.
Women are stronger than you will ever know so never think of us as the weaker sex. Again, if you ever need proof, I can go over the days you were born. I may even show you the scar from when I walked into an operating theatre, lifted my Topshop dress up above my waist, had my stomach sliced open and had two babies pulled out.
Feminism is not a dirty word. Being a feminist is not about hating men, although god knows you will hear that tripe from all sorts over the years – godawful and predictable female newspaper columnists are repeat offenders. Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. If you have a problem with that then our next Christmas lunch is going to be fun.
Women get a rough deal, right from the get go. Often their very birth causes grief for a family who want a son to ‘carry on the family name’ or go to work on the family farm or god knows what it is that people expect sons to bring or do that girls can’t. They go through school hearing ‘you run like a girl’ being used as an insult, they are discouraged from studying ‘boy subjects’ like woodworking or engineering.
When they get a job chances are they will one day end up being paid less than their male colleagues for doing the same role (the pay gap exists, don’t let people tell you otherwise) and then if they get pregnant they have to at the very least put their career on hold for a long time.
Women live in a world where men decide what they can and can’t do with their own bodies, a world where politicians tell us we are not as intelligient as men, where clubs don’t let us become members.
I remember bumping my pram into an opening elevator door at a hospital and a man inside the elevator laughed and said ‘typical woman driver’. I should have screamed at him ‘I JUST GREW A HUMAN INSIDE ME AND PUSHED IT BACK OUT YOU ABSOLUTE DICKHEAD’. but I didn’t. We hear it so many times we sadly learn to ignore it.
The cards aren’t stacked in our favour, ever. Know it, even if you can’t do anything about it, just know it. And never ignore it.
You will never know what it’s like to live in fear every day of being attacked by a man. Thank christ you won’t. But our fear is real. Never harm, threaten or intimidate a woman, even in the smallest way. Help break the cycle.
Don’t ever walk into a bathroom when a woman is having a shower. That’s our sacred time. We don’t care that you need to brush your teeth or have a shave or grab your contact lenses. Just don’t.
We say that we don’t want flowers but we really do. Even when we say that no we really don’t and please don’t waste your money and I will be really cross if you do get me flowers. Just buy the flowers.
Women are allowed to wear whatever the hell they goddam want. We’ve fought for the right to vote, to be counted in a census, for our husbands not be legally able to claim our bodies as theirs, so WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE TOLD WHAT WE CAN AND CAN’T WEAR. Same goes for makeup. If I ever catch you telling a woman she looks washed out and can do with a bit of lipstick I will dig out the photos of you when you were little and would dig through my cosmetics bag and use all my very expensive Benefit bronzing powder and lip liner.
And while we are at it a woman wearing a short skirt or a low cut top is not looking to be sexually assaulted or hit on or wolf whistled at. A woman’s size does not dictate what she should or should not wear. You will never live a life where you feel under constant pressure to be a certain shape or have your body “bounce back” after having a baby or be “beach ready”. EVERY woman is beautiful. Know, say it, love it.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where people are thinking it’s a good idea to get a woman in and pay her to take her clothes of (yes, a stripper, don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean) turn around and walk out and don’t ever look back. Drag your brothers out if they are there with you. It is not cool to exploit women like that. Same for strip clubs. If you can’t have a good night out without it ending in paying women to take their clothes off for you then maybe, I don’t know, try bridge or snooker or something.
Little girls don’t dream of growing up to be pawed at by drunk men while being made to take their clothes off for cash. Sometimes women have got to do certain things to pay the bills or other reasons. Don’t judge. Try and help create a world where stripping doesn’t have to be an option.
Learn to cook. Doesn’t matter who you end up with. Just learn to cook and cook for a woman in your life at least once a week.
And above and beyond all else, my beautiful, beautiful boys, be kind to women. As you can see we have it tough a lot of the times. But we are the creators of life, the nurturers. Some of us give up our jobs, our careers, our freedom, to raise families. Every day there are men, lawmakers, politicians, members of churches, telling us what to do and what we’ve done wrong. We’ve never truly been given the chance to run things and I bet if we did we wouldn’t have the god awful mess in the world we do now. It gets under our skin, I promise you that.
So, if nothing else, be kind to us. I think we deserve at least that.