Today is International Women’s Day, which celebrates the lives and achievements of women around the world. So today – and every day – I am celebrating all the amazing, inspiring and wonderful women in my life. Women I know and love. Women who have an impact on my life every day of every week of every year.
I am celebrating my strong and determined mother.
I am celebrating my talented, witty and intelligent sister.
I am celebrating my younger female friends, who approach living with an awe-inspiring passion, joy and strength.
I am celebrating my older female friends, some of whom may be retired but who most certainly are not retiring in their zest for life.
I am celebrating all the female artists, writers, poets, film-makers, musicians and DJs I know – all of whom fill my life with art and music and inspiration.
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard… (X-Ray Spex – ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’ 1977)
Like many punk fans of all ages – and although I never met her – I was genuinely upset to hear of the untimely death yesterday of the former X-Ray Spex vocalist Poly Styrene at the age of only 53. Tributes have been springing up all over the internet to an inspirational, much liked woman from fans and fellow musicians alike. Ex-Slits guitarist Viv Albertine was one of many who tweeted a poignant memory of her friend:
Much like The Slits’ inimitable Ari Up, who died last October, Poly was not afraid to speak her mind. A feminist and a supporter of Rock Against Racism, she wrote fiercely impassioned songs about consumerism and the environment – the lyrics to early single Oh Bondage, Up Yours! were about “being in bondage to material life. In other words it was a call for liberation” she told punk chronicler Jon Savage.¹
Today is International Women’s Day; “a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”
First celebrated in 1911, IWD is as necessary now as it was then. In the early 20th century, women in many countries worldwide lacked the right to vote, the right to an equal education, equal employment rights, and often very basic reproductive rights and bodily autonomy – all of these are things we would now consider to be basic human and civic rights for anyone, although many of these rights are still under threat for women.
But despite the fact that many of these women the world over are still disadvantaged, discriminated against and experience gender-based/sexual violence, much has been achieved since the first IWD, and much is still being achieved by the women’s movement and by individual women alike. And that is indeed something to celebrate, as are the many remarkable and inspirational women who have left (or who are leaving) their mark on the world.
However, there is still much that can be and needs to be achieved by and for self-identified women everywhere. Commenting on a Facebook post of mine on the subject of IWD earlier, a sympathetic male friend wryly observed: “Yeah, but tomorrow it’s international men’s day again for the rest of the year!”