Today is International Women’s Day! Take a few minutes to appreciate some of the awesome women in your life — mother, grandmothers, daughters, wife, partner, friends, whoever.
Then tomorrow, and the next day, and every day going forward, do the same. [Whatever] days are great in that they remind us to recognize people and things that don’t get the attention they deserve, but the idea of having a specific day for it can miss the mark if we’re not careful. Every day is a day to appreciate the women in our lives and world and to work towards a more equal society for women.
Some of the gestures I’ve seen from football teams this morning missed the mark a bit. They had players wearing “wife, mum, nan” on the back of their training kits and / or speaking about the important women in their lives. And that’s fine, to an extent. Recognizing all the things that the women around you have done to facilitate your success is a good first step. And saying something heartfelt about the women you care about is lovely.
The way in which it’s presented is also limiting. It frames women solely within the confines of their relationship to men — what they’ve done for men, how they’ve helped the men in their lives succeed, the maternal things that they’ve done. Don’t get me wrong, being nurturing and caring is fantastic. We (men) wouldn’t be where we are without the love and support of the women in our lives. It’s freely given and often taken for granted when it should be recognized, celebrated, and cherished.
Let’s do better than to limit our thinking about and praising women to their relationships with and to us (men). That framing excludes entire groups of women too — those who don’t want or can’t have children, those who aren’t in relationships with men, etc. Let’s recognize and celebrate them for their independent accomplishments. Women are amazing and inspiring on their own.
To be fair, some of this problem is probably created by the question / brief presented to the players. If you ask them to talk about important women in their lives, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to get a bunch of “my mother” and “my wife” in response. You’re likely also getting the PR automatism responses from a bunch of them because that’s how they function. Perhaps we’re not getting shallow, trite answers because the question is about women, we’re getting those answers because when you ask a footballer a question, you’re probably going to get a safe response they’ve given dozens of times. But we can do better, regardless.
Women are badass. All the things the women in our lives have accomplished have come in a society where they likely started on first base (or in the dugout) compared to second or third base for men. You needn’t look far to find examples of those structural differences that place women at a disadvantage, paternity leave is a good place to start. It’s our job to change that, to make society a more equal place, to create opportunities for women, to invite them into the important (and unimportant) conversations, to do the work to welcome women into all spaces and make them feel comfortable in them.