Just like poetry and jazz (International Jazz Day and World Poetry Day really do exist) women have a dedicated day each year to champion our cause – this is in spite of making up 50% of the population.
And no doubt we still need it. Maybe there will be a time in the future when people wonder why we have an International Women’s Day; when there’s nothing to talk about anymore – because we have true equality everywhere.
But we’re not there yet. And there’s plenty to highlight that here in Ireland. It’s the stuff we all know: the fact that only 22 of the 166 TDs in the current Dail are female, the fact that women make up just 8.7 per cent of board members of the largest publicly listed companies here, the fact that the majority of radio presenters are male.
But sometimes the focus is so resolutely on the negative, we don’t stop to celebrate the positive. I don’t just mean the progress towards gender quotas for the next general election or the new PwC report that shows that the gender pay gap is down to 4% in Ireland or the National Women’s Council’s proposals for a more women-friendly Oireachtas.
I also mean real, everyday life – women supporting women. I’m talking about the network; the camaraderie; the kindness.
Yes, women can be judgemental, critical of one another. There will always be stories of women judging women, anecdotes about female bosses, reports about how the cattiest comments on a celebrity’s appearance come from the girls’ side of the online forum. Keyboard warriors criticising parenting choices or just a good old-fashioned bitching session.
Yes, women can be critical of one another, and yes this makes the headlines; it makes for more interesting reading.
But mostly, we look out for each other. And we don’t get to highlight that or to celebrate it enough. There are rarely newspaper reports that say “women are brilliant to each other”
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to say so – women are brilliant to each other.
Most of us are surrounded by amazing women every day, in real-life and online. I’m lucky enough to have three fabulous sisters, with whom I have ridiculously protracted, surreal conversations on Viber, now that we’re separated over three further-than-before locations; planning our next big night out or small night in – the common denominator is non-stop talk.
I have school-friends who have been my closest conspirators and advisors for more than twenty years – from nights sneaking naggins of vodka into discos to afternoons of fragmented coffee-imbued conversations while chasing toddlers and rescuing toys.
I have work friends, who like me are trying to balance office and children, who are working something less than full-time but trying to stay under the radar, trying to avoid being singled-out as awkward – we cover for each other, to help make it work.
I have school-mum friends – a whole new network connected by our six-year-old daughters but also by a shared fondness for red wine and late night ramblings (of the conversational kind).
And online, I have the ever wise and funny Irish Parenting Bloggers – many of whom I’ve met, and discovered to be even wiser and funnier in real life, and the ever supportive Working Moms group , for figuring out what to buy the crèche staff at end of term or how to convince the boss to grant a four-day-week.
The online world has incredible networks for women; on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, there are groups for women in business, women on air, female entrepreneurs, women writers, parenting bloggers, women in politics, feminist networks … Women networking, connecting, communicating.
Women helping one another by liking business pages on Facebook, advising on toddler sleep dilemmas, passing on job interview tips, lending a sympathetic ear when it’s all falling apart and a kind word when it’s needed most. Or just snorting with laughter at a brilliant story and retweeting a request for the perfect pair of shoes.
Conversations about birth-rights and childcare costs and bosses and Breaking Bad and school-places and newspaper-columns and Mojitos and Prime Time and slow-cookers and running and weaning and shoes.
What prompts this outpouring of shared wisdom and empathy – why do we have this camaraderie?
Possibly because humans are tribal, maybe because women are innate communicators, and perhaps also because we have a cause. The existence of inequality ironically gives us a reason to bond.
People have always united over causes and this is no exception. Inequality is one part of the glue that slips and seeps between us, closing gaps, binding us together – whether we declare ourselves feminists or not.
It would be better if there was no cause, and perhaps in the future that day will come, but for now, the community, the network, the friendship that this cause brings is worth celebrating. Women are brilliant to each other.