Culture

11 Everyday Women And Men On What International Women’s Day Means To Them

Whether it's looking back or looking forward, IWD speaks to all of us a little differently.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Culture

Whether it's looking back or looking forward, IWD speaks to all of us a little differently.

By Angela Ledgerwood

International Women’s Day means many things to many people. It can be a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and it can be a day for challenging the gender stereotypes and gender imbalances that still exist. Ultimately, IWD speaks to all of us a little differently. We wanted to know what it means to you so we asked 11 men and women what it sparks in them.

Jola Cumming, Pre-Service PDHPE Teacher, Sydney

“International Women’s Day to me means acknowledging the women throughout history that have paved the way so women like me can achieve their dreams.  These women include my great Nanna Winnie, my Nanna Marsha (Mookie) and all of her sisters and all of the important women that surround my life. I am very proud to share that our family for generations has had a strong bloodline of women who are determined, passionate and hard working. These women are the perfect models of resilience as our family continues to be directly affected by intergenerational trauma due to the stolen generation. Despite this I am lucky enough to be surrounded by nurturing, caring and inspiring women.

This year’s theme of “balance for better” is important to me as a young Aboriginal woman who grew up in the foster care system and who will be the first person in my family to graduate from university. I am now close to graduating from my second degree in a Masters of PDHPE Teaching. As I will soon be entering the workforce as a Physical Education Teacher, balance for better resonates with me as I hope to see the increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the workforce, whether that be in teaching or other workplaces. I want to be a positive role model who inspires young Aboriginal women of the future. I hope not only to do this in my teaching career but in my day-to-day life as a woman.”

Todd Lopez, Creative Director, Sydney

“For me, International Women’s Day is all about perspective and acknowledging that others have a different experience of the world than I do. I walk through the world as a tall, white, Australian male, who is rarely worried for his safety. My experience of society’s biases and discriminations is very different to that of a woman’s. Becoming a father to two girls, aged five and three-years-old, has made me acutely aware of wanting girls and women to experience the world fairly. Today I’m reflecting on this and how I can help make it happen.”

Zoya Patel, author of No Country Woman, Canberra

“Each year, IWD is a reminder to me of the immense power there is in solidarity with other feminists. The fight for gender equality is only as strong as the movement is diverse and intersectional, and I feel like there has been progress in terms of making feminism more inclusive and responsive to the needs to marginalised groups. Throughout my life, feminist communities have been there to lift me up, to welcome me into the struggle, and to teach me more about the myriad of issues that affect women. IWD is a chance to celebrate that, while also renewing our energy to keep moving forward.”

Jeremy Smith, Lawyer, Melbourne

“Gender equality is what allows my partner and I to follow our passions free of stereotypes about what women’s and men’s roles should be. For me that means spending more time with my family, including our 3-year-old son, and for my wife it’s pursuing her career ambitions to the fullest. I think it’s this kind of balance is how we build a happy life. This International Women’s Day, I’ll be reflecting on how structural and societal barriers can hold both genders back from genuine freedom of choice and how much I hope it will be different for my son’s generation.”

Margot Andrews, Professional Three-Year-Old, Sydney

“I love my brother and dad, even though boys are kind of weird. But today, I think about my mum and everything she does for me. And my other mum, on Mars.”

Stephen Brooks, Doctor, Adelaide

“As a father of three girls, IWD perhaps resonates more with me than some of my peers. It’s women’s day every day in my household, but this day is particularly special. I am proud the younger women of today are standing with a stronger voice and their strength needs to be supported. I hope my daughters feel supported. It is pretty poor that no country in our world has achieved gender equality. In an effort to make our world a better place it is important for us to raise awareness of this issue, celebrate the achievements of women around the world in all aspects of society, be it social, political, economic and sporting. (For example, Julie Bishop’s political career stands out and hopefully she has paved the way for someone – if not many – to follow her lead.) Importantly, we need to recognise not only what has been achieved by women but what more needs to be done. IWD is an opportunity for us to pause, recognise and celebrate this important issue.”

Carly Findlay, writer, speaker, author of Say Hello, Melbourne

“International Women’s Day is a day to acknowledge the great women who have and still are making the world a better place. I am so thankful to the women who have taught me and mentored me – especially disabled women in leadership roles. Stella Young, Jenny Morris, Rosemarie Garland Thompson, Julie McNamara, Caroline Bowditch, Christina Ryan, Liz Carr, Liz Wright, Kiruna Stamell, Alice Wong, Jane Rosengrave to name a few. And it’s wonderful to see young disabled women shine – Claudia Forsberg, Sarah Houbolt, Stella Barton, Robyn Lambird, Amy Marks, Stacey Christie, Keah Brown are women to watch.

I love seeing International Women’s Day events happening around the world – but please don’t forget your disabled sisters when celebrating. It also shouldn’t be a day for women to do the work. We shouldn’t be organising events, doing the housekeeping, making the tea, though. Get a man to do that!”

Jackson Holst, Associate Creative Producer, Sydney

“International Women’s Day is a day of solidarity for us all to celebrate the social, political, cultural and economic achievements of women. For me, this day acts as an opportunity to reflect and admire my mother. Her constant strength and resilience have helped shape me into the man I am.”

Cait Noonan, Marketing Executive, Melbourne

“I used to view International Women’s Day as a token day in the calendar without real meaning. When I reflect on this now, with growing exposure to the experiences outside of my (broadening) little bubble, I now see this was ignorant. And privileged. I now understand that I am among the minority to feel relatively unscathed by gender inequality. I’ve played sport my whole life wearing whatever I’ve wanted. I’ve experienced an incredible education, from pre-school to a Masters Degree at inspiring and supportive institutions. And now, even in an undeniably male dominated industry (Motor Vehicle), I work surrounded by brilliant, passionate and supportive women.

Now this ‘token’ day brings with it critical reminders. Firstly, to continuously seek further understanding of the experiences and battles of others around the world and throughout history, who fought, and continue to fight for the equality that I took for granted. Secondly, to reflect with gratitude on the incredible women I am surrounded by. From my Mum, who chose to put our family first as she set her impressive career aside to support us through our education and careers, wherever in the world that landed her; to my boss, a full time working mum with a killer commute who (despite this) is the calm in any storm and has a genuine passion for the development of my career; and to my close friends and sister who are each forging impressive paths through various professions, constantly providing insights and guidance on all things, from last nights’ episode of The Bachelor to my latest crazy business idea. IWD has become a day on which I go the extra mile in being open-minded, curious, empathetic and grateful.”

Susan Armstrong, Creative Director, Sydney

“Today I am proud – of myself, of other women and of the future women to come. I’m proud of our complexities and our accomplishments. Proud of our femininity and strength. Proud of our practicality and our intuition.  Today I recognise that to single out this day means that although we have come so far, there is still a way to go. To the women that paved the way allowing us to arrive here now was no small feat. I am forever grateful and hope to build on what you’ve helped set in motion. Today I pay tribute to the women in my life that mean everything to me. My mother, my daughter, my mentors and my truly wonderful girlfriends. I celebrate you!”

Robin Fitzsimons, Doctor, Sydney

“IWD means reflecting on what Australia can do for women everywhere who have not had our opportunities. We live and work in that tiny, latter-day, segment of human history when equal rights and expectations are a societal norm – in Australia.  Look back at those 1970s civic photographs where there is barely a woman to be seen among the parliamentarians, boards, CEOs and professional societies. So much change here, so fast. Those Australian dignitaries could not have contemplated successive Foreign Affairs Ministers being women – as well as the head of DFAT. To us, it just so ‘normal’. Normal in Australia – but anything but normal in much of the world. Yet reason that hope for rapid change elsewhere is not unrealistic. Think the unexpected. Think Rwanda, where most parliamentarians are women. Think Germany, where a free country is led by a woman, Angela Merkel, who came from behind the ‘stasi’ line.

Education and a free press are key to empowerment against patriarchal governance. We owe those pioneering women who fought for us – sometimes literally in war. Think Clare Hollingworth, the intrepid British journalist who reported from Poland that World War II had begun, then from Africa and China, and later frequented Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club until she died recently at 105. Think Helen Archdale, the imprisoned suffragette mother of cricketer and educator Betty Archdale. So much inherited obligation to carry forward. Australian ageism remains. The generation of women which fought legal discrimination are now fighting another battle, to work and be heard in the public square and parliament. So hurrah for Ita Buttrose, 77, at the ABC, and hurrah for Nancy Pelosi, 78, who brilliantly led the US House to curtail the President, 72.”