What’s in a day?

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias, which comes with its own pose, pictured. Photo: International Women’s Day/United Nations.

On International Women’s Day 2022, Sunny Grace reflects on its meaning, its place among the many ‘international days’ and what she loves about womanhood.

There are so many international days, it’s hard to keep up. Official international days are ratified by the United Nations (UN) to “educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity”. 

Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day (IWD) and according to the UN website it’s “celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.”  

A woman strikes the official IWD 2022 #BreakTheBias pose. Strike the IWD pose and share your #BreakTheBias image, video, resources, presentation or articles on social media using #IWD2022 #BreakTheBias to encourage people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world. Photo: International Women’s Day/United Nations.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment you realise you are woman as opposed to man. We are born not knowing our gender difference but as we engage with society it is pointed out to us through societal norms.

While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was a woman, I do remember when I knew I was other than man. I went from being a tree climbing tomboy to being the object of boys’ desire. I remember them in the school playground, teasing and sometimes physically holding me down, telling me I was their girlfriend. No consent there. At thirteen, I was no longer just an object of desire for boys but for men too. A diary entry in my journal reads, “The bus driver is another typical man. He patted me on the bum and spent the whole trip winking at me. Yech!”  Not long after this I got my first period. And spent the next twenty-seven years paying for sanitary products with my lesser pay.

I was lucky to grow up in a community with many inspiring female role models including feminists, lesbians, mothers and grandmothers. I have lived through waves of feminism and seen society take one step forward, two steps backwards. We must work towards helping women in vulnerable communities and fighting climate change. The UN website states, “Advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Women are increasingly being recognised as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most.” We need days like this to highlight these issues and work towards change.

Climate action is a focus of International Women’s Day 2022. Video: UN Women/YouTube.

I don’t want to dwell only on the negative aspects of being a woman. I want to celebrate womanhood because there are many things I love about being a woman. I love my breasts. When I was younger, I was embarrassed by them because they didn’t look like the ones I saw in the Penthouse magazines I happened upon as a child. After having my sons, I realised how miraculous they are, with their ability to breastfeed. After giving birth, I felt this incredible connection to women throughout time and our miraculous power to create life.

I love being with other women and sharing stories about periods, birth, menopause and lipstick. I love lipstick, especially red lipstick. One of my favourite recent experiences was helping a dear one put on makeup during her transition, after seventy years of hiding her truth. Although I’m not saying men can’t wear makeup too. The boys I went clubbing with in the eighties wore more makeup than me. 

Today is the day to celebrate all who identify as female.

And yes – there is an International Men’s Day celebrated on 19 November. You can read about it here: https://www.internationalmensday.info. It isn’t part of the UN international Day list, however. The only day listed by the UN for 19 November is World Toilet Day.

Incidentally, there is no gender equality day, although it is mentioned on the IWD page: “Let’s claim gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. Perhaps a separate gender equality day would be helpful so we can think about what is needed for true gender equality across the gender spectrum.

But today, on International Women’s Day, to all the women out there – may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them, may we see them, may we respect them, may we love them. Happy International Women’s Day.

Sunny Grace is a writer, producer and director who lives in Ballina, in the NSW Northern Rivers, and Sydney. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.

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