In case you missed it, and I hope you didn’t, today was International Women’s Day.
My Insta and Facebook feeds have been filled with inspirational messages and images for and about incredible women doing spectacular work across the globe. It’s the one day of the year specifically carved out for us to say “thank you” to the women who inspire and educate us.
But in recent years I’ve seen a funny phenomenon happening. No, I’m not talking about the “But-When-Is-International-Men’s-Day” comments, because by now we all know International Men’s Day is held on November 19th annually. And hopefully we all know that men do, indeed, have a lot to speak out about. Such as the fact they face much higher rates of suicide than women, have a shorter life expectancy than women, have a 10pc chance of experiencing postnatal depression, not to mention the centuries of engendered toxic masculinity that systematically denigrates men who display emotion, who happen to be gay, or who choose to move into an historically female profession. The list goes on, so let’s talk about that more in November. Or even tomorrow.
Because TODAY is international Women’s Day.
A day for women.
It’s a day which serves a dual purpose. Firstly to recognise and celebrate the hordes of amazing women who fought tooth and nail throughout history in the battle for gender equality. There’s a brutal and disquieting history there – the women who led these movements were warriors, and many of them paid dearly for their part in the fight.
Secondly this day serves as rallying point in the continued campaign for equal rights, equal economic and political representation and pay parity. There is still much work to be done on all these fronts.
Which makes me wonder why, on this day of all days, are women choosing to dedicate today to the men in their life? This is the phenomenon I’m wondering about.
Have you seen it? This trend of women dedicating International Women’s Day to their husbands, partners, fathers, sons, brothers?
I see it happening – I see women I respect, admire and love doing it. But I can’t support it.
Here’s why I disagree with the concept of dedicating IWD to men, no matter how supportive or feminist he is.
It’s disrespectful to the women who came before us. Who endured incredible hardship and lack of agency. Who lived their lives as the property of men, and who never had the opportunity to dream of a life of freedom.
It’s disrespectful to the women who were imprisoned, punished, tortured, raped or even killed for daring to speak up, for daring to say “women are equal to men and we deserve equal rights”.
It’s disrespectful to the millions of women across the globe who, still today, don’t enjoy the same level of privilege that those of reading this right now, do. The women who are trafficked for sex, the little girls whose genitals are mutilated, who are married off as children to men thrice their age, the women who are prisoners in their own home as victims of domestic violence, the women who put up with sexual harassment in the workplace because they fear speaking up in workplaces still overwhelmingly run by men.
Celebrating women is not disrespectful to men. But celebrating men, on International Women’s Day, is disrespectful to women.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective:
Would you dedicate NAIDOC week to those caucasian colleagues you know are tireless supporters of Indigenous Australians?
Would you dedicate International Day of People with a Disability to the work of all those able bodied rehabilitation professionals who so valiantly work with people with disabilities?
No you wouldn’t.
Because you know it would be incredibly disrespectful.
So what makes THIS day different?
I understand why you want to thank your husband, your father, your sons.
I have no doubt they are wonderful, inspiring, intelligent men. So feel free, go ahead and thank them – tomorrow. Why can you not thank them on any one of the 364 other days of the year? What makes TODAY the best possible day to thank them? The day that you single them out, over and above all the amazing women in your life?
And have you spoken to them? Have you asked them how THEY feel about the fact that you’re dedicating International Women’s Day to them? What did they say? Is there anyone else they can identify who might deserve praise and acknowledgement today, before them? Have they posted on Instagram dedicating the day to YOU and your daughters, and thanking you for all you’ve done to further the cause of women’s rights? That wouldn’t be too much to expect, would it?
Yes, the support and advocacy of men is an important aspect of the push for women’s rights. And raising a future generation of males to be respectful and supportive of women is one of the most important things a parent of sons can do in our current day. But placing men on a pedestal for supporting women feels disrespectful – not only for women, but for men too. We shouldn’t need to laud men for being decent human beings. We shouldn’t need to heap praise on our husbands for doing their equal share of the dusting, or for doing school drop offs, or packing lunchboxes. We shouldn’t need to thank men for doing these things for us, because they ARE NOT WOMEN’S WORK. These are the tasks that are required to run a household and a family, and when a household consists of an adult male and an adult female, shouldn’t those tasks be shared equally, with both parties being equally as grateful to the other for undertaking their fair share part of the tasks require to keep a home?
We shouldn’t feel the need to mollify men on International Women’s Day. Because the men who “get” IWD don’t need appeasement – especially not today. And the ones who don’t get it… well perhaps they’re not entirely on our side anyway?
Guest blog by Dani Caputo, yoga instructor and director of AbunDance and Yoga Studio
“Perhaps you should just rest at the moment. Your body is doing so much work to grow that little baby, maybe come back after three months.”
These were the words my wise yoga teacher gently whispered to me after I dozed off, leaving a pool of saliva on my yoga mat during relaxation. Six weeks pregnant, exhausted and waving goodbye to my fellow yogis as they left class was not where I had imagined my yoga practice going.
I had just started my yoga teacher training. I needed to be throwing myself into my yoga practice! How could I possibly take a break now?
This was the first time the concept of yoga beyond the mat was introduced to me. So I began a journey of understanding that the yoga I thought I knew was actually more than the physical postures I had been so focused on. In fact, according to Pantajali, an ancient indian philosopher, there are eight limbs of yoga. The physical postures – known as the asanas – are just one of those limbs.
There’s more to yoga than just the physical.
Here’s a very brief list of the complete system:
1) Yama: Universal morality – is meant to guide our relationships and interactions with other beings in the world
2) Niyama: Personal observances – meant to improve the human personality
(Yama and Niyama can be unpacked a lot further to ten commitments of attitude and behaviour.)
3) Asanas: Body postures
4) Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana (or life-force)
5) Pratyahara: Control of the senses
6) Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7) Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8) Samadhi: Union with the Divine
As you can see there’s so much more to yoga than just the postures.
I’m sure Mr Pantajali would be devastated to see what our culture has done by glorifying just one part of such a holistic and ancient system.
The fact is, that too often in our western society, yoga has been marketed as a lycra-loving, high pony tail wearing, skinny young person’s pretzel-twisting past time.
This leaves the remainder of the population out of the subconscious invitation to try yoga.
We see professional dancers, gymnasts and contortionists follow their passion of yoga (which is completely acceptable), but the downside of their amazing selfies to social media is that it can make the rest of the world who may be contemplating a yoga class to back away quietly and go back to slumping in front of the television! Unfortunately these types of images are misleading and limiting to the general public about what’s really possible for the individual through yoga practice. Yoga is a science of self study, from the inside out, not the other way!
How disappointing would it be for a person to never try yoga because they feel they are the wrong body shape, not flexible enough, or not strong enough to participate? How potentially damaging would it have been for my pregnant self to push through yoga that wasn’t suited to my current situation?
There are many more challenges to be explored through the gift of yoga. How about Dharana, or developing mindfulness of your own body and its energy, so you can become aware of what your body requires and when it is out of balance? What about sitting in stillness for a period of time without your mind having a field day about what’s on your ‘To Do’ list? How about practicing kindness and compassion for others in the face of anger or stressful situations? This is not to say that the physical limb of yoga is to be forgotten, but it should be viewed as one component of a broader holistic system.
Yoga really is like maintenance for your mind, body and soul.
Regular practice may help you become more aware of your breath and the ability to deepen it when challenged by stressful or anxious situations. Hell, you may just be able to pause before responding to your child/partner/complete stranger when they are raging out or melting down. When yoga is approached with an awareness of all eight limbs and not limited to just the physical, the benefits are far reaching.
Being a mum to three little boys, running my yoga classes, supporting my community and my teaching job all keeps me busy, so I don’t always get to my physical yoga practice. My teacher assures me there are many paths to enlightenment, so I guess I’m on the path where I’m stepping on Lego, catching footballs and having my heart jump out of my body on a regular basis. I’m definitely not skinny, I can just pull off a high pony, I love green smoothies but I suck at handstands and I call myself an imperfect yoga teacher – and I’m okay with that.
So if you haven’t been to a yoga class because you think you cant X, Y or Z, don’t be influenced by some of those stereotypical images. Find a reputable teacher with recognised training and don’t miss out on what can be the life changing effects of yoga practice.
Guest post by Dani Caputo. As a yoga instructor, school teacher and dancer, Dani has a practical spirituality that will inspire you to be kind to yourself and trust your body. An organic food advocate, budding home gardener and all round natural health junkie, Dani has made some changes to her life over the last nine years of motherhood and knows the pressures parents face. Dani is the mother to three small boys.
How does the song go again?
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”
It’s a common refrain around December, but the sad truth is that for many people Christmas isn’t actually wonderful. For some it’s hardly bearable.
At this time of year, when family, friends and colleagues congregate and celebrate, many people may be keenly feeling the loss – recent or otherwise, of someone dear to them. Perhaps through death, or divorce, or a long distance move. Countless others may be facing yet another year feeling so very alone, whether it be social isolation or a battle with the black hole of depression.
While many of us may be looking back on the past year in self-reflection, and expressing our gratitude for all we’ve achieved and all we have, there are just as many others who are desperately counting down the days until they can say goodbye to 2015, because for whatever reason it was a harsh year for them. Perhaps a business venture failed. Maybe they lost their home. They might have struggled with their health. Or have been deeply betrayed by someone they trusted.
While many of us may be joyously wrapping presents and baking hams on Christmas Eve, there are also those who will look upon the tiny collection of gifts they could barely afford for their children, or the Christmas dinner they bought on credit for their family, through lashings of hot, angry, disappointed and despondent tears. Heartbroken they weren’t able to live up to society’s (or their own) expectations of creating the picture perfect Christmas.
Yes, there are many reasons why a large portion of people look upon Christmas with heartache and dread, rather than joy and laughter.
Christmas isn’t always joyful.
If this is you. Please know that I feel for you. I truly do.
I know I’m one of the fortunate ones. I’m so privileged to be able to have a roof over my head, a well-stocked fridge and smiling, happy, healthy daughters breathlessly counting down the sleeps until the big day. Although it has been a difficult year for me on a few levels, at this time of year, when I’ve had the chance to slow down, reflect and recalibrate, I’ve been able to truly feel the festive spirit and I know I’m okay.
But if you’re still struggling, if the thought of Christmas breaks your heart or turns your stomach, if you can’t wait to put a pin in 2015 and all it represents, then please take a look at these suggestions for ways to make it through these next few days.
How to cope when Christmas is hard.
1) Recognise how you’re feeling.
Admit out loud to yourself that Christmas is going to be hard, or that you’re actually dreading it – be honest with how you’re feeling and why. Write it all down in a journal. Confide in a trusted friend. Pray to your God, or talk to a mentor, religious leader, or even call a crisis support hotline such as Lifeline if you can’t find – or don’t want to talk to – someone you know about this. But don’t try to fake it – don’t try to force yourself to feel merry if you don’t. Allow yourself to be sad, if you’re sad. Be angry, if you’re angry. Feel grief if you’re grieving. Be honest. With yourself and others. People will understand. They may not know exactly how to respond or support you. But they will understand.
2) Know that you are not alone.
My gosh, you are so not alone. There are thousands of people out there who share your feelings on Christmas. In fact, Lifeline estimates it will take 27,000 phone calls this festive season. That’s 27,000 other people also struggling at Christmas. You may not see them, because so many people haven’t undertaken step number one – they’re hiding how they truly feel, for one reason or another. Society’s notion of Christmas as a happy time of celebration and joy is a strong cultural line – it takes a brave person to put their hand up and say “that’s not how I feel about Christmas”. Which is why step one is so important. Honest communication is an integral step when it comes to addressing our feelings and working our way out of them. By admitting how you feel, you might be surprised at how many others tell you they’re feeling the same. You’re not alone. You’re not he only one who feels this way. Even if it feels like you are. Please trust that others are feeling the same way as you too.
3) Accept it – and let it go.
This one can be the hardest. Sometimes we rail so hard against any feelings of unpleasantness, we believe we need to feel happy or good all the time. Aren’t we supposed to be joyful – shouldn’t we do everything we can to fight against any negative emotions? Especially at Christmas time – our old companion, guilt, can get hold of us. “Look at everything you have, you have no right to feel this way, you should be ashamed of yourself for being so miserable at Christmas.” And how do we respond? By beating ourselves up – fighting against ourselves and our thoughts and emotions. Berating ourselves whenever despair or anger crosses our minds.
The trouble with this is that the more you wrestle with pain and anger and fear and hate, the more they will pull you under. Just like quicksand.
For this reason, acceptance is a powerful tool. When I talk about “acceptance”, I’m not referring to “resignment” or giving up – it is not about taking a blanket “whatever” attitude to everything, and accepting every little thing that goes wrong, as your lot in life. By accepting how you feel about Christmas today, it doesn’t mean you are giving up on ever feeling joyful or festive ever again.
What it IS about, is about making room in your mind for the unpleasant feelings and sensations that come with negative events you can’t control. It’s about accepting that you’re going to have these feelings, and letting your body experience them, without struggling against them or constantly questioning them, so that you can experience them and let them go.
The next step on from acceptance is about figuring out what you’re really comfortable with leaving the way it is and what it is that you’d like to change from your current state. Then moving forward and taking action on those changes. But perhaps, Christmas isn’t the easiest time to undertake this second step. At this point, it’s okay to just accept, let go, and commit to moving on a little bit later once the holidays are behind you.
As always, dealing with major issues in our lives is never as easy as a three step guide you find on the internet. Ultimately, it’s up to you to be aware of how you’re feeling and whether you can move through this on your own, or perhaps whether you need a bit more support. From family, friends, or a professional, such as a counsellor or mental health clinician.
This holiday season certainly has the ability to stir up many wounds and emotions, some often thought to be long forgotten. So please be gentle with yourself these holidays. You’re only human after all.
Until next time,
Please always remember that Lifeline is always available to people in need of someone to talk to when you feel like you need support. Call their hotline on 13 11 14 to speak to a trained counsellor 24 hours a day.
For those of you in a more festive place this season, perhaps you might be willing to support Lifeline by donating to their Christmas Appeal. Your donation might mean that a few extra calls get taken this year.
(Please note, this isn’t a sponsored post for Lifeline, but having volunteered for them previously I’m a huge fan of their work.)
Thanks so much for popping over to my brand-spankin’ new site! As you can see, we’re still in the middle of creating this baby, so please bear with us.
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