International Women’s Day: what do we celebrate?

I often think about the shortage and/or inadequacy of our modern-day female role models. Most of the celebrated women today are business leaders or performance artists. I find this a grossly unsatisfactory selection. The above occupations carry an implication of self-enrichment and self-promotion, both of which are self-focused. Both types love to talk about how they juggle their jobs and motherhood, as if that juggle would be possible without household help, performed by working-class women, lacking ambition, smarts and/or good looks. Sad!

I’m a collector of alternatives. There must be other ways beside being a ‘Lean In’ type and a half-naked ass-shaking performer.

This morning in my Facebook feed I stumbled upon a collection of suffragists’ photos from the early 20th century. One stood out for me: Charlotte Despard – an Anglo-Irish suffragette and activist.

Just look at the character and the energy coming from that old lady. The only person I can think of who, today, can display such combination of convictions and nonchalance, is Elizabeth Warren. Old, implacable, opinionated hag. Most women are afraid to become one, so they prefer to shield themselves with professional achievement or cool dance moves.

Now, compare this turbo-charged vitality of 80-year old lady to this:

Empty, psychotic eyes on the left; same empty eyes with cleavage on the right.

Both represent achievement as we understand and celebrate it in modern terms.

But there is a third way: it is to refuse to participate in the con. The system won’t improve if more women, like the two above, will succeed in male-dominated fields. It is when we stop focusing on narcissistic self-empowerment and, like that spirited old lady direct our focus outward.


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