What Caitlin Moran taught me on International Women’s Day

What Caitlin Moran taught me on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.
I woke up this morning with a sense of deflation. Today, we are recognising women from around the world – Our collective achievements and the progess of society. Individuals who inspire us and key moments in gender equality history. I have many women in my own life who inspire me everyday. However, I woke up feeling that we still have such a long way to go if we still have a need for IWD. This deflated me. I couldn’t see past this fundamental truth. I did not feel empowered.

When you assess the progress for gender equality across the World, we have had some extremely substantial policy upgrades in the last few decades. From the UK equal pay act in 1970 to the outlawing of FGM in Nigeria, just recently. On the other hand, in India, the law doesn’t recognise or criminalise marital rape, whilst In the US, Planned Parenthood clinics keep closing. These are epic fails in our fight for equality. Even when policy is changing for the good, things aren’t actually improving at the same pace. Women still get paid less. Girls still get cut. Rules change but culture prevails.I find it extremely hard to see any progress at more than face value and this has become exhausting.

However, on International Women’s Day, I was reminded that it simply isn’t acceptable to think this way by none other than kindred feminist Spirit, Caitlin Moran. Caitlin headlined at the Southbank WOW festival in London, and through her reading and discussion of her new book Moranifesto, inspired a room full of Londoners with her witty banter and epic muppet face. 

However it wasn’t her clever puns and naughty humour which changed my thinking today. It was something specific she said at a moment so perfect, it was as if she overheard the voice inside my head, interruped me and directly answered back without a moment of hesitation. 

“I simply cannot afford to be pessimistic,” She said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the luxury of being able to say ‘oh, things are shit, oh well.’? But as a woman or a person of colour we cannot afford this. We have to be optimistic. We don’t have the option. If we want to see the change then we have to believe it can happen. Being optimistic is a political choice.

Although somewhat paraphrased (as this brain of mine is still buzzing from the last few hours of Morantertainment), this statement really struck a chord with me. How can I be a feminist and pessimistic? How can I feel this and then commit myself to ‘being the change’. The two cannot co-exist. I am a woman and a person of colour. It would be self-defeating to set about to improve the situation for myself and others but then not believe that things can really change. Being optimistic is not just a political choice, it’s my responsibility.

As always, watching Caitlin Moran talk was an emotional rollercoaster. I have regularly had tears in my eyes from laughing and being sad at the exact same time whilst reading her Times Magazine column. Today, I want to thank Caitlin for giving me more than that weekly ride; I want to thank her for reminding me that it is our responsibility to be optimistic in our pursuit of equality. This is how you can ‘Be The Change’.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Over & Out.

P.s the picture is from a previous book signing where I met Caitlin and pretty much fan-girled the whole time. Worth it.

Can we have it all? A Humanist Issue – Not a Gender Issue!


‘So I was raised to believe that championing women’s rights meant doing everything we could to get women to the top. And I still hope that I live long enough to see men and women equally represented at all levels of the work force. But I’ve come to believe that we have to value family every bit as much as we value work, and that we should entertain the idea that doing right by those we love will make all of us better at everything we do.’

I would go as far to say that Anne Marie Slaughter has inspired me through her TEDtalk just as much as Sheryl Sandberg in her [EPIC] speech on ‘Why We Have So Few Women Leaders’. Not only does Slaughter address the issues facing work-life balance & gender inequality, but she rightly acknowledges the importance of the role of family and how work-policy & societal norms have rendered the home as second-rate to the work place. Here are a few random thoughts I had whilst listening:

Coming from an Indian-background [full of cultural controversies], I find the dynamics of home decision-making extremely interesting. Anne Marie claims that in most cultural norms, Men are considered the primary breadwinners and Women, the caregivers. Ironically, in the same cultures, and more-so in developing countries, patriarchal family dynamics allow Men to be at the helm of decision making in the home. [I haven’t referenced this, however i’m sure you wouldn’t disagree!] This means that, although women are the primary care-givers, Men are in charge of family expenditure and therefore decisions on health, education and the futures of their children. Something doesn’t quite add up!

I also love the fact that Anne Marie recognises the pressures on Men to be the breadwinners and the increasing ability of Women to choose their positions at home and at work. It’s like the reverse of Caitlin Moran’s checklist on inequality & sexism, number one of which is, ‘Are the men worrying about this?’. Instead, Women are increasingly being championed when they succeed in either realms of family or work, whilst Men are reduced to one option of what it means to be a Man.

Lastly, I believe the over-arching issue at play is the responsibility of businesses in the wider society and as the creators of work-culture. Are businesses accountable to their employees and therefore the wider society? Or are they only answerable to their shareholders? As a believer in corporate responsibility and social mobility, I think that businesses have a responsibility to ALL of these agents, equally. As employers of individuals that strive to balance their lives, businesses should champion the flexible strategies that allow both Men and Women to excel together in both work and home. At the same time, these qualities should be valued by shareholders. This is important for the business, for employees and for future generations.

As a young women who is extremely far from making these decisions, I am already thinking about the issues that may effect myself and my future family/career. It’s more scary that I am considering these issues than the fact that these issues exist in the first place! I believe this is a sure sign that the paradigm we currently live in needs to shift away from the militant work-culture and towards a healthier [and evidently more successful] flexible norm.

Over & Out.

FGM: Frighteningly Gruesome Mentalities.

An issue that first hit my computer screen during my time in 6th form, was an issue that still sends shivers down my spine and boils my blood. It was through reading about such a practice that I realised how truly horrible culture and social convention can be to those who are, globally, most likely to be marginalized. It is all in this 3-word phrase:

Female. Genital. Mutilation.

a.k.a. female circumcision. I won’t bother with a full description of what it entails, as most of that information (and to be fair the views on this post) will be readily available on wiki. After reading a description, i’m sure all the women reading this will be crossing their legs and thanking their respective Higher Powers for being born in a modern or forward-looking culture.

You may start to question the very concept of cultural practices when you realise such a ritual exists. It is widely known and accepted, albeit very unfortunate, that girls in developing countries are married young, poorly educated and forced into early motherhood. However, I believe that FGM is the worst part of this social convention. It subjects girls to the most terrible forms of gender inequality through an act that does ALL harm and NO good. What does the ritual symbolise?

  • It symbolises the inferiority of Women and their duty to conform to their patriarch’s ideologies in all circumstances.
  • It represents a hypocrisy regarding sexual behaviour, whereby women should fear intimacy. It is seen as a prevention of premarital sex in communities where rape and abuse is all but uncommon.
  • It suggests it is acceptable for women’s health and lives to be compromised at the expense of cultural ideals.

At 8 years old, I was playing with my Barbie doll. At 10, I was studying to get into Grammar School. At 12, I met some of my best friends. At the same time, another 8 year old was having her clitoris publicly slit. At 10, she was married. At 12, she more than likely died in childbirth.

The purpose of this post was for awareness. Please take the time to read http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ for a better explanation of what FGM entails and represents.
Over and out.