All week I have been failing to write about international women’s day. I had it all planned out, I had a busy weekend so I was going to use the ‘scheduled’ button on wordpress, finish something by Friday and get it to post itself today. But for various reasons I have managed to piss the entire week against the wall.
Firstly, and perhaps this is woman’s day-ish enough to be worth a mention, I find I can only write in certain phases of my menstrual cycle (reason-I-can-never-get-paid-to-write number 147) and this ain’t it, so I couldn’t get my words out. I have also fitted in some spectacularly pointless distractions. I had a lady come to my house to do an energy report. First she gave off at me for having all the lights on, but keeping my lights on is the way I cope with the misery of the fact my flat is damp and freezing. She was supposed to be telling me to use my heating less, but when I explained that I only use the heating occasionally because I can’t use the hot water at the same time, and could confidently tell her the temperature was always below eighteen degrees (13 being my record, 15 being positively tropical) she looked like she was going to call social services on me. I joked that my dad won’t come and stay with me anymore because it’s so cold and my husband opens the windows all the time, but she didn’t see the funny side and asked if she could write that down. I thought about trying to explain that my husband went to boarding school but I didn’t think she’d understand. The situation did not improve when she went into my bedroom to look at my boiler and found my mate Dill had popped round for a cuppa but was sitting in my bed reading a book under all the blankets and with her skiing gear on. It’s not that we care about the environment that much, we’re just tough round here.
Later in the week I spend my only child-free day in the worthy pursuit of trying things on in shops and then hanging them back up again. This is something I am enjoying at the moment because due to rumbling low-level misery over the past few months I have dropped a dress size or two. I am therefore to be found on the high street, fighting my age grappling with the latest trends and singing yet more Taylor Swift (I can make the bad boys good for the weekend, but I can’t make them shut the sodding windows), while self-aware enough to realise that there is not a single situation in my life where I could be called upon to wear a playsuit, and I prefer to spend my money on booze and light bulbs.
By the weekend I was all set for my first big gig with my new band. This was perhaps more empowering than the rest of the week’s adventures. It turned into something of a mummy’s night oot, with one mum having explained to her little boy that yes, Josephine and Anthony’ mummy really is in a band. It was nice for us all to be out, somewhere half-decent, and all dressed up (though no playsuits). I had had ‘a lip-over’ especially, which I didn’t know was a thing, but apparently it is a thing. And apparently my lips have a different pH which means they go particularly red with lipstick, so said lip-over lady. This smacked of bullshit to me on some level, but on another level it made me very happy, in a destined-to-be-a-wee-bit-slutty sort of a way.
But singing and playing in itself is a big deal for me. I stopped singing for a while because someone near the grisly end of my psychopathic ex-boyfriend spectrum discouraged it, and I stopped playing for ten years because the guy at the very end of the scale destroyed every single thing I owned, including bending my flute in half. ( I know. These nutters tend to be VERY strong.) So to be making music at all feels like a victory over something, even if I’m not entirely sure what.
And then yesterday I went to an international woman’s day singathon. And it was entirely beautiful. I learned music from around the world, lullabies which have given women a stake in the shaping of their children’s future; songs which bring comfort and strength in the face of violence, war and slavery. I sang ‘I ain’t gonna let no ageing patriarchy turn me round’ and meant every word. I even learned to circle dance and thought gosh, if I could get my public school boys doing this I’d have this whole operation sorted. And I was struck hard by being told that the song ‘We shall overcome’ was taken up somewhat slowly by the women’s rights movement, they tended not to have the confidence to believe. And I felt tearful as I sang, we shall overcome, deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome one day. And perhaps more poignantly still, we are not to blame, we are not to blame today or any day. I wondered, do I really believe this deep in my heart? There in that moment, surrounded by women singing the same thing, I certainly did.
But it isn’t easy. Because when we challenge that ageing patriarchy we are not just not using the same weapons, we are fighting in opposite ways. We see your nuclear weapons and we raise you a circle dance. We see your wealth and unequal pay and we’ll raise you a community garden and some homemade cake. In the face of your domestic violence we offer you a lullaby, in the face of your domineering strength we have only our vulnerability, and the trump card of our endurance. We have the stories we have to tell and the songs we have to sing, and we share them the only way we can. And one day that will be enough. One day we shall overcome.