Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Writing - International Women's Day and good manners

So today is an extra day for women as if they don't have enough!!!!

Did I really dare to write that?
Ask any married man or a man in a long standing relationship who controls the days and you will be left in no doubt that it isn't him.

Seriously though there are good historical reasons for such a day and even after almost 40 years of legal equality things are still not as they should be.

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There are many ways in which this day have been heralded and one of them which, as a writer, attracted my attention is the writing of a post card to your younger self by a number of well known women. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, was quite brief.

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Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola, be yourself and don’t be afraid to be your own woman in politics. It may feel as if politics is a man’s world but don't feel pressure to act as some male politicians. Don't let other people put limits on your ambition - work hard, learn from your mistakes, believe in yourself and always follow your dreams.

There is a contribution from a writer which is unsurprisingly more verbose.

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Lady Antonia Frazer

“You don’t look clever.” I was 17. I shall always remember my pleasure and relief when I heard those words, spoken by the brother of my best schoolmate Lucy. She had obviously boasted of having “a clever friend” and now it was up to me to fool him: the more brainless the better. That way he would undoubtedly find me attractive.
I wish I could go back and tell Antonia Pakenham aged 17 not to be such a fool (so much for being clever). Intelligent people are always attractive to other intelligent people - and who wants to be pursued by idiots? Well, maybe I did, if the idiots were tall, dark and handsome.
So I wish I could assure my young self in addition that where both men and women are concerned, intelligence lasts far, far longer than looks and makes life infinitely more fun.


Finally, from Hollie McNish a poet and spoken word artist who wrote the card to her 8 month pregnant self in reaction to a tube journey with a few thousand other commuters.

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Hollie McNish

Perhaps they’re as stressed as you. Breathe, be confident, don’t worry that your face will go beetroot red and just say: Excuse me, please can I sit there, I’m pregnant. You are allowed to ask. You’re right, you shouldn’t have to, but just do it. I know you need the toilet and above all else, you really don’t want to wet yourself on the tube right now.

I am old enough to remember a time when she wouldn't have had to ask and that was a time before 'equality'! This raises a point that is very dear to me.
I belong to a time when children were taught to respect their elders. I was expected to give up my seat on a bus to any adult irrespective of age, sex or condition. When I did, the adult, if they wanted the seat, would thank me for my thoughtfulness. 

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This little tale brings me on to a noticeable change in younger women in respect of manners. It is not unusual for me, while driving, to give way to other drivers and the response is almost uniformerly disappointing from young women. They don't respond. Okay they may have had bad experiences which cause them to feel suspicious but showing gratitude is not a sign of weakness, and nor are good manners an attempt at sexual harassment. Even when walking in a busy place, stepping back to allow a woman to pass rarely generates a thank you.
I must stress that I don't display good manners because I am on some kind of power trip, it was what I was brought up to do by my parents, just as they taught me to take my litter home, and to be seen and not heard. (Oops!)

God Bless