The resolution to mark an International Women’s Day every year on March 8 was made at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen late in in 1910.
From socialist and universal suffrage roots, via the UN endorsement in 1975, the day is now positioned as both joyful and serious: an opportunity to celebrate successes while continuing to press for rights and reminding everyone of the distance still to go in wrongs to be righted. (#MeToo?)
Do we make the best use of the day?
I chanced upon an article about International Women’s Day with the sub-heading ‘Is it still needed?’
The answer was an audit of global abuse of women, by men. (Truly alarming.)
Having lived through several waves and re-frames of feminism, and having built a professional life of enquiry into how organizational cultures, and leadership, can change…..that answer to that question raised a whole heap of worry for me.
The data is real. Yet it encourages a divisiveness between men and women that cannot be helpful.
Let’s link two influences: stay with me.
The first influence thread is Jung, and his exploration and description of ‘archetypes’.
The second is a book (it won the Royal Society Science book of the year in 2017) called ‘Testosterone Rex’ by Cordelia Fine.
Ms Fine unfolds a partisan and enjoyable and mind-opening thesis that behaviour differences between men and women are not scientifically determined by a hormone called testosterone. Some of the science around that biological / chemical drive theory of what we call male (and female) behaviour is wrong.
Which would mean much of what we think we know about men and women – and think unchangeable – is a social construct.
And back to Jung. His notion of archetypes is deliciously elusive, but so so important. The archetypes of mother, father, sage, trickster, serpent, gold etc are not actual ‘types’ of people or of objects.
They are entirely symbolic. But powerful. Their potency appears when the circumstances of a situation or a relationship, through millennia of human experience, conjure them as instantly recognised forces. Think of grammar and language. ’Grammar’ itself doesn’t really exist; but becomes vital as the scaffolding upon which meaning, via language, is made.
Both these influences invite us to recognise and consider shifting our unconscious constructs. We can develop the archetype, we can change the story.
Lots of progress has been made since the first IWD in 1911.
But have our social constructs of – the perfect mother, the ideal father, success in the world, changed much at all?
If Jung and latterly Fine are even only partly right, do we not have the power at some level to change them? To move away from the oppressor / victim story?
If on International Women’s Day we could begin to enrich and expand – with stories, examples, conversations – what we mean and understand by’ mother’, ‘father’, ‘hero’, ‘businessperson’ for example, some serious change – for everyone – could begin to happen.
That really would be a celebration.