She watches the waves on the river

In France at least, today is not International Women’s Day, it’s International Women’s Rights Day. Nuance. It isn’t a day to say, I love you Mum, Grandma, aren’t we strong and wonderful? It isn’t a day to paint everything pink and take advantage of the reductions on bra and pantie sets, to tell your daughters they are strong and wonderful because they can be in a girls band or play football just like the boys except that nobody will want to watch them play. Today is a day when we take stock of how few rights women have worldwide, how women are still having to fight to be treated as human beings, how even in our enlightened western countries women are still ignored, patronised, told that their fight for equality is nowhere near as important as minority rights, workers rights, you name it anything at all rights.

I was intending to write something appropriately stirring, but women’s rights have become so entangled now with defending a woman’s freedom to not be free that equality in any of its aspects seems depressingly far away. I didn’t come up with anything better than this ballad. The old, old story that will have to symbolise the role of woman to be the spectator, the one left behind, the one who will never leave her post.

Painting ©ReneSchuler



I watch the waves on the river roll,

The seagulls bank on the brisk salt breeze,

I watch the road for a sight of you,

But the river sighs like wind in the trees.


You said you’d come when the geese returned,

When the frosts were gone with the breath of spring,

I watch the leaves and they’re fresh and green,

But no sign of you does the river bring.


The sun is warm but my face is wet,

With all the tears, a bright river flows,

I watch the sky, but the geese have flown,

Where my love’s gone, only the river knows.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

21 thoughts on “She watches the waves on the river”

      1. They both do damage to the cause. One lot by muddying the waters, the other by giving fuel to the men who claim that only the lunatic fringe is feminist, most don’t want to be ‘liberated’.

  1. International Women’s Rights Day is more accurate. I just noticed it this year —a slip sideways. It’s almost as if some people are confusing IWD with Mother’s Day.

    1. Exactly! That’s what a lot of women were saying. They didn’t want a pat on the head and a bouquet of roses, they wanted equal rights! A horrifying fact—in Ireland same sex marriage was voted in last year despite opposition of the church and everyone was saying that this shows just how far Ireland has gone down the road to civil rights for all. In 2017 abortion in ANY circumstances is still illegal in the Republic. Gay men’s rights ( gay women’s too, but if it had only been gay women nobody would have been campaigning) have come before women’s rights. Should we be surprised?

      1. The illegality of abortion is shocking. To me feminism embraces openness to human difference and equal rights accordingly. It is unfortunate when politicians think their work is done (or want everyone to think so) when one small improvement is made. I also feel that rights are only a fraction of our problem as power over built on myths of superiority is so embedded into cultures.

      2. I’m afraid you’re right. When rights are enshrined in law, they still need to be applied, and for that you need the police, the legal system as well as society to comply. It’s not as easy as just passing a law and expecting suddenly everybody’s attitude to have changed.

      3. Change has been a long haul. We had pay equity laws over here for a while but the stats say, and in my tiny universe I still see, guys getting higher wages for the same work value.

      4. It’s the same here, except, apparently in the startups. The legal system here has become extremely feminized with far more women right up the system. Instead of it meaning that women lawyers earn as much as men, it’s just meant that the men complain that they are earning less—if it becomes a ‘woman’s job’ it automatically means it has less value.

  2. Beautiful poem, Jane. I agree with what you said about women’s rights getting tangled up with other issues. There is a difference between women’s issues and issues that affect everyone including women. This is why I didn’t participate in the women’s march here in the US. Feminism is now expected to take up every issue that comes along, but unless an issue only affects women, or affects women disproportionately, it shouldn’t be part of the feminist platform.

    1. I’m very uneasy about taking up the cudgels for ‘issues’ that mean supporting the right of one group to be different. Seems to me that we have got into a circular argument with almost all the discrimination issues—the people who are being discriminated against claim on the one hand they want to be treated equally, and at the same time they continue to define themselves as Black, Gay, Christian, Muslim etc etc. I used to be a militant leftist until I realised that ‘the workers’ we were fighting for meant ‘the male workers’. The proletarian left is as patriarchal as any conservative system and doesn’t give a shit about women’s rights. There’s too much campaigning for the right to be different. We need a few campaigns for the right to the same justice, consideration, appreciation and opportunities for every single human being.

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