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.
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.