I first became conscious of International Women’s Day, perhaps a little later than the average woman, around the time I was editor of the Harlequin Blog, at the age of 25. I wrote up a piece about it and Mary Wollstonecraft. Looks like my byline has disappeared, but I’ll vouch those are my words!
Five years ago, I wrote this:
The romantic heroines I have always admired have been fearless and tenacious. And no matter what they might look like, what obstacles are thrown in their way, even in the darkest moments, they have always stayed true to themselves.
Ignore all the passive tense.
I’d like to expand my definition to include not just romantic heroines (I was writing for a romance publishing house after all – context!) but to all of my heroines. These include the likes of Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Erika Jong, Edith Wharton, Frida Kahlo, Patti Smith, Nora Ephron, Mary W. from above, and Amanda Palmer.
Amanda’s a new addition to my fantasy team of lady heroes. I’m reading The Art of Asking right now and I had to stop myself from barreling through the book as is my usual wont because there’s TOO MUCH GOODNESS. If I read too fast, I might miss it.
When I think about what makes these women so awesome in my mind, it keeps coming back to the fearlessness and tenacity that I admire.
A good friend of mine once described me as tenacious and, although I was in the midst of a pretty large and deep hole of self-pity at the moment, I tucked that little comment into the back recesses of my mind to draw strength from every time I want to give up.
Give up at life, give up at love, give up at just being a human being.
I learned in these past five years between my first post on International Women’s Day to this one what makes a woman fearless and tenacious – it’s not the absence of fear or laziness – it’s the perseverance in the face of it. Just because I am scared out of my wits end doesn’t mean I’m not gonna do it. In actual fact, that fear has become one of my biggest instincts in life. It tells me that something usually is worth doing precisely because it’s so frightening it scares me out of my wits. Of course there’s reasonable limits to that – I’m not going bungee jumping any time soon, but someone else may feel that fear with those cords wrapped around their legs and still take the plunge. And I think that’s amazing. Good for you!
And similarly, my tenacity isn’t this relentless steam engine, sloughing off problems like a cowcatcher through the thickest snow. It’s more like an ox-wagon trudging slowly into unknown territory. Sometimes those damned oxen are lazy and won’t be made to go faster by whip or insult. Sometimes they damn near stop altogether. But eventually they get going again. Eventually they pick up the pace. Eventually things get back into a groove.
These are my oxen, not giving a damn that I want to keep going.
So happy International Women’s Day, friends! I suppose this reflection isn’t mutually exclusive to women, but I especially like women who exhibit these characteristics. How about you?