THE BLOG

An Open Letter to All Women Everywhere

01/03/2016 07:57

all women everywhere

You have a voice.

You may not have felt like you did, when someone said you were disgusting for breastfeeding in a public place, when you were catcalled in the street for wearing something as sexy as a baggy t-shirt or when you found out you were paid less than your male colleague for doing the same job.

Perhaps you felt your voice was too tiny, too small to accomplish anything. But there is one thing that you can always rely on. It's our voice. We've got your back, and always have.

Harnessing this global movement, this energy sweeping through 2016 around women is The Huffington Post UK's month-long focus All Women Everywhere, pulling together voices from all over Britain talking about the female experience.

Because never has the female voice been more powerful, more globally connected, than it is right now.

Before we get to that, let's take a swift trip down memory lane over the last few years to see how we got here.

We have moved beyond the procrastination of 2013, when women were deciding whether or not they were feminists. To quote Helen Mirren: "I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say 'is this the world you want to live in?' they would say 'no'."

We have also successfully navigated certain eye-rolling moments of 2014, where feminism became fashionable - from Chanel's 'Feminist But Feminine!' placards at Paris Fashion Week to women's magazines doing feminism 'specials' (we thought gender equality was a 24/7 thing, but go figure).

Just when feminism was in danger of collapsing under tokenism and in-fighting, UN Women and Emma Watson articulated what really needed to happen: #HeForShe.

That in order for women to really see change, we had to involve men in the conversation because shutting them out was not getting us anywhere.

Because men raise women too, and if we wanted the next generation of young girls to grow up in a world where they were treated with respect and equality, where gender isn't a box to limit their potential, they would be crucial to this revolution.

So 2015 started in the best possible way - a new age of the women's movement which was inclusive, that stopped obsessing over what was wrong, and in the manner of Rosie the Riveter, rolled up its sleeves and just got on with trying to make it right.

In line with The Huffington Post UK's What's Working ethos of solutions-based journalism, we reported on it widely and there was a lot to be proud of.

There were changes to paternity leave in the workplace meaning the onus of childcare didn't rest solely on women. There were more women than ever in parliament. Women in sport finally came to the fore as a nation gathered behind our Lionesses for the World Cup.

For me, 2015 is when the voice of women grew from a murmur to a roar.

From Caitlyn Jenner bringing the trans women movement centre stage to Patricia Arquette, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence speaking out about pay equality. From Serena Williams shutting down body shamers to Amber Rose leading Slut Walks. Oh, and of course - Hillary for president, y'all.

It was the year that social media tried and failed to censor women whether it was breastfeeding photos or period activism. In fact, women turned the tables and used social media to spread positive change.

Some of the fantastic campaigns included #MedicatedandMighty - which saw women posting selfies of themselves with medication to address the stigma around mental health. #ShoutYourAbortion was another, while in the US, #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName spread the message more in 144 characters than a thousand news stories ever could.

Don't get me wrong - there is still plenty to fix. We are still not getting paid the same as men, and there is no universe in which that is justified. Men still run the world - and if you think they don't, count the number of women of the senior leadership team in the company you work for.

But that's okay. Well it's not remotely okay, but we know what we are capable of and what we have already achieved. Rest assured, change will happen.

So what is 2016 about? It's about the next generation of women coming up. We may not be able to change the world in time for all of us, but we can definitely speak up - use that raw, powerful voice - to do so in time for them.

For myself, this is partly inspired by my niece Leela. She is currently 20 months, a fearless ball of energy, interested in the world and in love with everything from toy trucks to dolls.

She doesn't know that the world will try and tell her who she is by virtue of her gender. It is my fervent hope that she won't have to find out.

I want her to grow up in a world where it's not an odd thing if she wants to be an astronaut or an F1 driver. I want her to grow up as someone who loves her body, and not one of the 50% of young girls who are on a diet before they even hit 15 because they think they are fat.

So that's why All Women Everywhere is crucial. This isn't just for us, it's for an entire generation of women waiting in the wings.

Because by telling our stories, we can help break down boundaries and inspire others to be brave. And by being brave, we are leaving the world a better place for our young women coming up so that they don't think twice about using their voice.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about

CONVERSATIONS