Once a year, a group of women come together to share a weekend retreat at a seaside location in the middle of winter. Why winter? Less crowds, close to Mother’s Day, perhaps. I don’t really know.
A Patch of Diversity
The seasoned traveller among them takes charge of looking for that perfect house to rent for that special weekend. She juggles special requests and individual preferences against a tight budget. And she does it well, year after year after year.
Another is a great cook, though her job is so far removed from her interest in cooking, as she is surrounded by technical specialists in the office. She plans the meals, shops, brings the food over and cooks for the group for the entire weekend. What a champion. Many sumptuous meals have been shared over the years. Decadent desserts, included!
One is a business executive who has travelled extensively for work and lived in a number of countries leading businesses through strategic shifts. Her contribution for this weekend is to drive, as needed, and help others with the cleanup. An introvert, the group gives her the time she needs for herself when she needs it. No pressure to be ‘on’ all the time.
Two of the women work for not-for-profit enterprises. They have spent their lifetimes serving the under-served and the marginalized, whether here or abroad. They love to be up and about early in the morning. The first morning, they had already gone for a walk on the beach, while everyone was still in bed. Not a surprise either that they had already done a spot of shopping and bought a dress, then returned on foot and conquered the steep hill to the house. Just in time for a beautiful breakfast.
Another leads a food cooperative part-time, welcoming visitors every week to free bread, fruits and vegetables and low-priced grocery items. Then there’s the welcoming café with coffee, tea and sweet delights plus a conversation or two for many who wish to linger after their weekly shopping. The organizational skills required matching supply to demand, and serving the people with a big heart, is amazing to watch.
The youngest is only twenty; filled with hopeful anticipation for where life might lead her. Pondering plans, dreams, questions, uncertainties. Struggling with the injustice that she sees.
Diversity and Unity
For all the diversity in personality, life experiences, viewpoints, dreams and passion, what unites these women?
All have their share of joys and sorrows, struggles and success.
All have tasted the goodness of friendships, in stormy season or fair weather.
All value life and profess faith in the Creator, God.
All have a special place in their hearts for raising the value of women.
The women often have a party theme on the second night. Most recently, Eurovision 2015 inspired the night. What a wonderful time they had getting dressed up. Picture feather boas (all the way from New Orleans!), bling, strands of baubles over already flashy attire, hats of all kinds and, of course, ‘statement’ shoes. Even the conservative one came with her version of ‘loud’: a pair of orange and cream zebra-striped slacks and silver-gold shoes.
Ahh, but here’s the delight … behind the light-hearted atmosphere of the weekend were pithy conversations. Women engaged in life, even in the middle of fun and relaxation. From politics to faith, feminism to oppression and persecution, raising children to spurring them to independence, careers and vocations.
There were agreements and disagreements, but no fights! Even when they discussed feminism.
Thinking About Feminism and The Future
When I think about the state of the feminist movement today, I realize that there is much disagreement on how to move forward.
Some influential women leaders even shy away from being called a feminist. Even our own, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, said that the term is no longer relevant and she does not want the label.
Why? Because the politics of feminism have began to overshadow the essence of the movement.
But there is hope…
When I look at this group of diverse women who come together for this special weekend, I see people building friendships and the environment where differences are appreciated and common ground is actively sought.
There is hope in the feminist movement when we focus on the common ground: raising the value of women wherever they are, irrespective of creed, race, politics, circumstances.
Let us acknowledge the feminist movement for what it has won for women. Through the groans, struggles and battles led by the feminist movement, women now have the vote; women are entering universities in droves, and rising up the leadership ladders in many places.
Yet, there is still much to accomplish.
- Equality in pay and equal opportunities for leadership positions.
- The revamp of corporate processes so diversity, not homogeneity, is the norm.
- Building social environments that include, not exclude.
- A national culture that values women, expressed in business activities, in laws and statutes, in everyday language and conversations, in popular songs, billboards, advertisements, in education, play and sport.
Rather than be distracted by a term that do not unify, let’s focus on what still needs to be done, our common goals. In the plurality of ideas on how to move forward, let us not get bogged down on labels.
Our challenge is to listen (especially to new voices), respect, debate, find common ground, allow for fresh, new ideas, then move forward on what unites us.
Although I wrote labels should not bog us down, there is a lot to a name. Let’s re-invent the term ‘feminism’, while respecting the past and its accomplishments. In nature, who adapts to change are those who survive. We need the ‘feminist movement’ to survive; no, not just survive, but thrive. What term would unite us? Any suggestions?
#newfeminism #leadingchange #valuingwomen #raisingthevalueofwomen #whatunitesus