Though it may seem hokey to today's young woman, Helen Reddy's " I am woman" defined a generation of women. As the world commemorated International Women's Day on March 8th, there were thousands of women who had no idea of the significance of the day . They are lucky enough to take for granted the ability to work outside the home, to choose whatever career they wish, to not be limited in their activities by the fact of their gender. Because as those of us who are a little older know, it has not always been that way.
It was as a small child in the 70's that I first heard Ms Reddy's song, it was played over and over on the only station we had TTT. The station has come and gone like many of the pioneers of women's empowerment. They are much to numerous to list here but thanks to the magic of the Internet, they are out there for a whole new generation to experience. The song "I am woman" is simple, it does not speak only about being equal, it talks about empowering yourself and that you have the power over your life. Wow. For a kid who only knew that women were teachers, or nurses or other "womanly" type pursuits it was powerful. For the first time I really knew that I could choose to be whatever I wanted. Unlike my great grandmother, grandmother and even my mother. Eventually, I was the first of my branch of the family to go to university, male or female. In my mother's generation she had cousins who went to university, they were considered to be unusual, remember, it was the 70's. Twenty years later, it was me walking around campus without a doubt that I had the right to be there.
For generations women have fought for the right to work and receive equal pay, to join any profession and be respected not reviled, to wear whatever they choose, to vote, to run a country, to manage their own money. There are still places in the world where this is not possible due to fundamentalism, or parochial societies. In several countries in the Middle East a woman cannot drive a car, go out in public without a male escort etc., perhaps someday too they will have the same rights that women have fought for in other parts of the world. I hope so.
That is why it is so disturbing, the latest trend in female performers, to debase themselves or perform lyrics that are denigrating to women, reality TV which magnifies the worst qualities possible. That women's empowerment is taken to mean that we can behave as badly as possible and then excuse it as "freeing up". Too many women fought too hard and for too long. Gender equality does not mean that we are better than men or that we should take the place of men, it means that we are evolved enough to value ourselves and to act that way.
Meanwhile, I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.........
I am woman Helen Reddy