The song I am Woman by Helen Reddy was released the year before I was born, way back in 1971.
Listening to it today made me realise that its message and goals are still the same some 47 years later, which admittedly made me a little sad.
It seems that it’s only in the past few years that women in great numbers have started calling out the inappropriate behaviour and everyday sexualisation that up until then was normalised.
I’ve written about that before but the main difference today compared to the 1970s is that women don’t have to classify themselves as feminists to start speaking out en-masse when they’re catcalled while simply walking down the street or querying why they have to wear make-up or high heels to work because “that is what’s always been done.”
I guess movements take time to become more than just something a small proportion of the population are fighting for.
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
But this blog isn’t really about things today, this blog is mostly about that song.
You see, my mum used to play it all the time when my big sis and I were kids.
Back in those days, it was on vinyl and played on the stereo we had in a lounge room that had fabulous paisley wall paper.
No doubt we all danced around listening to it while wearing flares – something I still do today I might add.
When you’re young, of course, you don’t recognise the significance of these moments, or of the lyrics that, almost like osmosis, are unknowingly becoming part of your psyche.
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
Many years later, when I learned I had anxiety and panic attacks left me breathless and afraid, mum would play it for me again, this time on a CD, until our singing calmed me down.
Ditto, when my love-life was in turmoil, which was often back then.
I always felt how powerful the words of that song were when we sung them together, but I never understood how they would almost become a metaphor for my life until recently – perhaps like they were for her, too.
I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
Nearly 50 years on from its release, I Am Woman has rightly become an anthem and finally it seems that its words are turning into action but there is still a long way to go.
I guess change takes time – sometimes hundreds of years.
Every day we read about women from all backgrounds making a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace, in the gym, at the pub, or on public transport.
Yet, at the same time, a quick scan of news sites will tell the stories of women murdered by a stranger as they walked home from a comedy show or found dead in a suitcase after being killed by their ex-boyfriend.
In Australia, 10 women have been murdered by men since the start of this year – that’s more than one a week.
Detractors will say that women are perpetrators of violence, too, and that is true.
However, according to a 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in six Australian women have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner.
So, on International Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on how that song helped to change the course of my life, and about the good women and men who have long stood beside me.
And I’ve reflected on the now, and remembered those words that Helen sang so many years ago….
I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand