Sound a little Dove 'real women' advert to you? It did to us. It seems to have for a lot of people, but these women get to actually talk about themselves rather than the springyness of their skin. We, you and the those who have already participated were/are invited to discuss what they see in the mirror. The founder of the project (and the Tesco Club Card), Edwina Dunn began the project after her experiences of being the only (or one of the only) women on the board made her wonder if others felt similarly to her. Last night she said it was Professor Frances Ashcroft who had given her the idea, telling her she'd have to consider her reflection both as a scientist and a woman in the mirror.
The theme of women having many facets continued throughout the night. Another ambassador, Jody Day of Gateway Women was on the panel to discuss the role or place of women who didn't have children in society. Professor Dame Athene Donald spoke of the difficulty she had experienced not of being a young woman physicist at Cambridge but the transition from young, hard-working professional to respected expert. Feminist campaigner and writer Caroline Criado-Perez mentioned her shame in admitting what she saw in the mirror first was a woman who needed to lose a few pounds, jarring with her feminist credentials.
The idea of women being many things both to themselves and other people is a greatly useful conversation. To see women in science, journalism, education and the corporate world discuss how they would like to reach out to other women in support is heart-warming and valuable.
The project is a wonderful start, but we did not feel the glow of empowerment we'd hoped for.
The hope and aim of the project was to create a diverse network of women coming together over one question. The actual project is quite diverse, it has been very active across the globe: "Over the course of a year, the Project is asking women from all over the world to share their diverse and rich experiences. We have already had more than 500 contributions from over 350 women in 11 countries since we launched in February."
However Squeamish Nicola felt difficulty with the panel and the screened film: "Actress Angela Griffin opened the film, a familar and yes, beautiful face. She told us her reasons for taking part in the project, her daughters, mother and friends. All valid reasons but we didn't actually get to hear her views of what she sees in the mirror. We went on to listen to the academics, film makers and scientists who had excelled in their fields. This slight touch of celebrity from a British woman of both white and more importantly black heritage came across as tokenistic in the absence of her views. The balance unintentionally dismissed the voices they tried to amplify."
The project is a wonderful start, but we did not feel the glow of empowerment we'd hoped for. Professor Frances Ashcroft shared an anecdote regarding a job at Oxford university. The professor was informed by an old male member of the faculty that he would not be voting for her because she was a woman. She did not get the job. Years passed and she got a position at Oxford. Her advice to women and moral of this story not to "whinge" but to work hard.
We would like to encourage all women, in the face of such misogyny to kick up a fuss! Call them out! Make it happen now not years later! Squeamish Nicola wondered if the panel wished to be heard at all.
What I see in this Project is a need to keep on going, to keep on embracing more women and to make some noise. You can start here by sharing your story with these inspiring women.