(Photo of hens by Ashleigh Cooper)
Appropriately, as it was International Women’s Day on Sunday, I spent the weekend at a hen-do in the lakes for my dear friend Anna. We stayed in a lovely cottage near Windermere, where I got to enjoy a blustery walk up Gummer’s Howe, sticky toffee pudding, pubs, Negronis in the sauna and a Spotify-disco with some of the most amazing women I know.
Then, on Sunday night, I had the first show of my Ovid Tour as part of Lancaster Litfest’s ‘Hear me Roar!’ Feminist Festival. I was nervous which made me nervous, and definitely a bit clammy (I couldn’t work out if that was the Negronis or the stage lights) but it seemed to go really well, even if Medea’s fury made me husky near the end. (My fabulous producer for the show, Julia Bird, took a photo-diary of the weekend, if anyone would like to admire her logistics!) I also got to spend time with my sister and niece Rose, which was a bonus (Rose had written her first acrostic, about Niall from One Direction).
So, it all felt like an apt celebration of strong and brilliant women. But just in case I’d forgotten why International Women’s Day is still needed, I then watched Storyville: India’s Daughter, directed by Leslee Udwin, about the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh and Jesus. So many jawdropping lines – like the bit where a defense lawyer in the case claims “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
I think of all the countries I’ve travelled to India is the only one where I’ve felt judged, endangered and slightly loathed for being a woman – just this palpable threat in the air – but I still couldnt quite believe some of the men’s statements. (“We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman” another lawyer says). Recommended, so long as you don’t mind getting very very angry.
Alternatively, if you’d like your dose of feminist rage in poetry form, booking has now opened for my online reading group this summer ‘Out of the Ash I rise’: Reading Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. I also recommend my latest poetry crush Cate Marvin, whose poem Dead Girl Bang Bang is totally devastating, and has been stuck in my head since I read it.