Helen Reddy was just 26 years old when she was struck with divine inspiration and penned the lyrics to what would become an anthem synonymous with women liberation, and she had this to say about the song, I Am Woman, creation:
“I couldn't find any songs that said what I thought being (a) woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that. The only songs were 'I Feel Pretty' or that dreadful song 'Born A Woman'. (The 1966 hit by Sandy Posey had observed that if you're born a woman "you're born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt. I'm glad it happened that way".) These are not exactly empowering lyrics. I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter, but it came down to having to do it.”
BUT IT CAME DOWN TO HAVING TO DO IT. How many of us can relate to that last line. No question mark needed due to the obvious answer: All of us. There is not one woman without sacrifice or that kind of spit shine power.
And it was with this kind of power that women began calling their local radio stations in droves in order to force her song into airplay. Even after increased demand it was a long wait before the song saw the Billboard charts but eventually, two years after its release, Helen Reddy won a Grammy.
International Women’s Day is marked as a day of celebration for how far we have come as a society and this year’s theme of #ChooseToChallenge serves as a reminder of the need for continued advocacy for women’s rights and equality around the world, not just on March 8th, but all year round.
"It's not just for women," she (Helen Reddy) said. "It's a general empowerment song about feeling good about yourself, believing in yourself. When my former brother-in-law, a doctor, was going to medical school he played it every morning just to get him going."
COVID-19 was an agent of change. It forced us to stand still and look around us. We saw racism boldly before us, small businesses erasing right before our eyes, domestic abuse on the rise and most importantly our service workers and health care professionals, mostly, largely, women, take on the brunt of its effects. But most importantly, we saw the strength and importance of community – yes(!) for women but we need, value and saw our men step up in solidarity.
March 8th is a day earmarked in the world’s calendar for celebration of all women but going forward, in 2021, let us all remember our strength, our invincibility and our overall humanity. Let us all #ChooseToChallenge together.