Friday, 27 July 2012

For my Grandma Iris

Guys, it's been a tough week.

Last Sunday night I wrote that mini-essay on how to look after my little Ruby-pig, but within 22 hours of leaving to go on holiday to Holland, my mum and I were back home and grieving the sudden lost of my maternal grandmother. She had been ill for some months with leukaemia, but she had been in remission for one month and we expected many many more months and possibly another year or two with her. It's a sad time right now. 

But I don't want to depress you with this story. We've all been though similar experiences. What I want to talk about is feminism, and how witnessing my grandma Iris' strength whilst battling cancer gave me an entirely different view on what it really means to be a woman. 

I remember doing my GCSEs and my English teacher accusing me of being a feminist. I say 'accuse', because at the time I thought it was a dirty word. I thought she was calling me something terrible, an insult. I was young and calling yourself a feminist wasn't particularly cool at the time. At least I didn't think so. I spent so much of my teenage years just battling to be considered 'normal' and that being called feminist couldn't be anything but a slur back then. 

But I did discover soon after that I was, indeed, a feminist, and in my feminist toddler years (whilst doing my A levels I think) I dwelled on the role models around me. All the women in my family were nice little housewives. I wasn't satisfied. I felt like I had to be someone important, separate from a man, and looking around me I couldn't see any inspiration. It made me annoyed. And I suppose I've been living with that annoyance for the last few years, maybe even the last decade. I've always done my own thing, read feminist texts and considered myself an individual in my family - the odd one out. 

But the last few months have shown me that being a real woman has nothing to do with your vocation or politics. It's about your strength as a person. It's about being someone who loves, and is loved. 

My grandmother suffered through a particularly aggressive form of leukaemia (tragically, the same kind that Nora Ephron died from recently) and agreed to partake in a trial form of chemotherapy, not usually given to someone of her age. Throughout all the torment, and frankly, torture, she never complained once. She never made a fuss. She always asked after the well being of her friends and family. She cared about everybody else so much, putting herself second even whilst she was suffering. 

She was valiant, brave, a warrior. I can only ever aspire to have the kind of strength that she had. When the chemotherapy was doing its worst, I had an honest chat with myself and decided that I would have probably given up by that point. My grandma never gave up. She fought every step of the way and never made a fuss. 

This is the kind of woman I want to be. I want to be brave in all my choices. I never want to stop fighting for what I believe in. This is my feminism. Even if I get married and end up in a hum-drum suburb with sweet little children, I will always be a warrior. I will fight for my friends and my family. 

I love you Grandma Iris so much. Your fight over the last seven months has been the biggest inspiration I could ever hope for. I wish one day I can prove myself to be as valiant, courageous and loving as you. 

All my love, all my hugs, and all my kisses,

Your eldest Grand-daughter. 

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