Kirstin Ferguson spent the first 20 years of her career in male-dominated fields – in the air force, law and business – desperately hoping no one would notice that she was a woman.
On that basis had anyone suggested to her even a few years ago that she would co-write a book called Women Kind unapologetically shining a light on the achievements of females she wouldn’t have believed them.
“I’d have said you had rocks in your head,” Ferguson told the men and women gathered for the Sydney launch of that very book on Thursday.
— Suzy Nicoletti (@suzynicoletti) September 20, 2018
And yet by virtue of her having become an ‘accidental activist’ for women last year they would have been right. Along with the award winning journalist (and long-time, very deliberate activist for women), Catherine Fox, Ferguson has indeed authored a book with the premise of celebrating, lifting, connecting and amplifying women.
— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) September 20, 2018
The genesis for the book lay in the viral success of #CelebratingWomen, the hashtag that Ferguson started on January 1st of 2017 after a shot of inspiration hit her while she was lying in a hammock on holidays contemplating the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the denigration of women online and a desire to make a different kind of noise.
She asked her mum to answer four questions and send a few photos which Ferguson then posted on Twitter on January. The idea was to highlight and showcase the amazing and diverse things women from all walks of life are achieving. To create a new set of roles models and make visible the remarkable everyday stories of women which haven’t been told.
She set herself the goal of profiling a different woman on Twitter in the same way every day for a year and it took off.
“This appetite to hear about and learn from the everyday was gratifying, but also reflected something compelling. The jolt of delight and surprise many women felt from being profiled, or reading about others, revealed how effectively these stories and achievements had been hidden from view, or diminished by comparison to traditional success stories.”
A single tweet led to a campaign celebrating 757 women from more than 30 countries all over the world. A meeting with Catherine for coffee and cake halfway through 2017 led to them writing Women Kind off the back of the campaign.
— Natasha Stott Despoja (@NStottDespoja) September 20, 2018
“We really are yin and yang in many respects,” Fox said on Thursday night. “I have been writing about these inequities for years whereas Kirstin had this incredible optimism having avoided this topic for a long time.”
And yet, despite these differences, the process of writing and creating the book was smooth and positive which reflects a key message from #CelebratingWomen and #WomenKind: women – even different women – can and do collaborate very well.
While that shouldn’t need saying it does because as Fox observed, the bonds between women have long been trivialised or couched as negative, and the reality is – for many women their relationships with other women are incredibly strong and positive and valuable.
— Marina Go (@marinasgo) September 20, 2018
The room itself reflected that. Women from a variety of fields came together to celebrate and support the two authors and everything they stand for: a world in which women are valued and respected as equals as a matter of course. There are detractors, of course, but the sisterhood is not just alive and well. It’s positively thriving.
“We are in a climate where gender politics is so complex. And it’s why this book is so beautifully timed.”@Kate_Jenkins_ raises the issue of backlash at tonight’s celebration of the release of #WomenKind at @TwitterAU. #celebratingwomen pic.twitter.com/HlCI6ARhSQ
— Nicola Hazell 🌈 (@nic_hazell) September 20, 2018
Change is afoot. There is backlash but that’s expected when there is push back – and women are pushing back. Women like Ferguson are no longer apologising for being a woman – or hiding from it – they are embracing it.
There is more public solidarity between women in Australia right now than there has possibly ever been and #WomenKind and #CelebratingWomen are part of it.