Updated: Mar 9
International Women's Day 2021
“To change the world...we need to change the stories we tell about who we are. Stories matter, you see.” ― Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging
When you next have five minutes, do me a favour and grab yourself a copy of Angela Carter's 'Book of Fairytales'. The intro is interesting, but if you're pushed for time jump straight to the Sermerssuaq story that kickstarts the collection. An Inuit tale (apparently once told as a joke way back when) - it's the shortest story you'll probably ever come across; the protagonist being a woman who arm wrestles men and frequently beats them shouting "Where were you when the testicles were given out?" Not only that, but she has a habit of exhibiting her clitoris, which (apparently) was 'so big that the skin of a fox would not fully cover it.' Oh, and she was also the mother of nine children! BOOM - what a woman.
Initially, it seemed filthy (I first read it when I was young and green). Embarrassed on her behalf, I burst out laughing and prudishly pushed it aside. But now - fast forward to forty - and I'm LOVING it. This woman sits firmly in that ambiguous middle between male and female. Not to be conquered by either, it seems. I like that - a lot, and I'm always keen to find that sweet spot where the masculine and the feminine meet in equal parts. This is a story for us all to explore.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes is another good one to read. In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves she prescribes extensive ‘psychic-archaeological digs' in order to unearth our inner wild woman. She uses well known folktales like the deliciously disturbing Bluebeard as a springboard for discovering such things as our 'internal masculine energy' when things get tricky. Oh yes, gender exploration eat your heart out in these particular stories and their commentary!
Sharon Blackie's newest book Foxfire Wolfskin is also a firm favourite of mine. Her stunning collection of shape-shifting stories is aptly described as 'part rally cry, part warning, part manifesto'. Retelling old folktales, Blackie reinterprets our world and our place within it - beautifully and dramatically shouting about the transformation that takes place when women take control of their lives. Last night I lay in bed and re-read Foxfire - one of the very first stories. In it there's a 'huldra' - a sassy supernatural Scandinavian forest warden that sports a fox tail and a fine bit of ass; luring men into the wood and then disposing of them when she's done. Another great story we can revel in undressing.
Fairy and folk tales are not just shaped by time and context, but by the tongues of the tellers that have told them throughout history - by individuals who have used the stories to explore their own experiences; to teach, to guide and to shape change. Listen carefully and you'll hear them whispering their wisdom to you. That's why, when it comes to discussing what it is to be female and how to shape change for the future, they provide an excellent - and often entertaining - starting point.
The hashtag for this year's International Women's Day is #choosetochallenge - and why not do that through story? You can ask yourself the kinds of campfire questions we fling about around the fire - "Exactly why do certain stories matter - to you and to women today?"
On our She Can Do Wild weekends, we seek to create the space needed to relax, read and share stories. That was one of the main driving forces behind creating our retreat. When Holly and I talked of all that can be gained in the spaces created by women, for women - at the centre of that sat storytelling.
The essential elements, as we see it, are fire, food and folktale - nourishment for both body and mind. Our aim is to create a space where women can come together to trade experiences, skills, knowledge and stories outdoors in order to forge new and beautiful stories of their own.
Check out She Can Do Wild if you're keen to hear more.
Remember: “To change the world...we need to change the stories we tell about who we are."
For inspiration about how to do this - why not test out the books above. For further fire, food and folktale fun - there's the option of joining us this summer.
If these things really are too much at the moment, remind yourself simply of this: stories matter. They teach, they empower, they inspire, they guide. Find time for yourself to explore them because it's these stories - all our stories - that have the power to shape positive change.
To also read Holly's article in The Green Parent for this International Women's Day, click here.
About She Can Do Wild
She Can Do Wild is a project created by women, for women. Co-founded by storyteller/outdoor educator Pridie Tiernan, and chef/entrepreneur Holly Perreau-Redfern in May 2020, we run outdoor events across the year where women of all ages can come together and increase their confidence in the great outdoors through campfire cookery, nature walks, stories, natural crafts and sleeping under the stars.
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