I shrank myself
To the size of a bird in the hand
of a man.
Sweet, sweet, was the small song
That I sang,
Till I felt the squeeze of his fist.
In The World's Wife, Carol Ann Duffy reminds us of the centuries that women have endured as the used, abused, misunderstood, fetishised and abandoned.
Away from the flowing lines of Duffy's prose millions of women continue to face daily mistreatment.
In Britain an incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute and one woman in four will face a sexual assault - troubling when you consider the thousands of such crimes that go unreported in the silent compliance between abusive men and their women.
Today sees the celebration of the 100th International Women's Day (IWD), a movement started by the Socialist Party in America - who'd have thought it - when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York demanding better working conditions and voting rights, and officially went global in 1911.
International Women's Day takes various forms in some countries, mostly in the East and former socialist states it is marked by a national holiday, celebrated much like Mothers' Day with men and children giving small gifts and flowers to the women in their lives.
Britain boasts a vibrant calendar of events - according to the IWD website there are 431 events across the country timed to coincide or mark the day, compared to only 231 in the US, eight in France and Nepal, and in many other countries only one.
Rather than Women's Day in Britain, it could seem more like Women's week, month or even spring as various organisers start laying on plays, talks, exhibition and demonstrations - no bad thing considering the amount of creative activity still generated by and in honour of men.
Political apathy, disenchantment and disinterest means that for most a march through a city on a cold day is not how they'd best celebrate women's causes.
For many a visit to a cultural institution headed by or finished with a prix-fixe dinner is a much better idea, though with the wave of current political grievances and action it seems that maybe tides are changing.
On Saturday March 5 nearly 10,000 women and one man marched through the epicentre of British consumerism in Oxford Circus as part of Million Women Rise, a movement that fights to see the end of violent and sexual abuse against women.
Established in 2008 Million Women Rise was founded by Sabrina Qureshi, a former outreach officer supporting rape victims who became disillusioned with public-sector policy and now works to change it.
Today Qureshi and the movement are celebrating their own achievements having fought hard with Westminster Council for the right to part-close Oxford Street on a Saturday.
After a few glitches in their publicity campaign Saturday's march was the most successful yet.
"It was pretty amazing to see so many women attend, apparently we filled the whole length of Regent Street. It goes to show what you can achieve with little money but a lot of unity," says Qureshi.
Baz Arsh, the one man on the march, carried a small banner stating simply: "Women you deserve better," with a love heart, and had heard about the event through Facebook.
"It makes absolute sense for me to be here today, there remains such an imbalance between men and women in so many ways and a lot of us have become complacent to this."
Arsh attended as an individual and does not seem particularly politically motivated - testament to how helpful social networking tools are in spreading a message to those not in an established node of political action.
The event was exceptionally well attended with women travelling from across Britain, along with the usual bunch of older, politically astute.
This year also saw the inclusion of more young women moved by recent political action, and perhaps the Saturday sunshine, to join in.
NUS women's officer Olivia Bailey said: "Students are becoming more aware, now it's a case of channelling that enthusiasm and emerging political interest into feminist issues."
Last year Bailey headed the Hidden Marks survey, the first that looked at experiences of abuse at university.
Of the students who responded - and it is easy to imagine that many didn't - the survey found that one in seven faced serious sexual or physical violence with only 4 per cent reporting the crimes to their educational institution.
With statistics like this it is a wonder that more young women were not at the march.
Other Student Union representatives said that despite weeks of promoting and Facebook activity few or no students had attended.
Many women had brought daughters to the event.
One of the smallest of these supporters, four-year-old Esme Fowler from Sheffield, had asked her mum if she could attend after seeing last year's online.
"I hadn't been on a demonstration for years but showed Esme the video, and when she asked to come down and 'shout with the ladies' I immediately booked our tickets," says Esme's mother Gill Neill, herself a survivor of rape as a teenager.
"I hate the idea of that happening to my daughter and that so many men continue to get away with it."
Neill's account highlights the human reality of rape and also the role that positive action can have as survivors regain and establish control of their destiny.
While International Women's Day should be a day of celebration of women's achievements and positive attributes, it must also be one that identifies the continuing inequality and obstacles women face in far-off places and close to home.
Women have borne the brunt of the recession with marital breakdown and sexual violence increasing in the last two years, and already the cuts have disadvantaged women the most.
Hopefully in fewer than 100 years we won't have anything to rally against when we celebrate women internationally, but until better equality and rights are ensured we should never forget the struggle.
Women Against Cuts Demonstration, North Terrace, Trafalgar Square TONIGHT 5-7pm womenagainstthecuts.org
WOW - Women of the World at the Southbank Centre. A weekend of events including a live recording of Woman's Hour and other conversations with inspiring women. http://bit.ly/fWk5XI
For a full list of UK events, many of which run until the end of the month visit www.internationalwomensday.com/events.asp
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