Today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day (IWD). It’s a day for celebrating women’s achievements globally, for discussing issues relavent to women’s lives, and for taking action where it’s still needed. Many people misunderstand the point of IWD, either thinking it’s a Hallmark Holiday or bemoaning the apparent lack of an International Men’s Day (which does actually exist – it’s on 19th Nov). The ‘about’ section on the IWD website makes some very good points about why today is important:
Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
Until national newspapers will not think of putting bikini shots of a female murder victim on the cover to sell more copies, we will need IWD. Until the host of the Oscars ceremony doesn’t feel the need to belittle female actors by singing a song about their boobs, we will need IWD. Until male members of university debate societies don’t feel the need to heckle female speakers because of the way they look… well, you get the picture. It’s not just the hideous injustices that some women face, like the Somali woman who was jailed for reporting that she’d been raped, it’s also the little things that some people dismiss as unimportant. The everyday sexism that many women still face. Small things that build up to create a cumulative effect, leaving young girls feeling they have no choice but to do everything their boyfriends tell them to, and leaving young men thinking that women are second class citizens whose opinions don’t count. Today is the day to shout about the bad things and say NO MORE!
Today is also the day to celebrate the good things. There are many wonderful female role models out there, and we need to show them off. Actors, designers, singers, entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists, academics… women who’ve worked hard to gain success and recognition in their chosen field, no matter what hurdles have been thrown in their way. Over the last few years, I have been inspired by the hard work and dedication of many women I have heard speak about what they do. Women like Professor Laura Rodrigues, Dr Petra Boynton, Professor Frances Corner, Caryn Franklin, Victoria Beckham and Cindy Gallop. Whether they’ve forged ahead in a male-dominated area, have quietly worked hard to prove themselves capable in their chosen field or have chosen to try and make the world a better place, their hard work has been an inspiration to others and has shown younger women that their gender is no barrier to success.
Have a look out for International Women’s Day events in your area today and, if you’re in London, why not check out the Women of the World Festival which is running all this weekend. One day, we won’t need days and festivals like this because women will be equally represented in all aspects of society. Until then, we shall continue to try and make our voices heard.
Images by Stephan Bachenheimer and Dana Smillie via the World Bank Photo Collection Flickr photostream.