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The last six months have been an absolute triumph of activism for and by women. Never before have I seen such a number of friends, colleagues and women in power stand up to the persistence of misogyny and sexism, determined to make a difference and create a world that is more fair and equal for ours and our next generation.
The shame is the fact this campaigning has been a result of our rocky political and economical climate, and the position of women in our vaguely misogynist society. Our culture has made it easy for us all to impose stereotypes on each other, having the effect of diminishing opportunity and potential for those who would otherwise fly. In statistics you may find shocking, the World Economic Fund’s Gender Gap report put the UK as the twentieth best country in the world for females to live in, trailing behind Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Germany, Nicaragua and Scandinavia. You wouldn’t think it, would you?
Us privileged Westerners are notoriously smug on subjects of equality thanks to the generations of powerful women who came before us to protest their second-class citizenship, on paper having equal rights. Yet overall there’s still a huge chasm between male and female economic and political participation, social standing and health and education, and the current state of politics in the United States proves we’re still somewhat stuck in the middle ages.
International Woman’s Day is a chance for us to celebrate the amazing women who have gone before us, and consider the future world we want to create for our daughters and sons. I’m so happy to celebrate it (and us) every year, and here’s why:
Why We Still Need International Women’s Day…
Because Feminism is misunderstood
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has coined what I believe to be the best and most simplified and comprehensive description of feminists there is: “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”.
She goes on to say, in her brilliant text ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘: “Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.”
And yet so many – and I used to include myself in this group of people – believe feminists to be man-haters, radicals, troublemakers. This is an outdated concept that needs to frankly Get In The Sea.
An ex-friend (a bloke) once told me I needed to give up my ‘silly feminist ideas’ if I ever wanted a ‘normal man’ to be interested in me. To which I said I’ll take the abnormal man, thanks, and please never contact me again.
I believe he’s still single ;)
Because sexism in the workplace exists
The concept of sexism in the workplace might be greeted with eye-rolls and disbelief by some, but it’s a real and terrifying event for too many women.
My experiences as Marketing Director of a Creative Agency are one of the reasons I feel so passionately about workplace equality for women.
I never want my daughter to experience a man – a client who would otherwise deserve respect and reverence – comment to her face on the way her body looks in a professional meeting situation. I’d never want her to, when lodging a complaint on a senior client’s insistence to carry out a sexual content-based ‘ice breaker’ before a formal presentation, be told she should lighten up and enjoy the ‘banter’. She shouldn’t have to face a colleague who thinks it’s appropriate to fellate a sausage across a desk from her, asking intimate and inappropriate questions, while other men look on in mirth.
If this doesn’t bring home the face that inequality at work is real, consider the gender pay gap: though currently at its lowest level of 18 per cent we’ve still got a way to go before this, and inappropriate sexual ‘banter’, reaches zero. Or think about the fact that there are more men named ‘John’ leading FTSE 100 companies (17) than there are women (7), and fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 businesses are led by women.
Is it just me, or does that make you want to go out and kick some serious business-based arse?
Because of men in politics
Obama told us that if Trump won the election we would be “telling our sons that it’s okay to humiliate women” and “telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated.” Of course, despite Trump’s pussy-grabbing comments, rape allegations and shady financial behaviour he still is somehow leader of the free world, endorsing positions of feminine passivity and masculine power that underpins sexual harassment. In his world men grab and women are grabbed, and that is not on.
Over here in the UK, there have only been 460 women elected to parliament since 1918. The way politics are going, a baby born today will be in their 70s before there’s an equal number of women leading our country: how can we expect our issues to be represented if we’re not present?
Because we are a global community
So many women in our world don’t have basic rights, let alone equality. Women are denied a voice, they aren’t allowed an education, they’re told their thoughts and opinions are irrelevant. Until we live in a world where child marriages, FGM, female infanticide, slavery, rape, domestic violence and forced prostitution are no longer issues, we need International Women’s Day. We are half the human race and should all be equal and free to do what we choose: not what men decide for us.
I think Iggy Pop said it best: “I’m not ashamed to dress like a woman because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman”.