On Why I Support International Women’s Day

Having spent a good portion of my day reading about the issues that women face today and wondering what I should do to mark the occasion, I had a hard time narrowing it down. Should I make a list of brilliant women in the world today, or in history? Photographers, politicians, movie stars, musicians, activists, scientists, authors, writers, actresses, artists, educators, athletes, inventors etc.? Surely a simple Google search can do that. Or maybe a list of women’s causes that need greater awareness, and where the rights of women fall down compared to those of men? A series of photographs of great women? Or an essay on third-world mentality and degradation of women, the lack of education? The continued ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, sexual identity, domestic violence, genital mutilation, objectification, that people still believe it is right that women “know their place” and live by predetermined roles carved by a historic injustice, that women receive a lesser education than their male counterparts, earn less and are treated with less respect?

I am irked by those chauvinists who feel this way and attempt to defend it by calling it “traditionalism”. Instead they are adhering to culturally inherited gender stereotypes, whereas the idea of pigeonholing people makes me feel completely ill at ease. A short rounded rant is how I will commemorate this day. A small contribution and show of support for women everywhere who do not get fair treatment simply because they are women.

On this, the 101st International Women’s Day, it is a day in which we must be reminded again that women are still treated as second-class citizens in a variety of ways. It is days like this, and the fight for equality for everyone, which further my dislike of the idea of “traditionalism”: traditions are being eradicated and changed continually and we, as humans, are constantly evolving and improving how we treat each other.

Wikipedia states that “in many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day”, and while this is beautiful, the political reasons for this day must not be lost. That human rights are for everyone, that men are no better than women and equality must reign. This isn’t the case for most of Western society, however, it is still a mentality which exists for many, and certainly in much of the developing world. For over 100 years women have fought for the right to vote, for better pay, better working conditions, a greater say in politics, greater access to health-care, and to be free from abuse, being forced to work in the sex trade and to live without fear of sexual assault and rape. The problems of equality for women are still wide-reaching, from ,

In a world where 70% of the world’s poor are women, Google informs us that “women perform two-thirds of the world’s work and produce half the world’s food, but earn just 10% of the income and own 1% of the property.” Yet in the UK “men still earn more than women in nearly 90% of job categories, according to analysis by the Guardian“.

In egypt there are only 9 women MPs — less than 1%, down from 12% under President Mubarak, and David Cameron’s government has only appointed only 21 women out of 119 ministers. In Northern Ireland there is still a lack a women in local politics, with only 15.1% of women representing Irish seats taken by women, and 22.3% overall in the UK [source] and only one in six of the Assembly candidates in the 2011 Northern Ireland election were female.

Until trafficking of women to prop up the sex tourism industry ends, there’s a need for International Women’s Day. Until girls from all over the world are given the same educational opportunities, there’s a need for International Women’s Day. Until society stamps out domestic violence and sexual harassment against women, there’s a need for International Women’s Day. And until conservative American political commentators learn “slut” [Rush Limbaugh calls student, Sandra Fluke, a "slut" after she spoke in favor of requiring private insurance plans to cover contraception] isn’t an appropriate term to label intellectual females who challenge their narrow-minded views, there’s a need for International Women’s Day. — Tom Fearon at CRIEnglish

As Bidisha states in an article titled ‘Who are you calling a lady‘, “Women are women. We are not laydees, babes, chicks, foxes, bitches, sluts, whores or anything else.”

I love women. In a completely non-condescending way, of course. There are many great women who have shaped me and had a great influence on my life, but above all, I believe in equal rights for all people: human rights. As well as basic human rights and discrimination, overarching culturally accepted sexism is still a large problem in society, and one which must also be fought.

5 thoughts on “On Why I Support International Women’s Day

  1. I can sympathis with your distaste for ‘traditionalism’ as you call it but I think we must understand the value of tradition within our and every other culture the world over. Not to mention the sense of identity and importance people attribute to it.

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  2. Not at all, not sure how you got that from what I said. I do think that tradition is important but it shouldn’t infringe upon the dignity of the individual. It should rather empower the individual to live the fullest expression of that dignity. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

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  3. @Ronan – I came to that conclusion by the fact that if we were to stick with the traditions on how women are treated they would have… no right to vote, no right to an education, no right to be elected to political positions, no right to the same pay rates as men, they wouldn’t be able to keep the money they earn, they wouldn’t have the right to perform the same jobs as men, women would not be able to choose who they marry, they wouldn’t be able to end a marriage, married women would have no property rights, they would not be allowed to participate in the affairs of the church and many other reasons that I feel that tradition when it comes to rights, in this case the rights of women, has no value “within our and every other culture the world over”.

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  4. Phil, you are very sincere, there is no doubting that. But in this instance you are sincerely wrong. By repeating in a sentence the gist of your article you have merely solidified my approval for it and the points and arguments made in it. I actually agree with what you are saying and the way you go about saying it. My feelings on tradition and its place in society are my own and have little bearing on your own support of rights, women’s or otherwise. It was simply my wish to express my concern at your wielding statements like [para-phrasing] ‘tradition has no value within our culture’ in support of your arguement, when the statement is clearly false and therefore redundant. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not disagreeing with you. Women’s rights are important, that goes without saying. But you can’t use a personal distaste for ‘tradition’ to qualify an arguement that doesn’t need to be qualified. The dignity of women is to me self evident, in spite of the undignified manner in which they are often so mistreated. Thanks for this article.

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