Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Happy International Women's Day! Today marks 100 years of the first International Women's Day event in 1911, which aims to celebrate and appreciate women around the globe, their influence and importance in society, and to draw attention to continuing prejudice, sexism and violence which still affects millions of women all over the world. It's a cause which is very close to my heart as I am regularly appalled at both the large scale and everyday sexism that exists all around us. Some of this we notice, but worryingly, much we have been conditioned to accept as normal...

I don't want to harp on about this issue as I'm aware feminism can be an alienating subject, but frankly this is my blog and I'll afford myself one post to discuss it! We all need to stop being so coy about female issues and wake up to some alarming facts. Being a feminist isn't "cool" and actually much disrespect and objectification of women is perpetuated by other women themselves - something I find abhorrent. But when you start to scratch the surface of our society it's not altogether surprising...

Oh heck, someone put me back in my box! Here's an extract from the IWD website:

Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women's rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.

IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. 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.

However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

In the developing world it is predominantly women who bear the brunt of the devastating effects caused by famine, disease and poverty - something that Oxfam is working hard to combat. I won't bore you with loads of details, but have a swatch at the website to learn more.

But in our own society, especially in this day and age, an event like IWD more necessary than ever before. It's overwhelming to think that it was only a few decades ago that the "choices" mentioned were nothing more than unobtainable dreams. The right to vote was only awarded to ALL women regardless of class and education in 1928...

But the fact remains that while it is possible to live with real choices and options, many (most?) women still feel that the perpetual glass ceiling exists, and that all too often choices actually manifest in reality as ultimatums: Family vs work. Relationship vs career. Mother vs lover. Integrity vs desirability. Respect vs objectification....

We live in a strange time of conflicting ideologies and morals, and to be a young woman in 2011 can be confusing and unfair. Frankly the fact that women are routinely paid less than their male counterparts in the same job is baffling to me. Why isn't this inequality front page news every single day? According to the European Commission, "Women have as good or better qualification as men, but often their skills are not as valued as men's and their career progression is slower. This results in an average gender pay gap of 17.5% in the European Union alone."

It seems that more and more often, everywhere I look I see explicit and implicit disrespect, objectification and patronisation of women and girls. Seriously, open your eyes and you will start to see it everywhere too...

Heck, there I go again! IWD is not just about looking at the negative, but recognising and celebrating the positive. Let's not forget that being a woman is also wonderful and inspiring. AW Shucks, I love it! Some of the greatest minds in history have been female. Here's a few of my favourite inspiring women:

Margaret Atwood - writer and environmental campaigner. The kind of writer I aspire to be.

Sylvia Plath - poet. My one true love.

Virginia Woolfe - author. An exceptional early feminist in her own way.

FridaKahlo - Mexican revolutionary artist. "The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb."

Grace Coddington - creative director of American Vogue. A unique visionary.

Hilary Clinton - former first lady and respected politician.

Audrey Hepburn - actress, Givenchy muse and UNICEF ambassador.

Nawaal El Saadawi - feminist, writer, doctor and campaigner against female genital mutilation (circumcision), of which she herself has been a victim.

These women are inspiring because they have fought oppression, mental illness, sexism, discrimination, physical set-backs and societal restraints to expose truth, humanity and beauty at all costs. They are an example of the extraordinary achievements of women, and of what any/every one of us is capable of. The whole world is at our feet.

So yeah, happy International Women's Day - let's hear it for the ladies! Who are the inspirational women in YOUR life?


Anonymous said...

AH, THANK YOU SO MUCH. This is a post i needed to see today. I have been SO frustrated, the amount of blatantly ridiculous remarks that I've heard -from both men and women... I feel as though the world just doesn't understand! I don't claim to be a feminist but come on! The whole 'get back in the kitchen' jokes are just derogatory, the way in which people are conditioned into thinking that men are superior and let them do pretty much whatever the hell they want frustrates me, I just want to flippin' scream haha!
Sorry to be ranting on your post but it was just so perfect to read after my day haha :)
I have received a load of flak today for standing up for something i believe in (my rights as a woman) and I'm appalled at the way society works in favour of males; I am completely in awe about how you have wrote this because if i'd have tried it would have come out so aggressive and ranty! You write so eloquently and I love reading your posts :D
I really think you should do more posts like this, more people need to be aware of the 'explicit and implicit disrespect' that is literally everywhere when you begin to realise and look around.
thank you again :D

Anonymous said...

this is such a good post - loved reading it and totally agree with you. I get fiercely offended by the ENDLESS disrespect and degradation of women every day. I am so fearful for young girls today. they have to face so much...

"But the fact remains that while it is possible to live with real choices and options, many (most?) women still feel that the perpetual glass ceiling exists, and that all too often choices actually manifest in reality as ultimatums: Family vs work. Relationship vs career. Mother vs lover. Integrity vs desirability. Respect vs objectification.... "

So much truth in that.

Keep up the good work on your blog x

Ayden said...

This is such a great post, and a great read. You're so clued up miss, I feel educated after reading this :) Your writing style is just wonderful, I would very much like to steal your brain and keep it in a jar in my handbag haha. For realz tho, you are awesome xx

Kirsty said...

AW thank you for your comments ladies, I'm really glad you enjoyed this post. I could wax lyrical about feminism for hours and I love getting stuck into a good debate about it. It's not something I am totally black and white about, there's definitely a big grey area to figure out, but as long as we can sensibly and intelligently engange in the conversation - thats's the main thing!

I think this post maybe reads a little negative with hindsight, especially since reading about the violence that occured at the IWD march in Eqypt... It's easy to forget that while inequalities still exist, we are lucky to live somewhere we can express our disatisfaction freely.

ANYWAY cheers again gals :) xx

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