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.