Do we even need International Women's Day?
Do we need a day dedicated to women? Is the Pope Catholic? Yes actually, he is. He’s also a man. It’s a prerequisite for the job. Women are barred from becoming Pope. Probably because they’d cry at all the sad bits in the Bible.
Although International Women’s Day isn’t specifically about seeing a woman installed as head of the Catholic church, it’s about time really, isn’t it. After all, “God created man in his own image”. Sigh. The gender of God and mankind is no contest in a patriarchal society. Shucks, maybe if Eve hadn’t been so stupid we ladies wouldn’t be in this mess. Am I right?!
Joking aside, we absolutely do need International Women’s Day, because women are not equal to men. Fact. Oh, we’ve come a long way since the days of the mighty suffragettes but we’ve a great deal further to travel before we reach parity. According to the World Economic Forum, the gaping gender ravine in pay and employment opportunities won’t close until 2186. 2186! That’s 169 years away. I’ll be dead by then. So will you. I’d like to see that figure shrink before I leave this mortal plane and any human borne of a woman ought to too.
International Woman’s Day is over 100 years old. It’s a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Although the focus of the day is on women, it’s not an anti-male event. Both sexes suffer from opposing ideals of gender roles. For example, women are still very much expected to raise children, while stay-at-home dads are stigmatised. Most societies cast fathers as breadwinners and mothers as primary caregivers. These roles are upheld by the gender pay gap (British women earn an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs), unequal parental leave and mother-centric family services.
According to the Fatherhood Institute, British men will spend 24 minutes caring for children, for every hour done by women. This isn’t because dads care less, they’re simply prevented from enjoying greater gender equality. It works both ways. International Women’s Day sparks debate over deeply ingrained societal norms such as this because they continue to impact the life choices of every young woman and man.
As well as celebrating the achievements of women who came before us we build on the tradition in a way that’s meaningful to this generation. Facing down police brutality and race issues. Raising awareness over violence against women and girls. Speaking up for reproductive rights, marriage equality, diversity in business and politics, and addressing the gender pay gap.
On a cultural level there’s still great disparity between the sexes. The arts continue to privilege the work of men. Women’s achievements are underrepresented in the curriculum, with a distinct lack of female role models across the board. Unrealistic beauty standards blight women’s mental health and flabbergastingly, it’s perfectly acceptable to exploit a pair of breasts for the sake of advertising but breastfeeding in public is still frowned upon. We’re surrounded by double standards.
With the internet enhancing the movement for gender equality, the dialogue is louder than ever. In post-Brexit Britain and Donald Trump’s America, days of unity are especially sacred. And while we may make advances in the western world, our work will not be finished until equality is achieved globally. Women represent half the world’s potential. As long as women’s issues remain relevant, so too will feminism and celebrations such as International Women’s Day.
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