International Women’s Day

First off, I haven’t posted anything in a while because I wasn’t sure about what I really wanted to say on this blog. I’ve made this point a few times but basically I know the kinds of issues I want to write about, but I often feel like I don’t have the right to share my white, westernised, entitled opinion on them, and that is the issue I have with a lot of blogs – while everyone has the right to say what they think I often feel like they drown out people who deserve to be listened to a lot more. The solution I have come to for this is that I’m going to carry on trying to just promote what people should be reading, and also to try to raise awareness of issues so you can find out more about them from people who have something truly worthwhile to say about them.

Leading on from that: today is International Women’s Day! woohoo. My Facebook news feed has been filled with stories about inspirational women all day, it’s fantastic. It’s absolutely a day to let the women around you know how great they are, but it’s also worthwhile taking a minute to look at the real reason for the day. There are still people who say we don’t need feminism anymore, that women are equal to men, etc, and I find it absolutely astounding. Even in the UK that isn’t true, but if you look abroad it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Obviously as a feminist I believe in equality. A lot of the issues around gender inequality are things that impact negatively on everyone – eg gender roles harm men just as much as women – but I still think it’s incredibly important that we have this one day where we do celebrate the amazing things women can and have achieved, but also to look at the ways there’s a lot more to do.

International Women’s Day was originally International Working Women’s Day, and was started in the early years of the 20th century in honour of women workers and their unions in America and in various countries around the world. As women fought for the vote and other fundamental human rights in the workplace, strikes, marches, and events were held to promote the concept of equal rights. Women in Russia protested against hunger and war, women in America protested against working conditions, the most oppressed women in the worst working conditions, who were normally in the textile industry, came together to protest their situation. On the 8th March 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in London during a march for women’s suffrage. In 1922, March 8th was officially noted as the date to be used for the cause; and it was particularly honoured in communist countries, with women in China, the USSR, and Spain celebrating the day.

It officially spread to the capitalist Western countries in 1977 when the UN adopted it. So it really is an International event – it isn’t something for white western feminists to wave about as a sign of their generosity and altruism. If that sentence suddenly sounded a bit angry and aggressive then please bookmark the following post and read it at some point in your life:
http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/an-intersectional-feminist-against-imperial-feminism/

For an interesting (and brief) summary of where the main issues that are being addressed are today, TIME magazine has the following article:
http://time.com/3734862/international-womens-day-progress-action/
Essentially, women around the world do not receive the same standards of education; are in more danger of being attacked and at risk of domestic violence; and are simply not sufficiently represented in leadership positions. There’s also a cool list of 17 badass women at the bottom if you really want some inspiration.

The UN’s theme for this year is based on the Beijing Platform for Action 20 years ago, where 5000 delegates from 189 countries developed a global policy framework and action plan to realise gender equality. 20 years on, this has still not been realised and in fact no country has reached what was envisioned. IWD 2015 is being taken as an opportunity to review progress so far, celebrate it! (justifiably!), and look forward at the next steps. A more in-depth review of this (and an easier to read one than the official UN documents) can be found here:
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/17385-where-are-we-on-womens-rights-20-years-after-beijing-platform-for-action

Finally, there are a few things that either I would love to see made a priority today and every day (god that sentence sounds arsey) or that maybe just aren’t getting the attention I think they deserve so I’ve made a brief(!) list of them along with links to articles that go into more depth because don’t let me tell you about it, hear it from the women experiencing it:

Civilians in Syria are living in constant fear for their lives, and are facing daily oppression, but celebrations of the day continued there regardless to honour the women at the front of the protests against the government:
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/03/syrians-mark-women-day-underground-idlib-cellar-150308152423873.html

Women asylum seekers in the UK, fleeing rape, torture, and oppression in their own countries, are held in Yarl’s Wood detention centre where they face yet more abuse. A lot of media attention has recently highlighted their experiences, and there’s a petition calling for their freedom here:
https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-british-home-secretary-end-the-detention-of-women-who-seek-asylum

Australia has received a lot of criticism recently for its human rights record, particularly with regards indigenous populations. Non-indigenous women in Australia were given the vote in 1902. Indigenous women were not allowed this right for another 60 years. A short article with a bit more info is here:
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/03/06/indigenous-australian-women-still-fighting-discrimination

Women around the world are viewed by men as objects or property that they are entitled to. While cases such as the Santa Monica shootings and the more recent case in Portsmouth are rare and carried out by individuals with more serious mental health issues, the fact is that it is all too common for men to believe they have the right to comment on, touch, and use a woman’s body for their own gratification.

Similarly, women’s bodies are often taken away from them, either through anti-choice abortion laws (usually passed by men) or through FGM – 30 countries in Africa are thought to have routine FGM practices. I don’t need to link this because I think? most people now know what’s going on with that and a really good amount of media attention has gone to it, I just don’t want it to be forgotten!

Women in Afghanistan, though they have come a long way, are still massively underrepresented. There’s a video on Al Jazeera here:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2015/03/afghan-women-demand-greater-politics-150306232210801.html

Intersectionality is needed at the heart of feminism more than ever. When feminism only benefits middle class cis straight white women, it is totally useless.
A heartfelt article about this is here:
http://mediadiversified.org/2015/03/08/self-love-amidst-marginalisation/
and this is one of my all-time favourite images

I’m currently reading something by Angela Y Davis – Women Race & Class. It’s around the women’s rights movement in the context of the anti-slavery movement, and is quite a hard read at times, but really really eye-opening. I definitely recommend it, and there’s a bit of an overview about it here:
https://disquietblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/angela-davis-women-race-and-class-part-1/

And last but not least, there’s been a lot recently around gamergate and women both playing and portrayed in video games and comic book cultures, and there’s a really cool project where women in science fiction and comic books were redesigned by actual women here (spoiler: they all look awesome):
http://io9.com/fantastic-redesigns-of-women-characters-by-women-scienc-1689503485

PS: for a bit of a feel good end, here’s some awesome pictures from the Guardian’s summary of the day showing celebrations around the world, in countries where women are fearlessly shouting against their oppression:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2015/mar/08/international-womens-day-in-pictures

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