I consider myself to be an empowered woman. I’m driven in what I do, look out for my fellow girl-friends, and never tell myself I’m worth less than a man.
But I haven’t always been this way. Two years ago, I was in an extremely toxic relationship where I was constantly belittled by my male partner. I was told I couldn’t do certain jobs, wasn’t clever enough to try for certain universities, and wasn’t strong enough for certain tasks, all because I was a woman. And for a long time, I believed this. It was only over time, and especially when I came to university, that I realised this was in fact completely false. Being a woman doesn’t hinder my potential: I can go into the world and achieve anything I put my mind to.
That’s why International Women’s Day is so important. It’s a chance for women everywhere to come together and realise our potentials. We can do jobs men can do and we can have the opportunities they have. We are every bit as intelligent and strong as men are perceived to be. So, it’s important we come together and celebrate how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved so far, and, more importantly, focus and motivate each other to decide what we want to achieve with our futures.
International Women's Day is a chance for women to come together and realise our potentials
After all, gender equality still has a long way to come. The pay-gap is no myth, and misogynistic joking amongst males unfortunately still appears to be the norm. Only a couple of weeks ago I was at a house party where I heard a group of men making jokes about hitting women. Hilarious. International Women’s Day is important as it takes a stand against that. Women need to get together to not only change issues like pay gaps, but to change social attitudes and expectations as well. Everyone needs to wake up. It’s 2018 and asking a woman if she’s on her period if she appears to be in a bad mood is no longer funny.
So, this International Women’s Day, I propose women and men stand together to fight for gender equality. Men can help this ongoing movement by changing the attitudes of fellow male friends and family members, and women can do their bit by empowering each other. If us women unite and support each other, there’s no reason why we can’t achieve gender equality sooner rather than later.
International Women's Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. This year's campaign theme is #PressforProgress and calls for everyone to come together and be more gender inclusive.
Whilst the day is important every year, this year there has been more conversation than ever surrounding women's rights, gender equality and equal pay. 100 years ago, some women were given the right to vote following year's of protest and movements from the Suffragettes and the Suffragists. But can we truly say much else has changed?
In my opinion, we can definitely say that progress has been made. The way in which society views women has improved from the often-chauvinistic beliefs of the past. Women are no longer defined by the 'housewife' stereotype, and now hold important, powerful positions in industries across the world.
The question of whether gender equality has progressed is a separate issue. Women are thought of in higher regards, but there is no denying that there are still major inequalities between men and women, both in the workplace and in expectations from society.
International Women's Day celebrates the progress being made, but there is still more to be done
Many still hold the view that men are expected to go to work, whilst the issue of childcare often falls to women. Men can be sexually inhibited, yet women are often judged for displaying any sexual liberation. Men are often paid more for the work they do in the same position as women.
Yes, life for women has improved, and we now have more opportunities than ever before, but we cannot make the claim that the genders are equal.
International Women's Day is just one opportunity to promote the progress being made, but there is still more to be done. Movements in Hollywood are bringing to light the issues surrounding pay gaps, sexual harassment and women's workplace opportunities. Whilst such issues are in the public spotlight, we should take the opportunity to join the discussion. No matter what gender you identify as, gender equality and women's rights should be important to everyone.
Gender equality is something that is contested and debated even today. Many question the validity of discussing the issue at all, some question the existence of inequality between genders and a few even assert that such inequality is natural, harmless, and even desirable. Opinions like these make me feel as if gender equality has not progressed as much as we would like to think, and even makes me wonder whether gender equality can ever be achieved.
In some ways, gender equality has progressed: we have more sexual freedom, more economic freedom and more freedom to choose what we do with our lives. However, there is still pre-judgment, illusion and misconception.
Roles in society should be dispelled
In the process of true gender equality, new problems arise. In the process of changing perceptions of women’s roles in society, we have a judgement and a disrespect for women who choose to not be a ‘Girl Boss’, but a stay at home mum. Where once that role was respected, in the backlash against not fulfilling the archetypal role of a woman, the role once considered ‘feminine’ has been subject to criticism. A man’s role in society is not what a woman’s role should be, a woman’s role in society is not what a man’s role should be – roles in society should be dispelled. But with the memories of those past roles, and a desperate grasp to adopt new roles that are completely opposite to the old ones, the generations of women on earth today have trouble with identity.
This is not to say that I blame women at all for this issue. Rather, I see them as victims caught in the process of achieving gender equality. But instead of falling into the trap of being dictated by our memories of how the world was, and rigidly following a supposed ‘new order’, I advise us all to think for ourselves. To be rational, to be critical, to question the world around us and ourselves; that is power. Self-consciousness is how we fight the sub-conscious identities given to us by society – both following our ‘role’ and judging that previous ‘role’. Therefore, in order to free ourselves and free all women we must refuse to be bound by these expectations, and instead, try our hardest to free our minds from the illusions and judgements that only divide us. Know when your choices are free, and know when your choices are bound, truly choose for yourself, and we will achieve gender equality.
With the progression of gender equality and the rise of new waves of feminism, new issues emerge which need to be addressed. As many women in this country have luckily not experienced atrocities such as horrific gendered violence (for example, female genital mutilation), it can be easy for people to declare genders as equal and feminism as obsolete. That is clearly not the case. Although women are now able to work in many fields, including traditionally male-dominated ones, this shouldn't be seen as the goal of equality. The women you see complaining about feminists are the women who believe they've already achieved equality. In their minds, why should they fight for every woman to be equal?
Inter-sectional feminism is crucial to achieving true gender equality for everyone. This form of feminism considers how various identifications (such as class, race, disability and sexuality) intersect with the discrimination faced by women. The goal of inter-sectional feminism is to achieve equality for all women, not just cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class white women.
A united front is needed to tackle the huge issues facing us all
Trans-exclusionary radical feminism is a huge issue currently, with some feminists suggesting that trans women are 'not real women'. Gender equality cannot, and should not, just benefit those who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. We need to include and amplify the voices of all women, including trans women, inter-sex women, and non-binary femmes. We cannot ignore the experiences of some women just because they don't align perfectly with our own. A united front is needed to tackle the huge issues facing us all. Sexual violence is not limited to cisgender women. Neither is misogyny, personal safety threats, the pay gap or feeling oppressed by the patriarchal society. We must also consider the struggles of women from different cultures and lifestyles. Feminism cannot rest until there is equality worldwide, in all cultures and situations, for all genders. Will this ever happen? I'm hopeful, but we need to tackle in-fighting, exclusion and apathy first.