Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate and embrace femininity, acknowledge our greatest female role models, and recognise the challenges that women have faced throughout history and are still facing in the 21st century.
International Women’s Day goes as far back as the early 1900s, before women could vote, legally terminate pregnancy and possessed rights to their own financial income. In the UK, women had only just earned the right to their own property, and Marie Curie was yet to become the first female Nobel Prize winner. Today, International Women’s Day is recognised all over the world and pays tribute to the vast developments put into place to promote feminism, gender equality and women’s rights across the globe.
I for one am not ashamed to admit I am proud to be a woman, and I am not ashamed to admit I am a feminist.
“A feminist?!” you cry in horror. The kind of madwoman who, while swirling a burning bra through the air, protests against misogyny from the rooftops with a photograph of Andrea Dworkin adorned proudly on the over-sized dress she patched together that morning. Indeed, the prospect of it is appealing, but underwear nowadays is too expensive to sacrifice for these particular circumstances.
In reality, “feminism is simply being equal to men”, says Caitlin Moran, author of best-seller How To Be a Woman. “I was astonished that the word “feminist” and “feminism” had become unused or even a bad word. If you ask most women if they’re feminist, they would say, ‘no’. So, you don’t want to vote? And you don’t want to be able to own property? And you don’t want to be in charge of your life? And you don’t want to be in control of your sexuality and your reproductive rights? They say, ‘yes, of course’. Well that’s feminism, it doesn’t mean anything other than that.”
On the contrary, Lily Allen’s comments on disbanding of feminism as an ideology caused something of a ruckus this week. Speaking in her role as guest editor of Shortlist, she said “it shouldn’t still be a thing”, protesting that “everyone is equal in the modern world” and that women “are their own worst enemy”.
She justified her opinion with personal experience, arguing that “I know that when I’m sitting in a restaurant and a really beautiful woman walks in, who’s skinny, I instinctively think, ‘Oh she’s really skinny and beautiful and I’m really fat and ugly.'”
I agree in that women are instinctively competitive with one another, but aren’t men exactly the same? Isn’t competitiveness simply a part of human nature? Isn’t feminism more than just female appearance, female interaction and female mentality?
It is without question that the life of the average woman has improved since the first International Women’s Day way back when. However, the fact it is still being recognised and celebrated in 2014 demonstrates that everything is certainly not, as Lily Allen puts it, “equal in the modern world”.
Globally, women are still facing the challenge of oppression in all walks of life, and the following statistics underline a few of the many core problems women are dealing with today.
- 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime.
- 44% of all UK women have experienced either physical or sexual violence since they were 15, and the UK ranks among the worst countries in Europe in relation to violent abuse.
- 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.
- Over 130 million women living in the world today have undergone female genital mutilation – in one Birmingham hospital as many as 40 to 50 women every month are treated after having undergone this awful procedure.
- Around 14 million girls, some as young as 8 years old, will be married in 2014.
- An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked into slavery each year, and 80% of these are girls.
- 1% of the titled land in the world is owned by women.
- 21% of the world’s managers are female.
- 67% of all illiterate adults are women.
- The gender pay gap stands at 15% in the UK, with women on average earning £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues, increasing to 35% with part time jobs.
International Women’s Day is still important, and feminism is still “a thing”. Our gender is enormous part of who we are as human beings and we should embrace our femininity and be proud of what women have achieved on our behalf throughout history.
Be proud to be a feminist, and be proud to be a woman!