I’ve never given International Women’s Day much thought before. I’m the last person who would ever describe themselves as a feminist: I laughed at the “give it to your woman” washing instructions in the men’s jeans; I object to women criticising men for making jokes at their expense whilst saying “typical men!”; I’m not even a little bit offended by page three; I dress my boy in blue and I’ll dress any future girls in pink.
But you don’t have to be a feminist to understand that women and their achievements should be celebrated. We haven’t always enjoyed the freedoms we (at least in this country) have now, and yet we’ve still always contributed: to science, to politics, to journalism, to art.
And, as I’ve written before, I think it’s important for Ted to grow up in a world where we respect each other – not regardless of our sex, colour or achievements, but because of them.
Should we respect women because they’re women? Of course. Do men need their own Day, as I’ve heard on Facebook today? No. They’re not, and never have been, a minority. They’re not oppressed by a matriarchal society (unless we’re talking about the evolutionary behind-the-scenes matriarchy I spoke about). We don’t need reminding about what men have achieved because it isn’t hidden away: we see it every day.
I think it’s sad that we need a Day at all, much as I think it’s wrong that we have Leap Day as a token of our “equality”, but perhaps it’s a good thing that we’re reminded annually of the plight of women over the ages. Maybe we need a reminder that there are still places where women need to shout a little louder than their male counterparts, if they’re even heard at all.
Today there are still arguments, usually by men, about women’s fertility and their rights to access contraception and abortion over a century after Marie Stopes’ work.
There are places where women aren’t allowed to drive, or vote, or show their faces, or leave the house alone.
I want Ted to grow up in a world where these things get further away from the present. But I also think it’s important that he knows that it hasn’t always been like this and that women are still struggling all over the world. Working toward change doesn’t mean forgetting where we’ve come from.
So International Women’s Day isn’t about whether or not you’re a feminist. It’s about celebrating those women who have fought, inspired and achieved, and who have done so in a world where they’ve had to hide their identity or spend as much time proving their worth as reaching their goals.
And yes, hopefully it’s about making sure the barriers start to come down. If we keep teaching our children about love, respect and equality then maybe they’ll one day teach their own children about why this was necessary.
This year’s International Women’s Day has been dedicated to raising awareness of hunger and poverty throughout the world by empowering women. If you can help Oxfam would appreciate it, and so would the people they’re striving to help.