International Women’s Day is important in ensuring that we continue to celebrate the success of the women’s rights movement to date, as well as continue to push on current issues that mean women are still not afforded the same opportunities, freedoms and experiences as men worldwide.
This blog started as an Instagram post, but it got too long because this is a subject I am very passionate about and so I decided to turn it into a blog!
Youth & Community Work - Girls Group Project (Pictured)
The picture is a throwback to my Youth & Community Work days when I worked with an amazing group of women to run a girls group project one February half-term. As a group with the girls we decided to work on an arts project for International Women’s Day. The girls were involved in deciding the direction for the project. The day ran from around 10am-3pm, including making and sitting down to lunch together, from the Monday to the Friday. The girls were senior school age. Some were low-attenders at school, yet through youth work methods we were able to engage them in this project every day for the week, which was an awesome achievement for the girls and the project.
We ran workshops with the girls on self-esteem & body image, gender & sexuality, race & racism as well as discussing topics of the moment for the girls. Throughout each day they also worked on this piece of artwork. They made the international sign for women. The project was based in Wintey, Oxfordshire. Once the girls had finished the artwork they decided to see if the art gallery across the street from the youth centre would display it for International Women’s Day. They agreed and it was awesome to see it on view in the gallery over that weekend.
It was such an amazing piece of Youth & Community Work to be involved in, and to this very day is one of my favourite projects I ever worked on because of how empowering the week felt for everyone involved.
Why we should have an International Women's Day
“Why should women have their own day?!” Because sadly, even in the western world where we believe we have come on leaps & bounds in respect of gender equality, life is not a similar experience for both men & women. It is also a celebration for the women’s rights movements that have granted women opportunities that did not exist before.
Disappointingly, I have seen a few memes on social media today that mock International Women's Day and even use the humour to play into and support gender inequality issues. This isn't me being a 'snowflake', it shows how far we still have yet to travel in terms of achieving gender equality. I wonder, would the same people sharing such memes about gender post memes with racist themes and humour?
Examples of Gender Inequality
Example 1 - How many men versus women experience sexual degradation in the workplace, walking down the street, out in a pub or nightclub or anywhere in daily life? Views of sex and female sexuality still tend towards the degradation of women and the female body.
I myself had a man inappropriately touch me in the workplace when I was a teenager working as an apprentice. I did not feel I could speak up at the time. Despite the fact that I have always been very open about being a lesbian and have not encouraged interest in sexual interactions with men, I have also had several men force their tongue in my mouth without it being wanted or encouraged.
One such time was when I was ill one New Year’s Eve with the flu. I was at a family party of my partner at the time. I felt so poorly I went to sleep on a sofa in a quiet room as we were away in Scotland and nowhere near home. My partner’s uncle came into the room. I woke to his footsteps and before I knew it and before I could do anything about it, his tongue was inside my mouth. Although just a kiss, I felt incredibly violated. As a guest in their house I felt I could do nothing about it.
I realise this is mild in comparison with some people’s experiences. I also recognise that men and boys can also be subject to sexual abuse and harassment. However, societally there is much that inadvertently suggests to men that women are there just for sexual objectification and pleasure. I feel that men who do not engage in the sexual degradation of women are strong to resist as this is not the social discourse presented to us.
Many popular TV shows have and do promote male promiscuity as an acceptable display of masculinity.
Porn is, I believe, an incredibly detrimental stream of media that perverts attitudes towards sex, sexuality and what it means to be a woman in a sexual interaction with a man. It has grown in its usage with the advent of the internet and ease of access to such content and there is little control of what messages are depicted through this form of media. Scenes depicting the abuse of women are not regulated or banned. This should not be acceptable or legal.
I think that the main issue in respect of how women are viewed sexually sits within the structure of our culture and it is this we must change for good. I personally would love to see an end to porn as I think it teaches both men and women difficult and unhealthy messages about sexual relations and female sexuality. I would also like to see an alternative representation of masculinity within mainstream media, one that does not promote male promiscuity or the degradation of women.
Example 2 - Despite legislation first being introduced in the UK in 1970 in respect of the gender pay gap in employment, a gender pay gap still exists today. Nearly 50 years on, this is extremely disappointing.
Example 3 - We owe the right for women to vote in the UK to the suffragettes and suffragists who fought a long and hard battle to get legislation changed. After much hard work and suffering, including loss of life during the battle, in 1928 women were given the right to vote in the UK. We celebrate those who fought this battle. There are many countries around the world today where it is still difficult for women to vote. Saudi Arabia only recently changed their law to allow women to vote so that since 2015 this has been possible.
Example 4 - Women are disproportionately represented in many professions and employment sectors, including senior management and CEO positions. The number of men to women studying on the MSc in Strength & Conditioning that I am currently undertaking is also an example. At our induction weekend, this disproportionate representation was pointed out to us as we were engaged in an activity looking at what the industry expectation would be for a Strength & Conditioning Coach. A female coach was one of the sociopolitical types that came out as what would be least expected if you had an expectation of who would be working in such a position. The induction weekend is a mandatory part of the first year. With over 70 of us there in attendance, less than 25% of students were female.
Male sports still permeate media coverage in the UK meaning there are less readily available opportunities for girls and women to see athletic female figures positively represented. Men's sports are also often paid more highly than women's in terms of wages and/or prize money which could be argued to be portraying a cultural perception of the inferiority of women in respect of sporting pursuits. Although things are changing, we still have a long way to go before women's and men's sports and sporting professions are on a level playing field!
International Women’s Day is important in ensuring that we continue to celebrate the success of women’s rights movements to date, as well as continue to push on current issues that mean women are still not afforded the same opportunities and experiences as men worldwide.
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