As a white woman, daughter of privilege thanks to the hard work of my parents, I don’t face the same struggles as other women in my day to day life. I’m frustrated when I see women portrayed through the male gaze in social media and the entertainment industry, and angered when women are judged more on their appearance than their merits or achievements. I think twice about dark streets, large parties, and dates. I fret about the message my clothes are sending. I worry about if and why my male friends, colleagues, and superiors value me. I fear that if I voice my opinions, I’m pushy, if I don’t I’m a pushover, if I’m angry I’m hysterical, and if I’m sad I’m hormonal. I despair that all of the above makes my opinions, thoughts, feelings, and contributions to society less valid. I fear that if I’m ready to fight for my right to be valid, I’m militant, but I know that if I’m not, I’m letting past, present, and future generations of women down.
These are just the daily struggles of the modern privileged white woman though. I am always mindful of the shoulders I stand on, of what others went through, fought for, and sacrificed so that I could be where I am, and I know that it is my duty to be the shoulders someone else can stand on, so that all women can rise higher than those who came before them. I am also mindful that right now, both close to home and in lands far away, women are still fighting for the fundamental rights and comforts that I frequently take for granted: education, safety, work, proper remuneration, independence, supportive communities, freedom. By owning and celebrating International Women’s Day, I am, and we are, thanking the women who paved the way for us, and supporting the women who are not as lucky as us today. By all means, buy your female colleagues flowers, send a note to women you admire, but perhaps donate to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, Every Mother Counts, or the Orchid Project, to help educate, empower, and defend young girls and women around the world. At the end of the article, I’ll provide a (non-exhaustive) list of organisations that help women around the world.
We still need International Women’s Day because, today, right now, there are 15-year-old girls being sent into marriages instead of being sent to school; women earn 10% of the world’s income, even though they work two-thirds of the world’s working hours; there are women who cannot own or inherit property – in fact, women own less than 1% of the world’s property; laws regarding marriage in certain countries mandate ‘wife obedience’ in marital relationships; there are women who believe domestic violence is justified; violence against women persists, but discriminatory laws bar access to legal protection; women in some countries still face the threat of FGM, of being punished for being raped, and of being denied the right to a divorce from an abusive husband.
We still need International Women’s Day because the path to global emancipation and prosperity needs women and men to stride it confidently together, hand-in-hand. When women and all that femininity entails, in all its incarnations, are fully accepted in the social and professional worlds, then the ‘feminine’ aspects of the human condition will be accepted as just what they are – human. Emotions and sensitivity, care, nurture, support and collaboration will be seen as human traits rather than feminine traits, thus improving living and working conditions for everyone. I strongly maintain that toxic masculinity hurts men just as much as it hurts women, and for true spiritual and material prosperity, it must be done away with, to everyone’s benefit.
All figures provided by the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.