Why do we need a day to celebrate women? In truth if you think about the concept of a day to celebrate women, it sounds almost absurd, women are so crucial to humankind that a one-day celebration doesn’t even come close to acknowledging how important women are. That’s one way of seeing it, and there’s also the viewpoint that argues that women are very well off in the present day and age, and that feminism is unnecessary, and that an International Women’s Day is pointless.
So, what is Women’s Day in any case? Do women just gather together and have sleepovers and watch rom coms? No, wrong, that’s Valentine’s Day. The 8th March is the day that across the world women and men gather to bring attention to women’s rights, and campaign for equality. For us as privileged first world citizens, it may seem strange. What more battles are there left to fight for women’s equality? We’ve seen it all now, from female suffrage, to female presidents, CEO’s and scientists. In fact, if feminism has now boiled down to if my nipple is censored or not on Instagram, then that either says that indeed feminism has lost its purpose, or that there’s nothing more left to fight for.
But I believe that there is much more left to do. I disagree that the main struggle for women now is deciding how little clothes we get to wear, and I have noticed that the women that are most passionate about this topic are famous women whose main source of income relies on their body and appearance. As such, I wondered if perhaps there’s a deeper meaning to their protest that may have gone unnoticed. The common underlying theme seems to be a rejection of the established patriarchy’s standards of what women should do with themselves and their bodies? That is certainly something I agree with. I have had the privilege of growing up in a country where deciding what I wanted to study was not an outrage, and where being a less agreeable, quiet and polite woman was not a catastrophe. Nonetheless, I have not entirely escaped the daily jabs that are part of being a woman.
It is here in Imperial where I have had my abilities questioned the most. It is mostly by male counterparts that seemed to think that they are entitled to interrogate me with an air of examination to find out if I “actually know what I’m talking about”. How am I meant to react to their patronising response when they realise I do indeed know what I’m doing? Am I meant to be thankful, despite the fact that they just insinuated that they didn’t believe I was smart enough to be their equal?
Other examples include being told to go ask another (male) friend for help, for the lack of belief that I am capable enough of doing my own projects. Even the eyebrow raises of surprise when other (again male) individuals are shocked that I’m working on something “cool” or “difficult”. As though it is a surprise that I could work on anything mildly challenging. Another serious issue that a worryingly high proportion of men in Imperial have is the inability to speak to females unless the motivation is romantic. However, I must say out of respect to many other men that I know, that it is unfair to claim that all of them are the same, because that’s not factually correct and I personally despise generalisations.
These are just some inconveniences faced in the daily life of many women in similar situations to mine, and whilst these are not life changing and most of us have developed the subtle art of not giving a fuck, it becomes more worrying when you encounter situations in your life where you fear for your safety. Whether it be being followed in a car by strange looking men, to repeated unwanted sexual advances, almost every woman you speak to will have some anecdote of unfortunate happenings like the ones previously mentioned that they could tell you about. Were I to describe the ones that have occurred to me and to women I am close with, this article would be a) too long and b) too graphic to publish. But please, if you are a man reading this, take 5 minutes of your day and ask a female friend if she would like to tell you about any similar experiences she might have had. You’ll be surprised, because the likelihood is that anyone from your sister to your mother will have experienced something very similar.
But the purpose of this article is not to rant about the sexism I face in my daily life because the world doesn’t revolve around me. The purpose is for you, the reader, to realise that you can do something to change this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman, man or anything in between. Take this time to reflect on how you can contribute to a more equal world. It’s in fact very simple. Be respectful, treat the women and men around you as equal. If you are woman, then question yourself, are you doing something for yourself or to adhere to a standard that was set by a patriarchal system? If you are a man, question yourself too. Are you doing something for yourself, or to prove your masculinity? Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
So back to my initial question. Why DO we need Women’s Day? The answer is we don’t. The concept of having one day a year to remind us to be respectful towards all genders and to ensure that all genders are equal is dumb, because we shouldn’t need this day at all. The fact that we have this is a clear sign that we still have things to change. As a feminist, I will be happy when the day comes when having women’s day is absurd because women and men are indeed equal.
Until then, I will celebrate what I consider feminist icons. Independent working women, single mums raising families, mothers that teach their sons respect and not their daughters to not go out at night alone, fathers that call their daughters intelligent as opposed to beautiful and all the women that are silent revolutionaries, breaking sexist rules one at a time. And maybe one day I’ll be less annoyed about the free the nipple hashtag being used as a feminist slogan, although the latter is very unlikely.