The global celebration of women which took place on 8 March – International Women’s Day – showed that we have come a long way in the struggle for equality. But it is important to remember what we came from, as part of our focus on where we are going.
We have the privilege – yes, I say privilege – to take a stand against issues such as the misogynistic porn industry or the right to free tampons, because of those brave women who fought the primary battles for us throughout history. All those women who gave their life for our right to vote! The women who stood up for our right to work, to go to university, for abortion (still subject to medical discretion). In short, those women who stood up for our right to be people in our own right – not just a neck for men to hang jewellery on.
We need to cherish this! We need to respect this! And we need to stand up – with every fibre of our being – for our own beliefs, and for women all over the world that have yet to reach this state of privilege.
Because feminism and equality still aren’t for everyone. We need to recognise that the right to something closely resembling equality is still only enjoyed by a minority of white Western women. International women’s day, and feminism, are based upon equality – for everyone – including Muslim women, trans women, women of all colours and sexualities. If we don’t truly mean that everyone, regardless of sex, religion, race deserves the same rights, then we got no foundation to stand on.
Even in the West, I wouldn’t say that we’ve reached full equality – women are still generally paid less for the same amount/kind of work, and still in most cases portrayed as the submissive gender. And guys are still frowned upon if they take time off work to be with their kids, which means, conversely, that it’s still the woman who is expected to do it. So, yes, we still have a way to go in terms of equality, and 2016 certainly showcased a few scary moments which suggested some of the progress we have made, is at risk of being rowed back.
Yet we should not, cannot, forget those who suffered for everything we are today – just for my right to write this. Now that we have the right, we also have the obligation to honour the battles fought; it is our duty to do this by keeping up the fight. As Gloria Steinem once said: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs.. to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”