Let’s Celebrate International Women’s Day, Today (8th March 2006)

Aix dancers (small) 80x74.jpg International Women’s Day is not a huge occasion for most people; but maybe it could be if we all grasped this annual opportunity to examine and where possible to celebrate, on a year-on-year basis, what progress has been made in gender equality. A start could be made, Monday Women decided, by ensuring we learn Herstory alongside His.
How does one ‘celebrate’ International Women’s Day? And, indeed, should one? This was one of the topics discussed by Monday Women in Liverpool, today.
Given that women make up over 50% of the population of the UK, I suppose I shall be impressed when we are also invited to celebrate International Men’s Day… but I do know, really, that this misses the point at least for now.
Anyway, we all do what we can. One year we even managed to produce a chamber concert including previously unheard music by the composer, Dame Ethel Smyth (who probably wrote the music around the very time when first glimmers of the idea of IWD came into being, not that far from where she was studying in central Europe). And on many occasions there have been conferences, readings and much else to recognise the parts women play in contemporary society.
Not a big issue for women or men?
But generally people don’t get very excited about International Women’s Day, as far as I can see. I wish they would. It would be excellent if, on this day, we not only celebrated the contributions of many thousands of unseen, unheard women in our local communities, but also began to ask, really seriously, just why are they so unacknowledged?
There’s a lead story in The Independent today about how campaigners say that unless urgent action is taken on the status of women, the Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, infant deaths and standards of education will not be met… but The Indy also reports that only one in four British women counts herself a feminist.
For those of us who have worked over many years to seek empowerment of women alongside men this is in some respects a truly puzzling and disappointing figure; but against it we need to ask what proportion of women in previous generations would taken this label. My guess, overall, is fewer than we imagine, despite Rosie the Riveter and all she taught us.
So let’s make a start by being a bit more realistic. If young people don’t know much about how things were (and how many young people actually want to look backwards at that point in their lives?) they will also not know about how things have changed. We more experienced feminists need to work from what is – i.e. an ahistoric perspective in which all that is wrong now actually seems to younger people to be ‘worse’ than what was before – and to find ways of challenging that strategically, not personally.
Rather than feeling upset that what we have worked for is not understood – upsetting though in my heart I must admit this is – those of us who champion gender equality need to find ways of ensuring that HERstory is told, to everyone, alongside HIStory. Then we shall be able to demonstrate what has already been achieved and, critically, to see more clearly where the obstacles to further progress lie.
Whose responsibility?
In curriculum terms, responsibility for herstory obviously lies with the schools and the government. But in other ways it lies with us all. I would like to see a focus on International Women’s Day 2007 on what each aspect of our daily lives has offered over the past year in terms of opportunities and life experience for women and men. Could this be a challenge for the media, and for us all? An agenda we could start to set now, for next year and all the years which follow?
In the meantime, Monday Women have said it already today on our e-group – have a great day!

Posted on March 8, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Events And Notable Dates, Monday Women, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I suggest that Women ‘s world Day should raise up issues related to the situation of Women in the whole world including Third World Countries. And this celebration should shed more light on the disparities between REALITY and what is SAID and WRITTEN as far as Gender Equity is concerned worldwide.
    More importanly, much work must be done on how we could make Women enjoy equality with Men and on how we make Men recognize the Gender Equality as one of Women’s Rights and not as a privilige that has been offered to her by Men.
    I am speaking as an activist from the third world country, and I hope that we work together to help these women in difficult situation to live and enjoy their full rights.
    Sincerely Yours
    Dr. Souad SLaoui
    Vice President of Center of Research and Studies
    on Women
    affiliated to Sidi Mohammed
    BEn Abdellah University, Fez

  2. We’re exploring the theme of Women & Power as we celebrate International Women’s Day 2007 on:
    Saturday 10th March
    12.00pm – 2.00pm
    Four ½ hour FREE talks and meditations on:
    When to give & when NOT to – manage your energy, time and talents
    Overcoming Fear – face new situations with confidence
    Superwoman – create work / life balance and just be positively, super everyday
    Follow your Heart – achieve your dreams by setting goals the right way
    Venue: Friends Meeting House
    8 Hop Gardens
    off St. Martin’s Lane
    near Trafalgar Square
    London WC2

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