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