On International Women’s Day E&M’s editor Friederike Sandow reflects on the progress womxn all over the world have made – coming to the conclusion that what womxn need, is for men to cut the flowers and to cut the crap.
In 1908, garment workers in New York went out on strike to demand better pay and better working conditions, a decade before they were granted voting rights (for white womxn only, mind you).
Today, 113 years later, on “International women’s day”, we wake up to headlines of silencing womxn who have experienced sexual assault and rape in the Australian parliament, and to statistics of unequal pay, the gender care gap, of womxn being the victims and survivors of domestic abuse, femicides, online abuse, hate crimes and hate comments. Of women being the victims and survivors of bullying, of oppression, of unequal career prospects, sexism and misogyny.
The International Women’s day comes a week after the Equal Care day celebrated on the 1st of March. We saw soaring numbers of unpaid care work and mental burdens taken on by womxn during the pandemic all over the world: read about Australia and Germany, or familiarise yourself with this landmark case from China, where a womxn received laughable payment for five years of constant care work in a divorce settlement.
On this International Women’s day, like on all other Women’s days in the past and in the future, what womxn want is not flowers.
On this International Women’s day, like on all other Women’s days in the past and in the future, what womxn want is not flowers. It’s not a day off, it’s not a compliment, it’s not a red or pink balloon, it’s not a flowery facebook post, it’s not a pat on the back.
It’s equal pay. It’s equal care. It’s equal rights. It’s equal chances and possibilities. It’s safety and security. It’s holding men responsible for their behaviour instead of telling womxn how to avoid said behaviour or how not to “provoke” it. It’s more music, movies and books by womxn. It’s walking around late at night in the dark without fear. It’s living without being afraid to be raped, groped or abused. It’s the freedom of dressing whatever womxn want. Of wanting children or not wanting children. Of wanting a career, not wanting a career, or wanting a career and being a mother or carer at the same time. It’s the freedom of body standards, of not being told what to look like, how to behave, what to say or what to do. It’s the freedom of choosing whatever job you want to choose. Of equal access to medical treatments. Of the right to your own body. It’s about being taken seriously. About being able to show emotions and have it considered a strength. It’s no manspreading. It’s no mansplaining. It’s no belittling. It’s no cat-calling. It’s no oppression.
But haven’t we come far, you ask?
Undoubtedly we have.
But let’s hold off celebrations in a society where we still have debates surrounding Facebook’s and Instagram’s “nipple” policy, 17 years after Janet Jackson’s and Justin Timberlake’s half-time show at the superbowl, where he accidentally freed her nipple. Hold off celebrations in a world where US citizens only narrowly voted out a president who advocated to “grab em by the pussy”, only to replace him with a 78-year old white male who has a history of inappropriately invading the space of girls and womxn. Hold off celebrations in a world where the Australian Prime Minister said he needed help from his wife and daughters to understand and be more empathetic towards allegations of sexual assault brought forward by his own employees.
Let’s hold off celebrations in a society where the public not only accepts oppressive behaviour as cultural and proper, but even finds excuses for a family that is shamelessly protecting their wealth, reputation and status through smear-campaigns against womxn of colour or any womxn in the past that didn’t fit their standards. And even though Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan and Harry is foremost shocking (although not so surprising) in terms of the racism it uncovered, it is also a reminder of how far away we are from intersectional gender equality and an intersectional feminist fight. It’s difficult to celebrate the advances and progress made by white womxn over the last decades, given that “Black women earn 61 cents on average for every dollar a white man makes, compared with 79 cents for white women.” On top of that, Black women are also less safe: “They are three times more likely to experience intimate partner violence and 1.4 times more likely to be killed by police compared with white women.”
So no: this is not a day to celebrate.
It’s a feminist fight day.
Womxn around the world fight every day. They fight tiring fights. In their own homes. At work. In their group of friends. Online. On public transport. In their own heads against the oppression that has been drilled into them for centuries.
Let’s remember that every day.