Every year as International Women’s Day (IWD) comes around, there is always a discussion about its relevance, worth and value. On the one hand.... Do we still need an IWD?
Women have achieved so much, are recognized in roles of leadership and power in all areas of our society. In sports, entertainment, politics, business and more. And today even more than ever before, women of ALL ages are being recognized, respected, honoured and taken seriously for the skills and ideas they bring to the table.
Just look at the Movie and TV Awards Ceremony’s that have taken place in January and February this year. Female actor winners are all 60+!! Women who have been in the industry for years, who have grown and developed and are now being awarded for their tremendous abilities on screen.
In the last 10 years, the Super Bowl Half time show has been equally represented by male and female artists (I checked!).
In the last 10 years, 5 of the Nobel laureates for Literature have been women.
The list goes on – Prime Ministers, CEOs, Scientists, Journalists. These lists are all dominated by women!
So do we really still need to have a day that is designed specifically to recognize women, to talk about women’s rights, equality, equity, misogyny etc. Haven't we made it already?? But then there is the other hand.... Yes we can recognize how far we have come in our Western society. But this do not hold true for women all over the world. And even in our most democratic countries we need to acknowledge that women are still mis-treated, abused, not paid at equity to men for the same job, gaslit and shamed.
I want to bring 3 examples to highlight this:
1. “For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia.
This quote is from a fascinating 2019 The Guardian article about the bias in medical trials against women 1. In fact women were not legally required to be included in medical trials until 1993 when the US Congress wrote an inclusion policy for the National Institute of Health (NIH) into Federal law which ensures that women and minorities are included in all clinical research.
That means that UNTIL 1993, women were not necessarily included in medical research, drug trials and scientific research. Even once put into law, it still took time for practices to changes, especially as we know that research studies can go on for years, with findings and results taking even longer to filter down to applied practices my medical practioners.
2. In 2019, the actress Michelle Williams took her support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that aims to close the wage gap, to Capitol Hill.
YES those numbers are correct and totally staggering. This is in 2019! Not 1973 when Billy Jean King played the “Battle of Sexes” tennis match against Bobby Riggs for equal pay recognition.
As Williams admits ““If it was like this for me, a white woman in a glamorized industry, how were my sisters suffering across their professions?” 2
3. Just this week the Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin, daughter of world renowned Steve Irwin, posted about her experiences suffering with endometriosis.
She tweeted ““For 10 years I’ve struggled with insurmountable fatigue, pain and nausea. A doctor told me it was simply something you deal with as a woman and I gave up entirely, trying to function through the pain.” 3
Medical gas lighting is still happening to women every single day. And it is worse for women being treated in the Western medical care system, where women’s health issues are undervalued and misunderstood. This happens daily with women struggling with PCOS, Endometriosos, infertility, fibromyalgia (which affects women disproportionately to men), peri-menopause symptoms and more.
Irwin wrote the post following specialist endometrial surgery to remove lesions from her body. “I’m sharing my story for anyone who reads this and is quietly dealing with pain and no answers. Let this be your validation that your pain is real and you deserve help.”
I have intentionally brought 3 examples from mainstream news and from Western democracies. It is easy to marginalize stories of inequality and abuse for women in Africa or Asia. Our western sensibilities seem to feel that with our developed democracies there are no real issues for women anymore - in the work place or anywhere else - and that our feelings and concerns are always considered. I think this is especially true following the success of and changes implemented following #metoo.
Today you just "can't get away" with latent, covert or passive behaviour that is in any way disparaging or derogatory to women.
It’s easier for our modern, advanced society to brush off domestic violence against women when it’s happening in a less developed or war-torn country. It’s easier for news to ignore gender pay gaps when it’s happening in less developed economies. We sort of assume that International Women’s Day is about highlight “those” injustices. That “those” women need it more than “us”.
Fortunately IWD is here to serve every single woman.
It comes to celebrate.
To rejoice in where we are today.
To show gratitude for all those women who have come before us and on whose shoulders we stand.
It comes to say we are not done yet.
There is still plenty of discrimination, misogyny and abuse around.
IWD comes to show that we are stronger together.
That a world with strong, empowered women is a great place to be.
That we need to educate and empower the next generation.
That we can’t rest on our laurels and say we have done enough.
That there is still more work to be done!
Happy International Women’s Day