Back in the early 20thC the idea of an International Working Women’s Day was thought up and celebrated. Primarily a socialist invention it is now a bank holiday in many Eastern European countries. Ideally it is suppose to be a day in which we celebrate the social, economic and political accomplishments of women. I find it interesting that it was first celebrated in 1909, at the height of the Suffragette Movement – one of the first definable moments in feminist history when women demanded equality under the law, that we are not property, but persons.
In an earlier blog post I wrote that I lament the fact that many women today refuse to associate themselves with the word “feminist” and this day just brings it all up for me. Women have made huge strides in society, many of us work in professions which only a couple decades ago were male dominated – doctors, professors, lawyers, accountants, construction workers, plumbers, military and politics. And yet there hasn’t been that true equality achieved. Many women still do the lion’s share of the housework, child-rearing, and tend to sacrifice their professional lives for the sake of their families. Rare it is that a man will take time off work if their child is sick or if their elderly parents need help – generally the woman in the relationship is expected to fulfill that nurturing role. And there hasn’t been equality achieved with regards to pay packets – does a female CEO make as much as a male? No. And with regards to the political arena there have been some shining examples of how a woman can achieve political success – Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Indira Ghandi. But they are an exception. In most cases the world’s various parliaments, senates and houses of representatives are overwhelmingly male dominated.
Women are still expected to be soft and nurturing. When Hilary Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination the news media focused on her fashion choices, how her hair was styled, why she wore trouser suits and not a dress. But no such attention was paid to Barak Obama. In Canada Belinda Stronach, former CEO of Magna, entered federal politics and had a relationship with a fellow Member of Parliament. She was protrayed in the media as being shrewish, strident in her speech whilst if a man had presented himself like she would during Question Period he’d be considered assertive. As in the case of Ms Clinton, Ms Stronach’s fashion choices, her various private relationships and whatnot were scrutinised by the media.
So on this day of International Women’s Day please give a thought to how much women can contribute to a well functioning society – if we pull ourselves up, insist on equality and equal treatment mayhaps we can achieve what our foremothers fought for over a century ago.