International Women’s Day shows how far there is to go on equal rights
I’m going to be honest here and say that the sooner we abolish International Women’s Day, the better.
That might sound a bit radical but why do we need an event specifically dedicated to women in this day and age?
Is it because girls can’t go to school and women can’t go to University in Afghanistan? Perhaps it’s because women can’t travel without their husband’s permission in Iran and girls have been poisoned for being in schools? Or possibly because they can’t be priests in the Catholic Church or their church will be kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention if it appoints a female pastor? Or that they can’t get abortions or access to morning-after pills in a growing number of US states (sometimes even in cases of rape or incest)? Not forgetting that where women are victims of violence, sexual assault or rape, the conviction rate is abysmally low.
Those are only a handful of examples of regimes and institutions that are unapologetic about their discriminatory treatment of women and girls. There are many, many more.
And yet you will still find people, often men, who bemoan the fact that the needle has shifted too far in favour of women. They’re frequently the ones who ask “why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?”, conveniently ignoring the fact that there actually is such a thing and betraying their ignorance in the process. It’s 19 November, by the way, but you can be forgiven for not being aware of it. There’s really not much cause to single out one day for men when, to all intents and purposes, every day is men’s day.
Imagine if the examples I gave above applied to men instead. Try and picture a world where everyday discrimination applied to men for being men, denying them opportunity, equality and agency across large swathes of the planet. Most religious and political systems are heavily stacked in favour of men, often through the deliberate demotion of women to second class citizens, but can you imagine if they were the other way around?
Of course not. I doubt anyone, male or female, could envisage such a world. Doing so would take us into the realm of absurdity and yet, here we are, in a mirror image irrational world that vast numbers of people across the globe consider to be completely normal.
Set against the absurdity of today’s world that entrenches so much male privilege, International Women’s Day is a brief corrective that serves to highlight the inequalities that exist for women and to celebrate cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women in all areas, including IT.
Every year in the run up to 8 March (and on the day itself), there is a flurry of announcements about the strides and advances businesses, organisations, industries, governments and countries are taking towards making the objective of IWD a reality. Every year but not every day.
Imagine if those circumstances applied to men. It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Yet we live in a world where we find it acceptable and commendable when they are applied to women.
When you think about it, that’s a tacit admission that we live in a world where there is still a huge gap between men and women. A world where men in leadership positions in any industry or vocation are following in the footsteps of other men who went before them but most women’s careers are made up of firsts. They are the first woman sales manager, the first woman sales director, the first woman operations director, the first woman CIO, the first woman managing director, the first woman CEO, the first woman vice president, the first woman president.
To use an analogy I’ve made before, it’s preposterous that we live in a world where eight men had walked on the moon before the first woman was appointed CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Speaking of outer space, if an alien made a documentary about Earth that gave a completely accurate portrayal of us and the status of women, the viewers back home would probably think it was a satire.
Imagine living in a caricatured world. You don’t have to, you do. So when I say that the quicker International Women’s Day is abolished the better it’s because, once it ceases to exist, that would mean the world has become a place where every day is women’s day. Just as it is for men. That’s the world we should be living in.