This is a piece I wrote for the University publication where I work - Original HERE.
Happy International Women's Day. xL
This week holds International Women’s Day, a day that commemorates the movement for women’s rights and celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. As part of the celebration TK is offering the expertise, creative passion and unique opinions of some of the women of Avondale College. We have been inspired by the International Women’s Day theme #pressforprogress and are indeed here to take over the press, and make progress.
The conversations I have around feminism with me peers, friends and students are remarkably similar. A lot of people – and I’m talking men and women - feel that that don’t know how to be feminist. They don’t feel oppressed or see oppression in the lives of the women around them and so it feels excessive and melodramatic to identify as feminist. Perhaps they feel as though they don’t identify the politics of womanhood or perhaps they are intimidated or unhappy with those who do present the current face of feminism. Whatever it is – think about the privilege that allows someone to say – ‘I’m not a feminist’.
You see feminism isn’t just about gender parity for you. Or your sister or mother or daughter. It is about gender parity for all women. That’s half of the entire world. And gender parity isn’t just the vote, or the choice to work or drive. Gender parity is sexual and physical safety, it is healthcare and it is education. Saying you aren’t a feminist means you have given up the fight (and it is a fight – a long, legal and social fight for awareness and then change) for other women. It is saying that those woman around the world, and quite possibly next door who still suffer the effects of subversion solely because of their gender, are not your concern. There is still one woman a week killed in domestic violence incidents around Australia. It is the leading preventable cause of death in women aged 15-44 in Australia. That is a gender issue. 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced physical violence perpetrated by a man since the age of 15. There is a still a statistically proven wage gap – which flows into an economic issue as women have less superannuation and less ability to support themselves as they age. And don’t come at me with your arguments that women CHOOSE to have children. Procreation is a biological imperative that not only allows for social growth, but the economic growth that keeps our capitalist economy going in such a way that people have access to the taxes of the young when they need a pension. Every woman should be able to choose whether or not they have children, but if all of the women stop CHOOSING to have children, you’d better be willing to work till you die to support yourself.
Do you vote? Do you see your mothers, sisters and daughters vote? Then you ride on the skirt tails of women who screamed in the streets for equality, who went on hunger strikes, stood in front of carriages, were labelled terrorists and who were physically beaten and humiliated for daring to suggest that women should be able to choose their own representatives. That’s what it took to convince Western society that women could make political decisions. It will take as much passion to help other women across the world achieve the same thing.
There are still countries where women are not allowed to vote, to drive, or be educated. Places where rape victims are blamed, stoned or publically humiliated online. There are religions that do not allow women to speak publically or be ordained. There are schools that hold girls to very different standards to boys in terms of their dress codes because women are held responsible for sexual assault – not men. This is not equality – and if it does not affect you, you are fortunate, but it is still your problem. Until every woman is protected, supported and given the same rights as men – all women are less than we could be.
The theme #pressforchange is a nuanced hashtag and it arises out of the comraderie, support and vocalisation of #metoo. We have spoken out about things that were for a long time kept silent: sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and the generalised sexualisation that has kept women in a constant, and exhausting state of hyper-vigilance. The next step is to change things. To move from speaking up to speaking out. From Twitter to Parliament. It is the move to get women, their achievements, their voices and their issues into the press and also the move towards a really firm push for legislative and social change.
Imagine if men supported women in the ways the statistics show us they need: pay raises to reach equality, completely shared parenting responsibilities, equal sharing of domestic responsibilities (current statistics show women do twice as much as men). Imagine if women did not have to waste energy protecting themselves from physical and sexual violence. History has already shown us that women can get incredible things done despite threat and disparity of opportunity. Imagine what equality will allow us as to achieve as a race. It isn’t a competition for resources – there are enough. We are all on the same team.
This is where the rubber meets the road for feminists. This is where real change can be made. And if your life is one of safety, equality and opportunity, this is your chance to fight for the rights of your sisters – those who cannot earn a living wage and be a mother, those who fear for their lives and their physical safety and those who have no voice at all. I am unafraid of the title feminist. In fact, if feminism is ‘advocacy for the social, political and legal equality of the genders’ – then I’m more concerned about what it means to not be a feminist. If you do anything for International Women’s Day, perhaps you could thank a woman in your life for what she does for you, ask her what parts of her life keep her from her potential and fight for her ability to achieve that potential. If you want to give, look for charities that support education for girls. Change will always follow education. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist says it best, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." And remember this one thing - gender equality means all women, everywhere. Let us own our privilege, own our responsibility and #pressforprogress.