Friday, 7 March 2014

International Women's Day- Why is Feminism a dirty word?

This post has very little to do with travel, but is relevant to everyone across the world. Tomorrow, the 8th of March, is International Women's Day. The idea of this date is to celebrate respect, appreciation and love towards women and to acknowledge their achievements. That's fantastic, I love the idea and I'm thankful that it's stuck around, in one form or another,  for the last 100 years. 

This is where it is celebrated across the world...

Official holiday
Holiday for women
Non-official holiday (gifts for women)


Chaing Mai (these noodles were delicious) 
But why do we need an International Women's Day in this millennium and why is it acceptable to stand up for women's rights on the 8th March, but to do so elsewhere in the year singles you out as a rabid Feminist? 'Feminism' has become a dirty word. Although some rational young people are coming around to accepting the term for its true meaning, many still associate it with man-hating and stereotype to sorts of women who define themselves openly as feminists. 

Wikipedia Definition:"Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women."

Even the stuffy Oxford Dictionary agrees that Feminism is- "The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes."

If the definitions above are correct then surely everyone should consider themselves to be a feminist (regardless of gender) as somebody who believes both sexes to be equal or face the alternative label: 'sexist'. 

Unfortunately, the media isn't always so supportive of this view...

In a recent interview Lily Allen says that she hates the word Feminism and suggests that “We’re all equal, everyone is equal. Why is there even a conversation about feminism? What’s the man version of feminism? There isn’t even a word for it. Menanism. Male-ism. It doesn’t exist.”

Apparently the worst problems that women-kind now face are bitchy comments and the judgmental attitudes of other women- "It’s much the same [as it used to be]. But I don’t think men are the enemy. I think women are the enemy." 

You can read some extracts in the Independent here.

Maybe she would label me as one such bitchy female, but I find it extremely frustrating for somebody in such a privileged position to suggest that the work for women's rights movements is over. 

We're all equal now! Horray!

This seems like an appropriate place to insert a small selection of statistics...

(I'm sorry for the excessive referencing, but I don't want anyone to think I'm pulling numbers out of the air.)
Tiny children in Laos.

The World:
  • Violence against women and girls is a prolific problem . At least 1 in 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her. (General Assembly. In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General, 2006. A/61/122/Add.1. 6 July 2006)
  • Globally, 10 million more girls are out of school than boys. (Calculated from data contained in the UN’s The Millennium Development Goals report 2007, New York: 2007, p11)
  • In Sierra Leone, the number of incidents of war-related sexual violence among internally displaced women from 1991 to 2001 was as high as 64,000. (Vlachova, Biason. Women in an Insecure World. Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. 2005).
  • In Rwanda, up to half a million women were raped during the 1994 genocide.
  • Women account for nearly two thirds of the world’s 780 million people who cannot read. (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “Adult Literacy Rates and Illiterate Population by Region and Gender,” 2006)
  • Globally, women make up just 17% of parliamentarians. (UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2007, UNICEF, New York: 2006, p.56)

Maybe Lily is only considering the 'first world', in which case we'll have a look at the statistics for the UK. 


If that isn't enough statistics for you have a look here 

If you are (understandably) tired of statistics, you might like to have a look at the The Every Day Sexism Project, which encourages people of both sexes to write in about their experiences of sexism. It includes everything from name calling in the street and discrimination at work to accounts of violence and rape. 

This, Lily, is why we're having a conversation about feminism. 

Happy International Women's Day.

P.S. I'm sorry if I have accidentally alienated any of my readers. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below (although I might not like you if you're rude).

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