International Women’s Day is still important
Tomorrow will be International Women’s Day, and with it Women’s Week. There’s lots on around Britain, including a full program of events in York. Its something I’ve been thinking about a lot, aided by some blogs and the oafish stupidity of two York Uni students.
For the Church, its about to be Mothering Sunday (aka Mothers Day if you’re a shop selling cards and presents). Its a good idea, though really its about returning to the church where you grew up (your mother church), not returning home to say thanks to Mum. Its also rather disempowering, as it implies women are only valued through childbearing, still one of the most important challenges for International Feminism today.
Many a debate concerning Feminism in the UK today features the argument that Feminism is now redundant, or that women no longer want or need equality. I saw this earlier this week and thought it worth quoting, as one woman’s answer to many other women:
You can make all the self-satisfied comments you want about ‘angry feminists’ and ‘I have all the rights I want – that’s what matters to me’. Actually I can’t let that one go because it is genuinely distressing to think that people feel that way. I know plenty of people do but when we are called to help the last, the least and lost what sort of selfish, insular person lives by that mantra? It’s sickening. Every time I encounter a sniffy comment from an affluent white woman saying ‘feminism is all about choice – and it’s my choice to be anti-feminist’ at the same time as extolling the virtues of her perfect husband/children/house/life/cupcakes every part of me screams ‘YOU HAVE CHOICE. THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE. YOU HAVE THAT CHOICE. How about you change places with a woman who DOESN’T and let’s see how you feel about equality.’
Feminism is at first about recognition of women, their potential and their value, but this must be followed up with discussion of privilege, something that very often hurts. Privilege isn’t something we necessarily choose to build up; many are born with it, often as class, wealth, race or gender. Most of those in positions of power have actively sought to make it to the top, but here we are talking about Men giving up the privileges society still hands them at birth.
But it also determines that White Women will struggle less as women in a man’s world than Black Women. Wealthy Women have less to gain from Feminism than Poor Women, indeed its possible they will loose out (particular if they have servant girls doing their washing and cleaning).
Its not just the Global South or even the less regarded ends of the Western world that need feminism. As my girlfriend and I set out to drive across the Prairies, we stopped “for Gas”. I headed in to pay whilst she cleaned her car windows – I’d been doing it whilst she was loading the petrol, but it was my turn to pay for something, so she took over. The man behind the counter quipped that “you’ve got her trained well”, and I struggled not to yell at him. Apparently men are still meant to be “in charge” of their partners. Grrrr.
This International Women’s Day, the need for Feminism, for Women’s dignity and an end to Men’s privilege is just as great as it has ever been, and we are no where near that experience as a society.
P.S. If any women want to write guest posts for Women’s Week, feel free to write them and send them my way. If you’re not sure how to get them to me, comment below. Work doesn’t have to be original, but must be yours.