I’ve always had mixed feelings about International Women’s Day. Whilst I love that it’s a celebration of women and all we have achieved, I also recognise that it’s a time to reflect on what still needs to be done to create true equality.
And it’s this reflection that bothers me. I see so many women who appear to be blinkered to what I believe true equality to be – everyone having the chance to pursue the same opportunities regardless of age, gender, religion, race but at the same time acknowledging that we aren’t all equally capable of the same thing due to limits in our physiology, psychology and genetic make-up. To me, true equality is about celebrating the individual as they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses and enabling them to do whatever it is they wish to do whilst recognising their limitations.
Yes, there is a lot still to do to ensure equal rights and equal pay and I’m all for that but not at the expense of men and that is very much the tip of the iceberg.
I see too many champions of women’s rights creating forums for man-hating and that’s where the problem lies.
I’m a huge advocate in raising awareness of domestic violence and too many of the online communities I have entered are little more than platforms to belittle men. Yes, it is a fact that more women than men are the victims of domestic abuse but this doesn’t mean all men are abusers.
The instances of men being victims of domestic abuse are increasing. Some of the stories I have heard are awful and make me feel ashamed to be a woman.
So celebrating International Women’s Day has a bitter taste for me.
I’m also an advocate of supporting women who are or have been sex workers. Because the sex industry isn’t going away, it is first and foremost, a service industry and the majority of its workers are there through choice.
In my opinion, true equality will be created when we have developed a culture that respects the individual and his or her right to be who or what they please.
Do I have an issue with women who choose to flaunt their naked bodies in order to gain wealth and fame? NO – it’s their choice.
Do I have an issue with women who work in the sex industry because they choose to? NO – it’s their choice.
I do however, have a massive issue with other women who decide that these women need saving because they are being exploited by men. They don’t and they aren’t.
The women that need help are those who are forced into the sex industry as a result of abuse, those who are threatened with all sorts of horrors if they don’t pose for the camera, if they don’t ‘put on that red light, if they don’t put out but ironically, campaigning to help these women in the seedier side of the sex industry isn’t as sexy or headline grabbing as a scantily clad woman only too happy to flaunt her assets for the camera.
It’s those women, forced to do things that no-one should have to do without consent, that need to be helped and celebrated on International Women’s Day. Help them to understand they can change their lives, help them to understand that there is no shame in having gone through what they’ve gone through, help them to understand that it’s not their fault. But also let them celebrate the fact that they’re still here, they’re alive and they can get through this.
It’s time that we as smart, intelligent women of the world who have the means and ability to create change start to make change where it matters rather than trying to create headlines and jump on the bandwagon that the sexualisation of women is a bad thing. The sex industry isn’t going away, it’s nothing more than a service industry with an incredible business model – I know, I’ve worked in it and I’ve researched it extensively.
Change needs to start taking place in our homes and our schools, where we learn to challenge unacceptable language and behaviour and respect that we all have equal status despite our very real physical differences.
Only when we can create equality in the home, which then extends outward into our society will we be able to say we are truly equal. When we as women allow our men to be men, our sons and daughters to follow their own path regardless of whether they like blue or pink, football or dolls, regardless of whether they prefer girls or boys, regardless of their gender or sexuality without worrying about what the neighbours will say, only then will we be truly equal.
And then I’ll feel happy about properly celebrating International Women’s Day, knowing that as a society we can all truly celebrate the fact that we are all equal and have access to the same opportunities should we CHOOSE to take them and that we don’t judge those who make different choices tot hose we would make for ourselves.
Whatever your opinion of International Women’s Day, I applaud it. Without an opinion we would not be able to bring about change.
To all of the incredible women I know, and those I don’t, who are getting on with their lives in spite of or despite appalling adversity, I salute you. And to all the men I know who support those women – thank you.
Happy International Women’s Day