Saturday, 8 March 2014

Some thoughts for International Women's Day

Yesterday in The Independent there was an article about Lily Allen and how she feels we don't need the word feminism anymore.

I call baloney. Her position is one of privilege, and while in 'developed' states like the UK there may seem like there is no need for feminism as we have always known it (more on that in a moment), there is an awful lot of the world where feminism is yet to have its day.

I do agree that the debate needs to change. Too often us white, middle class women in developed nations try to impose our own paradigm on other countries. What works in Europe is probably not really going to work in Africa. But... there are certain basic principles that no matter how you frame it, cannot be ignored and still need to be fought for.

For example, the right to education. While education for both genders is a given in 'developed' nations (by the way, I write developed like that because what counts as developed is open to interpretation, but in this case I use it to mean countries where the standard of living for all is assumed to be relatively high), and an accepted principle in many others, the reality is that many girls are unable to attend school. This may be because the school charges fees and the family can only afford to send one child, so send the male child. This might be because they are expected to stay at home and look after their siblings. It might simply be because they just can't.

Sexual and reproductive health is another area of great inequality. Poverty has many roots and a wide variety of solutions, one of which is the ability to control when reproduction happens. For this to happen, women need to be able to make choices about their reproductive and sexual health, the same way we have in the developed world.

I could go on and on. But it isn't just about the 'developing' world. Even in 'developed' countries, women still face prejudice, violence, discrimination and abuse, simply because of their gender. Sometimes I think it is getting worse, not better, but then I remember that what is actually happening is that the internet is giving a very public platform for those who do those things.

Feminism might have become a dirty word, and oh yes there is a severe level of internal fighting amongst feminists of different schools. But being different is ok. Women are not a homogeneous block of society, and it is our differences, just like with other people, that make us great. But we need to work together to create a better society for everyone, not just women.

Happy International Women's Day. 


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