On the 8th of March, the world will come together to collectively celebrate International Women’s Day. For some, this date will even mark a national holiday, as has been the case in Russia since 1918 with most banks, offices and schools closing for the day. The day’s purpose is multi-faceted. On the one hand, it is a means to highlight the accomplishments of the female sex- the eradication or rather erosion of the niche that women are felt to hold. Yet on the other, the lingering constraints placed on modern women cannot and should not be ignored. As a result, this year’s ‘theme’ if you will is Pledge for Parity, calling plainly and simply for gender equality.
How are we celebrating International Women’s Day at ZIS? On the day itself we will have a diverse selection of inspiring women coming to talk about their experiences. Amongst them are professionals from the worlds of sport, art and business. We hope to open up honest, frank and informative conversations on what the world really looks like for women; where changes are being made, and where they are still needed. Areas like the knee-jerk reaction to learning about International Women’s Day: “Why is there no International Men’s Day?”
Well firstly, there is. It’s on the 19th of November for anyone interested and looks to address issues like why more men are likely to end up in prison and why proportionally more men are victims of violent crime. The catch is that men are also far more likely to be the one committing the act of violence. Men’s oppression may not be the same as that experienced by women but it is still present. How then do we combat these issues? The answer which may sound counterintuitive is as follows: through fighting for women’s equality. By showing that women can be strong we show that men do not always have to be. By showing that women can hold high power careers we show that men can stay at home with their children. By showing that there is no one way to define women we lift the constraints of society’s stereotyping from men. Equality is, after all, a two way street.
International Women’s Day has always been and will always be about celebrating. Celebrating women and celebrating equality. No-one should feel intimidated by the word ‘celebration’. International Women’s Day is not an exclusive VIP event where your ticket in is your gender. It is an opportunity to empower women and subsequently empower men as well.
The World Economic has predicted that it will take until 2133 for the global gender gap to close. This is too long, far too long. You may think that gender inequality doesn’t exist in places like Switzerland, and certainly there are places where discrimination manifests in far more extreme forms, yet despite Switzerland being in the top ten countries for gender equality, a 2014 study found that women were paid just 59 percent of their male counterparts for similar work. Gender discrimination is so rooted in our societal roles, media and language that the phrase, ‘Gender Inequality doesn’t affect me’ has very little validity. Therefore I sincerely encourage and invite you to be an active participant in International Women’s Day, whether that be signing the Pledge for Parity, donating towards women’s charities through buying a tulip or simply engaging in the various panels on offer on March 8th. Together we can work to bridge the gap that separates our genders, learn to dispel both conscious and unconscious bias and in doing so recognise that we are far more than just the sum of our body parts.
Kathleen Falconer ’16