What are the perspectives on International Women’s Day?
By Jessica Berget,Editor-in-Chief
People around the world are celebrating International Women’s day on March 8—a day that celebrates the achievements made by women and brings to light the inequalities women currently face. The day was first observed in 1911 in Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland and was celebrated around the world until the United Nations recognized it in 1975. As many proudly celebrate this day, others question its purpose.
Do we need it?
International Women’s Day is controversial to some. Arguments against it claim that there is no need for it anymore, considering the tremendous strides women have made in society and the fact that there are some areas in which women have the upper hand over men.
For instance, women are more likely to graduate high school and go into post-secondary education and hold a degree. They are also more likely to get child custody, and more likely to receive shorter sentences for the same crimes as men. Some also cite the fact that men do the most laborious and dirtiest jobs and are socially expected to pay for all their dates and be the breadwinners as proof for some of the privilege’s women have currently.
Also cited are the economic, political, and social leaps and bounds women have made in the past 100 years since the day’s origination. It seems the “seat at the table” women have been asking for has turned into a seat in the senate, board, and other leadership roles—so to speak.
Over the past 50 years, society has seen a huge shift in the job’s women hold. Women have begun to enter careers that were commonly held by men—such as doctors, lawyers, managers, scientists, and engineers. According to the Washington Post, the number of women who worked in male-dominated fields in 1960 was about eight percent. In 2010 that number rose to 29 percent. To some, this nearly 11 percent increase is a meager change, but it’s important to recognize the progress that has been made.
As the years have gone by, women have arguably become more positively represented in film and media with the amount of female-led and directed films being produced today. Women are also becoming more involved with business (holding nearly 17 percent of board seats compared to almost 10 percent in 1995), STEM, athletics, economics, and politics, with many countries leaders being women to boot.
Many also might consider the amount of celebration on International Women’s Day to be overkill, as compared to International Men’s Day where celebrations are far and few between.
Of course, there still are some aspects where women are unequally represented, but to some people it seems nearly everything activists are asking for in celebrating this day is coming to fruition. So, what do you think? Do we really need an International Women’s Day?
What does it mean to you?
One Douglas College professor, Jaime Yard, tells the Other Press what International Women’s Day means to her and why she thinks it’s an important date for celebration.
“I think it’s important to draw attention to the incredible amount of work that still needs to be done to advance social equality,” she said. “The fight to maintain and expand reproductive rights and justice is ongoing. If International Women’s Day can be an opportunity to raise awareness about critical issues and to mobilize people, then I think it’s great. I do think it can be dangerous to bundle half of the population of the globe solely on the basis of sex despite incredibly diverse histories and cultures, but, historically many of the struggles highlighted by International Women’s Day have been over rights that have been, and are, withheld on the basis of sex: to education, the vote, and reproductive choice, for examples.”
She also touched on how this day compares to International Men’s Day.
“I heard somewhere that International Men’s Day is sometime in November. But the only time anyone Googles it is on International Women’s Day. I think that’s kind of hilarious,” she said.
Whether or not you choose to celebrate this day, there are hardships women face which highlight why many believe such a day needs to exist.
Domestic abuse is one of the major reasons people cite as a reason for celebrating this day. Women in Canada and in the world live in greater risk of violence, assault, and harassment. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every six days a woman is killed by partner. Half of women in Canada have faced violent or sexual violence since they were 16 years old. Young women are also more likely to face online bullying and harassment. Both men and women face domestic violence, but women face it on a larger scale—20 percent higher in 2014. About 80 percent of dating violence victims are women. Women also represent 83 percent of all spousal violence victims and are four times more likely than men to be victims of spousal violence. They are also three times more likely to be beaten, choked, sexually assaulted, or threatened with a weapon by their partner, or ex-partner. Finally, although men, women and children have been known to become victims of human trafficking, women represent the vast majority of victims of this crime.
Women are victims of this crime more often than men—about 10 times more likely (37 out of 1,000 compared to 5 per 1,000, respectively), with young women aged between 18 to 24 at the highest rate of sexual assault. In over half of these cases (52 percent), the offender was a neighbour, friend, or an acquaintance. Furthermore, since the topic of rape is still taboo, many don’t report their assaults in fear of being shamed, blamed for their assault or not believed. Girls are also four times more likely to be abused by a family member than boys.
Women are also disproportionately represented in mental health cases. For starters, 12 percent of girls in Canada claim to have experienced a major depression period. Canadian girls are more 15 times more likely to be hospitalized for an eating disorder, as compared to males. Many claim the sexualization of young girls is a major cause for the deterioration of their mental health. Popular media often depicts women in a sexual light, and some social scientists claim that exposure to these overtly sexual themes and images can cause low self esteem, eating disorders, body dissatisfaction, and depression. Consequently, hospitalization of Canadian girls for self-harm injuries has doubled from 2009 to 2014. The biggest group from this was girls aged 14 to 17. Finally, suicide is the third leading cause of death in girls aged 10 to 14 and is the second leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women are more likely to live on a low income for a number of different reasons. For instance, women spend more time doing unpaid work like household chores, and they are more likely to sacrifice career advancement in favour of a work-life balance. To continue their domestic responsibilities, they may take on seasonal or temporary jobs—which are often low paying and have few chances to move up. They make up the majority of those working minimum wage jobs. On another note, 16 percent of Canadians live in single parent homes, with 8 out of 10 being led by women, which can continue the cycle of poverty.
Despite some of the reasons against it, there are still many people who highly regard International Women’s Day as a necessity in our society. Yet, we can all agree that there are disparities in all genders and walks of life, and a day of devoted celebration might be the thing society needs to recognize and close these gaps.