International Women’s Day, anyone?

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At the last count, I am currently following 38 blogs, the vast majority of which are personal blogs maintained by women. I’ve often wondered about this, and at one point I actually started looking for interesting, personal ‘male’ blogs – but without much success, leading me to the conclusion that either men don’t have a personal life, or they are not able to write about it. That is, however, not what I want to talk about today. Because I follow all these people, from different nationalities, backgrounds, religions, ages, and even senses of humor, but when I look at what my Reader is presenting me with today, I am baffled.

An interview with Cinderella (which, by the way, was hilarious). Baby bumps. The start of lent tomorrow. One-uppers. Chickens.

Carbon bloody laundering.

It is March 8th!

International Women’s Day, anyone?

The 100th edition of it, even?

I mean, I understand I’m 6-9 hours ahead of the rest of the world, but really? Not even a glimpse of a shimmer of a mention?

And I admit – what are we supposed to write about? What on earth have we, women in over-developed countries, to complain about? We have access to birth control, education (in Belgium, more women than men have higher degrees: 31,5% vs. 27,4%), we can vote, we can build a career if we want to, … sure, we kinda need to work on the equal-pay-for-equal-work-thing, and there’s this “glass ceiling” everyone refers to, but really, has anyone ever seen that?

That’s what I thought, yes.

But only last week, in the Belgian Chamber, an agreement was made that will force listed companies to have (at least) one third women on their Board – currently a mere 6% of board members are female. Yesterday, in Belgium, one woman’s contract was not prolonged at the shop she was working because she refused to take off her veil. Today, during coffee break, the gasps were audible through the uncomfortable silence when one colleague explained she doesn’t want children. Meanwhile, in large parts of the world, women are denied the right to work, to speak, to vote, to refuse men access to their body, to stand up, to organize themselves – even to think.

We are far from gender equality, or even from gender equivalence, if you prefer that term. And yes, that was, is, and will be a desirable, obtainable, and above all necessary goal. Because, as women, we are a group that is systematically denied rights and privileges based solely on the fact that we are women, something we may cherish, love or despise, but which we never chose, and which can therefore never be a ground for discrimination. I am not a feminist, I have much to learn about how the world goes round, and I’m pretty sure I don’t realize half how privileged I am. But it is therefore exactly that I need to commemorate today all those women who have stood up and fought for what should be their birth rights, that I need to raise awareness for the little, unconscious acts of discrimination we even barely recognize as such (how is a man who stays home with his kids not a real man?) and that I really, simple just want to celebrate today, which is my day as well.

Happy Women’s Day everyone!

Eve Ensler’s “Refuses”
International Women’s Day website

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4 responses »

  1. Happy Women’s Day, My friend! What a beautiful and thought provoking post. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I think it is spectacular that more women have a higher education than men do in Belgium. We still have a long way to go.

    • It’s a general trend, I think, that women generally are more disciplined to study, and more motivated as well. For several years now, more women than men go to university (in Belgium), and I see the same at my department here in Sweden: there are more women than men working there (although of course, biochemistry is a fairly “soft” science, in engineering a very different pattern can be seen). In the private sector, however, this doesn’t translate as heavily, as women are more likely to work part-time or even quit, once they have children. A long way to go indeed, but we wouldn’t be women if that would discourage us, now would we? ;)

  2. *sigh* at the cartoon. Same reason why I “hate” mother’s day: there is simply NO reason to celebrate it IF I have to clean up the next day. DUH. Here is a chart from The Economist:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/03/women

    France also started something similar with board members. I think the best thing that can come out of these legislations is the willingness now for the old guards to take young(er) women under their wings to groom them and to become their mentors. That’s realistically how a woman is going to succeed in a board room. Things won’t change overnight.

    • I’m very skeptical about the whole quota-thing… I mean, shouldn’t we be able to accomplish that on our own strength? Isn’t it more fulfilling to get a position because you earned it, versus because they needed your womanhood? Will they even take you seriously in the last case? However, history doesn’t show the male willingness to change… so maybe it is better to MAKE them hire women, so they can experience themselves that women have merits as well, leading to a change of mindset. I don’t know. Future will tell….

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