Happy International Women’s Day!
I know some readers may be rolling their eyes at this, and to be honest I can sympathise. I can understand Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but when I first heard about International Women’s Day I was a bit sceptical. Why do we need a day all about women? I’m sure there’s some blokes out there thinking we get too much attention.
Personally, this day makes me think about the women in vulnerable situations. I know I was born fairly lucky: I was born in the UK, with people who love me and education and healthcare at the ready. But today, despite being Women’s Day, in my mind is not about me.
It’s about the women who are beaten and abused on a daily basis. The women who are trafficked and sold as slaves. The women who never had a chance to grow up and become women, because they were born female and so were left somewhere remote and cold to die.
It seems outrageous and insane in the West, that these things can even happen. But, when you travel outside of the Western countries, you really see it. In some places it’s subtle, but in others it’s stark. In my time, I have been fortunate enough to live in China, but even there I was shocked. The mentality since the revolution has been more for equality, but in our Chinese language textbook we still learned the phrase “a real man doesn’t hit women”. There were women walking down the street, black and blue. In Shanghai, I saw one woman with barely a face, and missing most of one arm. I was informed that she had been a victim of gang crime, taken from a village to work for them, and when she was getting “too old” to be pretty, she was attacked and sent to beg in the streets, to seek money from shocked tourists and bring it to her captors.
In India, there is still the issue of female children being born, as male children are often preferred. There has been a shift in cultural norms, with more women fighting to keep their female children, but some babies are still killed shortly after birth because of their gender.
In Japan, women are still attacked, and groped, and sexually harassed on such a frequent basis that it has become expected in society. If you go on a bus or train, and are forced to stand, you can expect some creepy old man is going to rub against you, and you are expected to stand there and take it.
I know, some more radical women than myself would argue that this day is for me, and that I should revel in that appreciation. But I can’t. I’m a human first, woman second, and to be honest, this day just doesn’t feel relevant to me. It doesn’t feel about me. So every year, I’m going to spend this day thinking about the vulnerable, and how to help make society safer for them. Because in the end, they’re the ones who need it.