International Women’s Day. The morning after the night before

One of my first posts 2 years ago was how International Women’s Day is celebrated with much more enthusiasm here in Italy than in the UK. Bunches of mimosa flowers are traditionally given to the women in your life. But the Festa Della Donna feels more like Lovely Ladies’ Day rather than a protest against the still awful levels of inequality in the country. See Father Ted below for the sort of honouring I’m talking about.


Dont get me wrong, I like a nice bunch of flowers and a bit of appreciation, but International Women’s Day was born from the fight for decent pay and working conditions and the right to vote rather than today’s “Ooh aren’t ladies wonderful” and “Go girl!” empty slogans. You take away the history and you make it a fluffy and flowers irrelevance. Less a solidaritarious struggle than a party of false gallantry. The changes to women’s lives over the past century didn’t happen because women were given flowers once a year. When Italy lags behind in league tables of equality and the closest the UK can get to political engagement is a pink battle bus you could be forgiven for being a bit despondent.

You can question all you like whether there should be an International Women’s Day but the facts speak for themselves:

  • In the UK, the gender pay gap stands at 17.5 per cent, with women on average earning £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues.
  • In terms of gender equality, Italy ranks 74th, below Bangladesh, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Global Gender Gap report.
  • In England and Italy, two women are killed every week by a former or current partner. Thirty-eight per cent of all murders of women worldwide are committed by a woman’s intimate partner.
  • Women are still responsible for over 80% of domestic chores.

And that’s just in countries where women supposedly have equal rights. Do you really need to ask why you should be a feminist?

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Gloria Steinem. And that’s it. It’s not much to ask is it?

We want a country that respects women. 8 marzo, non mimose ma opere di bene.


But things are changing, these Italian women want more than flowers and seem to have developed a particularly satisfying hatred of mimosa – flowers my friend Kate calls squirrel balls.

Mimosa – bunches are traditionally given on the Festa Della Donna

But because in Italy the day is a festival of women and their achievements, I want to celebrate the following women for daring to be different, because they are not afraid to say that feminism does matter, that it is important, for refusing to be superficial and for putting their heads above the parapet in defiance of those who say they shouldn’t. These are the women I would choose to give a bunch of mimosa to:


Historian Mary Beard For her love of Rome and her passion and excellence in her field. For her cheerfulness in spite of Twitter trolls and for answering her ‘critics’ – “This is what 50 something women look like.”

Novelist Hilary Mantel For having written two of my favourite books of the past few years – both Booker Prize winners and the amazing success of the new BBC Wolf Hall series. “Feminism hasn’t failed, it’s just never been tried.” 

Actor Helen Mirren For once again proving she is the Queen of the stage.‘For me feminism is just fucking obvious. It is not an ideological or a political thing. We’re half the population. I don’t even see it as a cause: it’s fucking obvious!

Athlete Jessica Ennis Not only from Sheffield, not only a gold medal winning decathlete but also for not being afraid to criticise the reinstatement of a convicted rapist to her home town football team. “Those in positions of influence should respect the role they play in young people’s lives and set a good example. If Evans was to be re-signed by the club it would completely contradict these beliefs.

Comedian Caitlin Moran because she has the following tea towel for sale on her website.


And finally, campaigners Pink Stinks against the “pinkification” of children’s toys for reminding us that girls can play with trucks and trains and dirt and dolls and be scientists or singers but not everything has to be bloody pink or colour coded.











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