Once again I’m in Italy for International Women’s Day. One of the first posts I ever wrote 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 feminist celebration of what women have achieved or a protest against continuing inequality and the work still to be done. See Father Ted below for the sort of honouring I’m talking about.
Don’t 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.
For those in the UK who say “I’m not a feminist”, but are happy to accept its benefits, this is a brief list of what feminism has done for you:
- you’re no longer the legal possession of your husband or father
- equal pay legislation
- equal access to education
- access to contraception and legal abortion
- right to open your own bank account and keep your own money
- right to vote
- domestic violence is illegal
- maternity rights – you don’t automatically lose your job when you get pregnant (or legally you shouldn’t)
- the ability to take part in these arguments.
What part of that do you not want?
These changes didn’t happen because women were given flowers once a year. These hard won rights didn’t always exist, they didn’t just fall out of the sky. They came from women demanding change and equality. And for those who say that feminism has gone too far, it hasn’t in fact gone far enough:
- In the UK, despite legislation 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 England and Italy, two women are killed every week by a former or current partner.
- Only a third of British MPs are female and make up less than a quarter of judges.
- Women still do 60% more domestic chores.
“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?
And apart from all that, feminism benefits men too. But I’m going to let you google what those benefits might be.