International Women's Day: What do you think is the single biggest issue currently facing women?

We asked our feminist writers two questions. Here's what they had to say

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What do you think is the single biggest issue currently facing women/ feminism? (both in the UK and worldwide)

Joan Smith: Challenging the notion that feminism isn't the preoccupation of a few well-known women in the media. It's about everyday life: - equal pay, equal access to jobs, freedom from sexual harassment and violence. Nothing weird or niche about that. 

Victoria Wright: The struggle to find good quality and affordable childcare for our children is still a huge barrier for us mums wanting to get back into work. I speak as a mum myself currently going through the rigmarole of trying to find childcare for my daughter.

Bina Shah: How girls and women can get access to high-quality education. The fight for equal rights starts with being able to know your rights, and education is the doorway to that entire universe.

Nat Guest: The Coalition’s policies (arguably not benefiting anyone who isn’t a pal of dear old Dave’s) are kicking women hard where it hurts. We’re disproportionately affected by benefit cuts and changes to maternity pay and legal aid, and as we make up 65% of the public sector, we’re more affected by austerity drives such as job cuts and pay caps.

Louise McCudden: Violence against women across the world, and how it is continually apologised for, excused, and legitimised, simply cannot be ignored. Young girls forced into "marriage" is little more than contracted paedophilia. The DFID says women in war zones are in more danger than soldiers.

James Bloodworth: So much of the oppression that women confront on a daily basis is a product of male insecurity - or a fear many men have of female sexuality. Whether it is the husband who beats his wife for wearing a short skirt, or the clan which forces a woman to undergo female genital mutilation, the intention is the same: to prevent women exercising sexual choice.

Minna Salami:  While feminism has changed society for the better and secured many gains across the world, imbalance is still upheld in all institutions from the religious to the political to the personal. We will need more determination than ever to protect feminism from being compromised or co-opted by the confusing, misleading messages of the backlash against women's liberation.

Jane Fae:  The big issues change according to local circumstances. In many parts of the world, women remain semi-citizens.  In the West, young women, especially, may under-estimate just how quickly some of those gains may be rolled back under guise of economic necessity and climate crisis.

Nicole Froio:  I think that modern society has turned the word 'feminism' into a dirty one. Many people think it means hating men, when it really means is a fight for equality. Another obstacle is women who hate feminism or other women. This results in many kids of shaming - slut shaming, fat-shaming, you name it. Women should help other women and not become obstacles for them.

Becca Day-Preston: I think that the narrow focus of feminism to white, middle-class, cis-gender concerns is by far the biggest issue we're facing right now. Every day, women of colour, trans women, working class women and more are excluded (sometimes actively) from a movement that should be helping them, including them, not oppressing them.

Charlotte Rachael Proudman: Right-wing feminism. Women across the globe supporting the oppression of women in the name of feminism. More women are wearing the niqab in the UK than ever before. Is covering a woman's body a feminist action? Should we be ashamed of our femininity? For me, I am saddened that women are part and parcel of a cycle of oppression.

Lucy-Ann Holmes:  I think essentially we need to see more women in power, across politics, media and business.

Caroline Criado-Perez: Perhaps the most universal issue we face is violence against women and girls. It is shameful that in the 21st century we cannot name a single country where this blight upon the lives of so many is absent. Until we combat the pervasiveness of this worldwide, women and girls cannot begin to realise their true potential.

What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?


Joan Smith:
I'd love to think future generations won't have to spend so much time thinking about inequality, rape and domestic violence. I fear they will, so the next best thing is seeing so many feminist campaigns springing up via the internet. 

Victoria Wright: I hope that by the time my daughter is an adult, her generation will have gone radically further in promoting equality between human beings. By this, I mean that women are having to put up with less crap. Maybe my daughter’s generation will have a female prime minister dedicated to reducing inequality? (I know we had that trial run in the 80s but let’s not mention that EVER again.)

Bina Shah: The main change for the next generation is the end of widespread violence against women: an end to rape, domestic violence, honour killings, female genital mutilation, acid attacks - every and any kind of violence visited upon a human being because of gender.

Nat Guest: For me, I would hope that women would be free – or at least freer than I am – from that particularly pervasive, internalised form of misogyny and rape culture; the one that tells us that if we dress a certain way and get assaulted, we deserve it, and if we flirt with a man, we somehow owe him something, and that if we walk around without a chaperone, then we’re asking for it.

Louise McCudden: A world where a girl can be trusted to choose the lifestyle that works best for her, whether that means romantic relationships with men, women, both or neither; having children or not; whatever she wants to do, she shouldn't need to be looking up at men for their approval in order for it to be validated. 

James Bloodworth: For men to stop judging women based on how many men (other women don't count for some reason) they sleep with. It's irrational, it's a huge double standard and it's completely unrealistic.

Minna Salami: I hope that young girls will come of age in a world where they can take for granted that most men are pro-feminist. To have to justify the importance of gender equality drains energy from the work that is left to do.

Jane Fae:  The main change I want to see is a shift away from liberal notions of equality. Sexist laws, attitudes and behaviours need to be tackled as a whole - and we need to stop accepting the excuse that because a female friend of a friend of this or that legislator has coped with the system as it is, all is well.

Nicole Froio: I would like her to not be put down for her gender when she speaks out for herself. I don't want her to be called a man-hater just because she talks about her beliefs. Most of all, I don't want her to live in a society where rape culture still exists. 

Becca Day-Preston: Ideally, for us to not have to fight any more. For everything to be equal and for women to finally be able to live without oppression. I'm a realist, though, so I guess it would be total reproductive autonomy. And intersectional feminism, too.

Lucy-Ann Holmes: I would love to see women represented in the media as people who say, do and think interesting and incredible things, rather than primarily being there to be looked at and judged.

Caroline Criado-Perez: I would like young girls to not have to spend so much time worrying about what they look like, and whether men or society in general deem them pretty. We must stop imposing such harsh and unrealisable goals of beauty upon young girls to enable them to grow up without the self-hatred that is so shockingly pervasive in our society.

Any thoughts to add? Please leave your comments below

 

See more Independent Voices articles for International Women's Day:

Why do we still treat single women as second-class citizens?

The week we found out about ‘Keep Calm and Rape A Lot’ t-shirts

Single women in India will continue to fight for their rights

I was in a gang, now I'm one of the men working for change in South Africa

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