To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists

A common misconception is that all the battles for women have already been won


“Ladies first,” I often hear. Yet around the world, in virtually aspect of life, women are coming in last, getting the raw end of the deal.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. The existence of such a day irks some people. It makes them uncomfortable, annoyed, angry. Many dismiss it as irrelevant, unfair even. “What about International Men’s Day?” they ask.

These are usually the same people who, come Black History Month, wander round scratching their heads demanding to know why we haven’t earmarked an entire month to explore white history.

International Men’s Day is perhaps not marked on the calendar because every day of every year is already Men’s Day.

A common misconception is that all the battles for women have already been won. We’ve got the right to vote, to work outside the home, to own property – what else do we want? A hell of a lot, as it happens, but also, not very much at all: just the basics.

We’ll start with being able to walk down the street at night without fear of being shouted at, followed, grabbed, or worse. More than a third of all women worldwide – 35.6 per cent – will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organisation.

Every year 60 million girls are assaulted on their way to school; in fact, in some parts of the world a girl is more likely to be raped than go to school. Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic and the UK is far from immune.

Last year the Office for National Statistics revealed that approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year. Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year. Many, many more cases are never reported. This isn’t somebody else’s problem, it is all of ours.

Read more: International Women's Day - here's why it matters

We need International Women’s Day to remind ourselves that hundreds of millions of boys and girls are growing up in a world where violence against women is acceptable, female subjugation the norm.

Anjali Kwatra, head of news and current affairs at the international development charity ActionAid, says: “International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women and all their achievements, but also to highlight what still needs to change. There are still so many issues to fight for.”

She adds: “For ActionAid it’s also a moment to stand in solidarity with women across the world who are suffering violence, conflict or economic exploitation. We can change these if we fight together.”

Women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work and produce 50 per cent of its food, but earn only 10 per cent of its income and own one per cent of its property. In the UK women are still paid significantly less than men and are conspicuous by their absence from the spheres of business and politics.

Opening the door for a female colleague chirping, “Ladies first!” doesn’t make up for the fact that us ladies earn on average £5,000 less than our male counterparts. £5,000 to have the door opened for me lest I injure my feeble lady-arm? I’ll take the cash, thanks. Time for feminists to pipe down with all our bitching and moaning? We’ll shut up when we know we’re getting paid as much as the guy who sits next to us.

International Women’s Day, standing up for women’s rights, the Feminist movement: they are absolutely not about hating or excluding men. They are about loving women. Women’s rights is not just a women’s issue: it’s very much a men’s issue. The burden for change is so often placed on the woman but we need men to stand up and fight for their sisters, mothers, wives, lovers, friends, to challenge current definitions of masculinity.

To those who can’t see the point of International Women’s Day: you are the very reason it exists. International Women’s Day is commemorated because gender inequality still persists. The day this ceases to be a reality is the day we can erase it from our calendars.

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