Should International Women’s Day be a reason to “celebrate”?

Is it even appropriate to say “Happy International Women’s Day”?

They are both questions I have been thinking about since International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020… a day when I saw lots of amazing social media posts about all the wonderfully inspiring women in our own personal lives and not too much else.

Honestly, I felt a bit uncomfortable, I felt that the point of the day was being missed.

Of course there were blogs and articles marking women’s achievements, modern and throughout history. Achievements we quite rightly should be celebrating every single day, achievements which have paved the way for women today and generations to come.

What I felt was lacking in 2020 were articles or posts on the miles and miles that women still need to go to achieve equality. The equality that women are still not afford in so many areas of life even in the 21st century; career, maternity rights, equal pay, sexual rights… but also, the subconscious bias that women face in society every day. The subconscious bias written into the very fabric of our lives which places women as the less dominant, less worthy sex. The bias which is so intrinsically intertwined with how we are raised, not just in Western society but globally, that those who exercise it don’t even necessarily recognise that is what they are doing. They don’t see themselves as sexist but their actions say otherwise. [I will go into more detail on this in a separate article.]

Hence my initial questions.

Considering the obstacles women still face today when trying to achieve equality, obstacles I face myself, should IWD not be a celebration but also, more importantly, a day to take stock of just how far we are still yet to go.

To have a day to share and celebrate all the incredible women we know personally is undeniably a lovely opportunity. The women in our lives are outstanding; Mums, Nans, sisters, friends, Aunts, exceptional career women, students and young women with huge dreams that they will one day accomplish. Dreams that can come true because of the achievements of women who came before them.

To only celebrate though would be a mistake.

To only celebrate would be an insult to women who face sexism everyday and would undermine all the work and campaigning done by men and women to overcome the discrimination women suffer.

All we ask for is equality and to achieve that, equality of opportunity, which will only be possible if we tackle the subconscious bias against women.

I believe that IWD can be a celebration and should be; how far women have come in just 50 years deserves celebrating. The women we love in our lives deserve celebrating but not at the expense of ignoring the work still left to be done.

International Women’s Day 2021 has already highlighted this with the theme #choosetochallenge.

It reminds those, especially on social media (many, many women included) that today isn’t just to post nice pictures of the women you love or admire but there’s a much more serious underlying message that women have the right to choose to challenge those who question their decisions, choices, abilities, sexual freedom and opportunities (or lack of) because they are women. These challenges have been highlighted in recent years, especially considering how adversely women have been affected in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and so women are now prepared to choose to challenge the system.

Quite rightly so. It is our right.

There is so, so much work left to be done.

The future is bright. If we continue to fight for it.

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