Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy International Women's Day

Amid the hustle and bustle of Shrove Tuesday, World Book Day, the space between the Oscars and the Oliviers, with the many burdens, questions, and general detritus of every life bearing down on us, the fact that today is International Women's Day is something that may have been missed. Enshrined in institutions, days like these can lose their relevance, or simply become lost in the noise of daily routine. Why does it matter? Why should we care? How important is it that today be a special day for women, when there is no International Men's Day?

The answers to such questions might be different for everyone, but, to me, it is important to remember, and recognise, the achievements of women throughout the ages. Why, after all, shouldn't we celebrate creative thinkers, authors, painters, educators, or crafters whose work was denigrated, criticised, undermined, undervalued, or simply forgotten because of their gender? I enjoy knitting and crafting, but I am immensely grateful that, thanks to the struggles of women who have gone before me, I am able to knit without denying my intelligence, without being categorised as 'weak and feeble woman', and that knitting and crafting is a choice, not an obligation. I have the choice to dress as I like, to speak my mind, to make friends with anyone I choose to, to work, to earn my living. I went to university. I was awarded a degree. I vote. These things, that we might take for granted, are all hard-won, and so I say, thank you. Thank you to thinkers, writers, and activists, because without you, there would be no international women's day.

Such reasoning may seem backward thinking, but it is even more important to remember that equality has not yet been reached, and that the International part of International Women's Day involves us all. The best account of this that I have read is Mariella Frostrup's piece in Sunday's Observer. It is International Women's Day for a reason - the aim is not women's equality in Britain, but around the world, and there is, on that scale, a huge amount of work still to be done. I cannot do it justice, but I thought is particularly interesting that policies and practices which improve Gender Equality improve the economic position of a country, so that, unsurprisingly perhaps, improving women's rights and position improves the situation of the country as a whole.

So, this is why I am proud to call myself a feminist, and proud to celebrate today. If you still need convincing (even after reading the Observer article), how about the Yarn Harlot's post?

Happy International Women's Day!