International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day has gone round again. Time to join in communal pampering sessions, cupcake icing classes and free nail art; please excuse me but I cannot hide my cynicism any longer. The powers-that-be must be laughing all the way to their actual banks while we celebrate our jiggly bits and “empower” ourselves down at the local library, that is if we are lucky enough to still have one in the Tory theme park our communities have become.
The slogan for this year’s International Women’s Month is “Be Bold For Change”, which is so broad a headline it is almost meaningless, much like a lot of what is peddled as “feminism” today. I’m referring to the commodified feminism-lite which is used by an increasing number of unethical global brands in order to extract more perfumed pounds from women’s tiny, impractical pockets. Meanwhile, feminism is actually the term used to describe a social justice movement: the Women’s Liberation Movement, which is about liberating women and the whole of society from male supremacy. This revolution won’t be brought about by diet sodas and natural make-up, though we may need refreshments along the way but this is hardly the point.
Every March we see the usual cutting edge reports, presenting fresh, yet uncannily familiar, statistics on the pay gap, culture gap or political gap; as if this is something we don’t already know. We all know there aren’t enough women MPs, we know there aren’t enough women in senior positions in business, law, policing, education, media and any other area of mainstream power you can bear to look at. Rather than reporting on this every March, perhaps it is time to be bold and actually change the record?
I’ve heard male business leaders and MPs bleating on many times about how it would make no difference if we had women-only shortlists or quotas for women on boards because women wouldn’t necessarily do anything differently to men and so men can run things just as well. Like they’ve done for millennia I suppose, bringing us to the edge of a planet crisis and electing a poster-boy for ‘toxic masculinity’ as leader of the ‘free world’. Can’t have it both ways guys, if it would make no difference then there should be no problem trying it, right? Just bring in quotas for women on boards, phase them in to 50%, and that means all sorts of women, not just the White ones. Just bring in all women shortlists for political parties – like Labour do already – and let’s make Westminster look like the people it attempts to deserve to govern.
Of course some will whine that this isn’t fair. Too many people really believe that every powerful White man has got to where he is on merit alone, overlooking the centuries of sexist affirmative action in favour of men that has got us into this mess. What people don’t understand about attempts towards equality is that they are redressing an existing imbalance; if society wasn’t already so unequal, racist and sexist we wouldn’t need interventions on behalf of women and other excluded groups. If people are sick of hearing about Women’s Day and equal opportunities and gender awareness…so am I. I’m sick of a world that’s been so glaringly unfair for so long we now can’t see it as anything but normal. Systematically, subtly and not so subtly excluding half the population from the present infrastructures of power is not normal and we all pay a price for it, some pay with their talents undiscovered and dreams stifled, some pay with their lives.
I don’t have magic answers about what can be done. But, I know that magic happens when women get together and plot action and activism. I know in the present climate we’ll be doing a lot of defensive firefighting, we may need to spend more time marching in the streets, and if we must dance and jiggle through Women’s Month, let’s form circles round our threatened Women’s Aid refuges, let’s sashay into our council chambers and demand funding for Rape Crisis, let’s chip our nail varnish folding fliers. Let us practice daily acts of resistance, through March and always, until revolution is won.