#InternationalWomensDay – why I don’t think it should be ‘celebrated’

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Let me say that again.

International Women’s Day is not something to be ‘celebrated’

It is a call to action. A force of nature. A platform from which we get to tell the world exactly what it is like to live in it as a woman. And at the moment, that’s not something I can give to anyone as a positive wish without a list of caveats a mile long. This is not good enough. This has to change.  

…and yet what’s the first thing I see on Twitter this morning?

Where’s ‘International Men’s Day’?

Leaving aside that it does exist, and the fact that this is the sort of ‘rip it down’ bullshittery that I’ve already taken apart on this blog, here’s a few snippets of information to put this sort of gripe into perspective.

Here are some UK facts and figures about women’s experiences of Domestic Violence: 

1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during their lifetimes.

6-10% will experience it within any given year

1 call every minute is made to the police  to report domestic violence

Out of the people who reported incidents of domestic violence:

45% were raped by current husbands or partners

9% by former partners

29% of perpetrators were otherwise known to the victim.

Only 17% were raped by strangers

2 women every week are killed by violent partners/ex-partners. This accounts for 40% of all female homicides.

Women’s Aid estimates that only 24% of domestic violence incidents are reported. So if there’s one call every minute to the police reporting violence, that means there are another 3 incidents per minute not being reported.

And when they are reported – these incidents are not given the serious consideration that they should be. Let’s see what Patrick Stewart had to say about this!

Curiously, I never felt fear for myself and he never struck me, an odd moral imposition that would not allow him to strike a child. The situation was barely tolerable: I witnessed terrible things, which I knew were wrong, but there was nowhere to go for help. Worse, there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.

Patrick Stewart

Let’s compare some facts and figures for men and women in the UK now:

Out of those who had been subjected to domestic physical violence:

48% of women have also been subject to frightening threats, compared to only 9% of men

Women accounted for 89% of all those who had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence

So in short:

  • Women are more likely to be physically assaulted than men
  • Women are more likely to live in fear of being assaulted than men
  • Women are 9 times as likely to be repeatedly assaulted than men

41% we subjected to emotional or financial abuse, compare to only 28% of men

Women are more likely to be subjected to financial abuse, because their earning power is not as great in the workforce and they are more likely to struggle to return to work/remain financially independent after having children. A woman’s wages will be largely eaten up by childcare costs, or she will have to give up work to care for her child and may struggle to get back to an equal position once the child is eligible for free care. Women working full time in the UK earn on average 14.9% less than man who work full time.  (statistic taken from Everyday Sexism)

source

For those men who do suffer domestic abuse We’re not denying that men suffer. But women suffer more, suffer more often and suffer more violently. If you are experiencing this, take what’s happening to you and multiply it by a factor of 4 for frequently, 5 for fear and 9 for longevity. We aren’t against you. We are beside you, ahead of you even, in this fight. Telling us that we should put our fight to one side to focus on your plight will, quite frankly, only result in one thing: More Dead Women. Yes, it is that blunt. Help is available for you, and we don’t detract from that.  The only war here is against violence – not each other as victims.

As this is International Women’s Day, let’s look a little wider: 

35% of women in the world in 2013 have experienced violence

That’s more than 1 in 3.

Nearly a third of women who’ve been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of their partner

38% of all murders of women are committed by their partners

Source

‘It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in conflict.’
Major General Patrick Carnmaert, former UN Peacekeeping Operation commander in DRC

Only in 1998 did the UN pass a resolution classing sexual violence in conflict, including rape, as a war crime.

At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labour and bonded labour.

55% identified trafficking survivors were trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

That’s almost 12 million women being forced into the sex trade against their will every year compared to 250,000 men. 48 TIMES AS MANY. 

Source

Women simply do not feel safe in this world. That is enough of a call for action.

83% of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment in the streets. (Everyday Sexism)

As many as 95% of women in India feel unsafe in public spaces. (Everday Sexism)

The destruction of monuments is seen as more newsworthy than ‘sanctioned’ crimes against women and children be the same regime.

Women who fight back against rape are blamed for their experiences of violence.

So are the ones who don’t fight back. 

If they are raped at home, they are told their should leave.

But if they are raped outside of home, they are told they have brought it on themselves by not being at home.

Women are expected to accept violence as part of their lives, even among the youth of our international cultures. In the UK, as many as 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls believe that is acceptable to hit a woman or force her to have sex. 603 Million women live in countries where domestic violence is still not classed as a crime.

Those are just the stats on violence, abuse and death. Naturally these issues take the lead when it comes to a day of action/attention such as today.

But there’s more at stake than violence/abuse. Even if a woman is lucky (yes, lucky!) enough to walk through her life without fear of being abused, raped or murdered – there’s still a lot of other stuff that she has to deal with which a man will not give a second thought to.

For a personalised view of these experiences, I suggest you visit Everyday Sexism

If you’d rather have some statistics, here you go:

All of these stats are taken from Everyday Sexism, which have been cited and logged. You want to check up on them? Go buy the book.

At the current rate, it will take another 150 years for the number of elected male and female officials in government in the UK to be equal.

1/3 girls aged 16-18 experience unwanted sexual touching at school. And if the girl reacts, she is blamed for her actions.

Only 5% of sports coverage in the UK relates to female sports

Men write 80% of newspaper articles. Interestingly, 84% of the subjects of front page newspaper articles are male dominated or refer to male subejct specialists.

12.5% of women have left a job because of sexual harassment.

More than 70% of recruitment agencies have been asked by clients to avoid hiring women who are pregnant, already mothers or who are of ‘child bearing age’

30,000 women lose their jobs each year because of pregnancy discrimination (8% of all pregnant women)

20% of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in the UK are unemployed. Compared to 7% of White women.

Have I made my point yet? You should all know by now that I don’t do subtlety.

This is why I am a feminist.

This is why I protest against books/films like 50 Shades Of Grey being marketed as a romance/desirable relationship model.

This is why I feel so strongly about gender politics and issues.

This is why. All of this.

Because so much of this is my life. And more of it forms the everyday lives of my sisters who are of different colours, races, nationalities, faiths and sexual orientations/identities. And because if I lived their lives, I know my world would be a much darker and far more dangerous place.

International Women’s Day is not a holiday to wish to someone as a happy event. I hate the fact that this day exists, because it reminds me of the brutal necessity of raising these issues, challenging them, tackling them, fighting back against them, speaking out against them.

This is not a sociological experiment for you to ponder over and question the statistics of. This is the reality for millions and millions of women across the world, just because they were born female rather than male, or because they identify as female rather than male.

This is the cold stark reality. Compared to a man, a woman born into this world today is:

  • At greater risk of experiencing violence
  • At greater risk of a violent death
  • expected to accept violence as part of her life
  • Conditioned to accept violence as part of her life
  • Less likely to be employed
  • More likely to become unemployed
  • Paid less for doing the same hours of work
  • Less likely to be elected to a position of political authority
  • More likely to be sexualised at a young age

These things have an impact on men too. Of course they do. The thing is, they are often seen as ‘reverse sexism’. It’s not reverse sexism at all. It’s all down to sexism against women. This is a double edged sword and you will be sliced up with it too.

Men are more likely to commit suicide than women (3-5 times more likely according the stats in Everyday Sexism). Why? Because showing feelings, getting help and seeking assistance are seen as ‘girly’ things to do, something that men should be ashamed of.

Men are less likely to be given leave to go home sick from work and are pressured to return earlier than women are. Why? Because women are seen as weaker than men and men are expected to be strong.

Men are less likely to secure leave from work during school holidays, even if they have children. Why? Because caring for children is seen as a woman’s role, and men are supposed to devolve that to the mothers and stay in work.

At the end of all these things I arrive back at the first statement I made at the top of this article.

International Women’s Day is not something to be celebrated. It is a call to action. A force of nature. A platform from which we get to tell the world exactly what it is like to live in it as a woman. And at the moment, that’s not something I can give to anyone as a positive wish without a list of caveats a mile long. This is not good enough. This has to change.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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