Thoughts | Feminism + International Women’s Day

IWD

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! Since 1914, IWD has been celebrated annually on the 8th March. What used to be a very political event (it was originally called the International Working Women’s Day) has turned more into a day generally dedicated to women. However, it still celebrates the economic, cultural, social and political achievements of women. Which, in turn, is the mission of one specific movement: feminism. But what exactly is a feminist? A quick google search shows the following definition:

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In short, feminism, per definition, is a movement for women to have equal rights. Sounds fair. So as a woman, you should naturally want to be feminist, right? Well, yes. Definitely. Equal rights should be taken for granted. So yay to being a feminist.
But here is what feminism shouldn’t be: a movement for downgrading and hating men.
It makes sense how this has evolved as, in theory, without men, women wouldn’t necessarily be a minority with less rights. Plus, it is always easier to blame issues on someone else. But would that get rid of equality problem? Surely, it wouldn’t.

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Over the years, feminism has become a massive trend word. Interestingly, New York Fashion Week this year brought some political messages with it through shirts advocating feminism (see picture above) which is yet another beautiful example of fashion being the reflection of society. The question though is, does anyone know the real meaning behind it or is it just another fashion trend? You can spot teenage girls wearing “Feminist” or “Girl Power” shirts. But if you were to ask them, would they really know the meaning behind it? Probably not.
Living in developed countries, we are not facing equality issues in the working world as much anymore, especially when compared to Eastern countries. Although there are many claims that women earn less than men, a little research reveals that this isn’t necessarily true. Often, figures are based on average numbers and don’t take certain circumstances into account such as pregnancies. Because yes, women do have the gift of getting pregnant and might or might not take some time off after their pregnancies to care for their children. And of course, this will influence certain numbers. It just makes sense that on average, women over 30 earn less than men over 30 purely because there are not as many women working. Or, in other words, because some women are freely choosing to work less and to focus more on their family. This is not to say that this is the case everywhere, but this is just one of many general myths that people seem to believe and that need to be considered.

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Looking at developing countries, this issue looks extremely different, particularly in the fashion industry. 1 out of 6 people worldwide are working in the fashion industry and about 80% of all garment workers are female. And sadly, many are struggling under sexual harassment, low wages, poor living and working conditions and overall inequality. Yet, we, in the industrialised countries, are hardly concerned about that. Because firstly, there is a lack of transparency in the supply chain and we do not even hear about these issues in the media until a tragedy is taking place. And secondly, we are facing the problem of physical proximity. Because this issue is not within our surroundings we have a lower level of cognitive empathy. In other words, because we are not directly affected by this, we simply don’t care. And yet we are pleading for equality and feminism.

Looking at Emma Watson and her HeForShe speech for UN Women, it shows how many more problems are actually lurking under the surface and the pressure that is not only facing women but also men. Because in the end, gender equality is affecting everyone – no matter what gender. Just a couple of days ago Emma got criticised for a photoshoot done by the incredible Tim Walker for Vanity Magazine. Why? Because she was partly exposing her chest which, according to media, is not appropriate for a feminist. And this is yet just another example of the missing knowledge around the term of “feminism”.

As a “feminist” you should feel empowered and confident about yourself and your body. As a “feminist” you are supporting other women. As a “feminist” you should have the freedom to do whatever you want to do. But guess what, that does not only apply to women. It applies to everyone, no matter what gender, age or status. Everyone should have the opportunity to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything else. And anyone who believes that this should be focused around a gender is simply a sexist. However, per definition, feminism only supports equality for women and not for men. And because of this and the fact that feminism has become a such trend word in the mainstream that it has almost lost its meaning, I simply do not believe in calling myself a feminist.

Still, I do understand why Emma has decided to call herself a feminist. Quite frankly, I would do the same if I were her. It’s a simple psychological and marketing-related thing. It’s always easier to throw a certain term out there for the public. Humans always have a desire to name things and to create certain associations. We feel comforted and less lonely by the thought of other people aspiring or being the same as us. Whether this is actually helping with the proper understanding of something or whether it is rather creating more misunderstandings is another story.
So coming back to the International Women’s Day, I am admiring Luise Zietz’s achievement in 1910 of proposing an annual holiday to promote equal rights as back then, this was a huge issue. And I am overly happy about the achievements up until this very day and believe that the feminism movement played a vital part in this. But as times change, new challenges come up and actions have to be adapted. And yes, we are still far away from an overall equal world. But I personally believe that now, it should not be about equality. It should be about freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of doing whatever anyone wants. And at the same time, it is about respect and empathy. You may not necessarily comprehend people’s actions but you can always respect their choices. You may not be facing the problems that other people have but you can still show compassion and empathy. It is about positivity and being kind to other people, to the surroundings we live in, and most importantly, to ourselves. This should be the long-term goal. Until we reach this status, the International Women’s Day shall be a milestone and a yearly reminder of how far we have come. It should be a reminder of the strength and power that women have. And, at the same time it should be a reminder of the importance of women supporting each other and remembering that it’s not always a competition. So go out and show some love to your mum, grandma, aunties, girlfriends and yourself! Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!


All images used that do not belong to me have been linked back to the original source.

 

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