So what does International Women’s Day mean to me?? Well it is a celebration of the range of women’s roles in the world: mother, daughter, sister, lover, and friend. But also the opportunity for the world to focus on the challenges women still face in the world.
In this country, women regularly voice their opinion in the media, and then receive abuse on social media.
As a vocal coach, I am particularly aware of women’s voices and needs being heard. In this country, women regularly voice their opinion in the media, and then receive abuse on social media. This is not about their opinions but purely because they are women. Their appearance; morals and other personal issues are attacked. This is principally to silence these women. I personally know sassy intelligent women that have been attacked on Twitter; who were totally traumatised by the experience. They decided to delete their Twitter accounts, thus retreating from the debate and silencing themselves. I fully understand their decision, but the bigger picture is that another contribution from an intelligent woman is not being heard.
The Every Day Sexism Project, run by Laura Bates highlights the constant ways our society silences women going about their lives.
One only needs to look at the vicious comments in the Women’s section of the Daily Telegraph to learn that there are plenty of people out there, who do not want to hear, or understand views from a woman. If you contribute to the debate, with a balanced, considered argument, as I have, you are aggressively attacked. I no longer contribute, so again have been silenced. Likewise, the Every Day Sexism Project, run by Laura Bates highlights the constant ways our society silences women going about their lives.
Yet in UK at least we ARE able to have an opinion, just as we have the opportunity to be educated. Malala Youysafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to campaign for girls to attend school. Since her remarkable recovery, she is continuing to highlight the problems girls have receiving a basic education in some communities. The WHO highlights that educating girls is invaluable for any community, since they learn about hygiene, health issues and contraceptive options.
I still remember a horrific situation I stumbled upon when I lived in Kenya. I was doing some travelling with a male companion. We met some local villagers. The women all cowered: their haunting, pleading eyes trying to catch my attention, whilst they played with my long blond hair. The men joked with my companion about the benefits of FGM; “We get them to do what we want; we never have any problems with them; they’re in such pain so we are the bosses” they laughed, whilst Boney M was playing on a portable ghetto blaster. I parted ways with my travel companion after that, but still think about those women, whose voices and needs had been so cruelly and painfully removed.
So International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight the great things women do, but also to create a space for a balanced debate on women’s issues. It is great that the media this week has included a number of features about ‘women’s issues’ and if these are highlighted, there will hopefully be some changes.
And as to the Daily Telegraph trolls: there is an International Men’s Day on November 19th, which I also celebrate. I look forward to receiving an invitation to an event you are organising.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Susan Heaton Wright