What is the point of International Women’s Day?

by Lucy Ashton

We’ve had International Women’s Day and soon it’s mother’s day so maybe March should become girls’ month. Oh, sorry, can I call them “girls”? Even I’m not sure what’s politically correct any more when it comes to feminism.

Twitter was flooded with #iwd hashtags this week but *whispers* I really don’t know what it’s all meant to be about? And most of my girlfriends don’t either.

My local city council stated “it celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of the past, present and future” and listed a host of events.

I liked the sound of this, so clicked on the list to find out what was happening. Women-only chairobic sessions at a number of churches, a taster in zumba  and henna painting for Somali women. Suffragette Adela Pankhurst, who lived and worked in my home city of Sheffield, would be so proud.

So it’s no wonder the day passed by unnoticed for all the smart, sparky women I know. They were too busy running their businesses and rearing children.

And isn’t that the crux of the problem with all this? What exactly are we fighting for in Britain in 2012?

Women can drive, go to university, become a captain of industry or wear a bikini and sell their wedding photos to Hello magazine.

We can take contraception, have an abortion, undergo IVF, adopt and become single mothers. And I can get married, get divorced or have a civil partnership. Hell, I can even become a man if I want to.

Don’t doubt for a minute that I’m not eternally grateful to the campaigning women over the centuries who made all this possible (my mum and gran included). But now we’ve achieved so much, isn’t it time to reassess our priorities?

I’ve been a journalist for 18 years in South Yorkshire so if anyone knows about a sexist industry in a rough part of town it’s me. Yet I’ve never encountered any discrimination on any of the newspapers I worked on

When I started at a leading regional evening paper, there were five vacancies for reporters and each one was filled by a woman. Imagine the uproar if that had been the other way around.

During my time there, two women ran the newsdesk, I was political editor and the roles of health writer, business magazine editor and crime reporter were held by women. We also had a female trade union rep.

Journalism is notoriously a tough trade so we had several disputes with management over low pay, long hours and working conditions. But these weren’t women-only issues, they affected the men just as much and we fought as a united front.

Nowadays my concerns are about the crippling cost of childcare, education, crime and the NHS – exactly the same priorities my husband has.

So isn’t time we changed the focus from women to families?

The charity Family Action says people are spending as little as £2 a day on food as parents “kill themselves” to pay bills.

Meanwhile, Netmums’ “Family in Crisis” report found many families are facing financial meltdown with over 70 per cent ‘on the edge’ of surviving.

Their survey of 2,000 members found  a quarter of families are living on credit cards, five per cent take payday loans and one in 100 have turned to loan sharks to stay afloat.

Almost half of families have sold or pawned goods to make money to live and 16 per cent of parents are being treated for a stress-related illness due to lack of cash.

And note the words in these two surveys  – “family” and “parents” not women. This is a battle for everyone.

Yes, there are still huge issues affecting women in developing  countries, no one is disputing that. But will shaking my booty at zumba highlight their cause?

What would work is acknowledging that dads and husbands are struggling too. After all, thanks to the Tory-led government, we’re all in this together.

Lucy Ashton has been a journalist for almost two decades and is a former political editor of a regional newspaper. She is currently a news editor.

Tags: , ,

3 Responses to “What is the point of International Women’s Day?”

  1. Tris says:

    Could we not just focus on “people”? Some single men who aren’t dads or husbands or indeed anything except single men, are struggling too, under this government from hell.

    And the worst is yet to come…

  2. swatantra says:

    The key is in ‘international’.
    Whilst women in some parts of the world enjoy freedom, in otherparts they parts they are oppressed. And the sad fact is that their Right to basic human rights and education and freedomof movement is denied them. And the depressing thing is that some of this so-called culture and belirf and traditon is carried on in their new homelands from which the are unlikely ever to leave.
    The more I think about it the angry it makes me; and the sad thing is that they are conditioned by male familiy members in thinking this is the way it has to be.
    Well it doesn’t; and iit is basically wrong; and it is not morally right.
    And International Womens Day is the opportunity to say that that mindset has to change.

  3. Maybe International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to talk about women. But problems this article is about touch not only women, they touch different people, men, women, single, married all over the world. A huge amount of people all over the world are struggling against poverty every day of their life. Money that people get working on their jobs are not enough to make ends meet, especially if we talk about families. If you are single it’s easier to find a way to survive, but if you have a child than you are responsible for your baby and you should think of your child at first. That is why people take out loans. It’s no matter if you’re a man or woman, the question “Where should I get money to survive?” is asked by different people all over the world.

Leave a Reply