As we approach another celebration to commemorate International Women’s Day, I can’t help but reflect on the measurement of how much we have actually achieved thus far. On this day 1 out of 3 women in the Pacific are subject to domestic violence within their own households, levels of pay between men and women are still vastly different and determinant of gender, female foeticide and infanticide continues to plague the Global South and sexual harassment is a sadly accepted fact of society worldwide.
I’ve often heard conversations about the term ‘feminist’ and watched as people either cower in fear, retreat in disgust or proudly proclaim their commitment. There seems to be no in between when it comes to this ‘f’ word which seems to be touted in so much shame. I have felt such sadness that those of us who whole heartedly believe in gender equality have been forced to validate why it is that our opinion is as such. The generic response to the question of feminism tends to be, ‘I am an equalist’ or ‘I am a humanist’. If one stopped for a minute to consider this, what does it actually mean?
The question of gender equality is one that we can barely even come to, considering the fact that gender equity hasn’t even been achieved. The equal participation of women in all spheres of life is one that we cannot say we have even nearly embarked upon adequately. Even in the cases of traditional matrilineal societies, yes property is handed down through the female side of the family. However, who is it that then has control of how resources and access of these properties and how any income generated towards this endeavour is utilised? You’ll find that this is once again the male members of families.
It’s sad to say that even as of today, I as an independent, educated woman in a ‘developed’ country still fear many things within society because of my gender. I am fearful to walk alone at night, I am afraid of the societal discrimination I may face because I choose to invest in my career instead of my family life. Not to mention that if I were to flip this, I would be fearful that my career may meet an untimely demise once I procreate because of a lack of childcare and flexible working options. I am fearful that I live in a society in which victims of sexual violence are blamed because perhaps they were ‘asking for it’ by wearing that skirt, or showing some leg or having one too many drinks at dinner.
So I ask you, being mindful of all of the above, is the struggle against entrenched sexism over? I think not.