Today is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is #BEBOLDFORCHANGE because the World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186.
How completely crazy is this? I find it hard to comprehend how any inequality can still be allowed to exist in today’s world, let alone that it might take another 170 years until we achieve true gender parity.
I count myself very lucky that my personal life is filled with both men and women who treat each other as equals, and that I work for a large company with a female CEO and where many of the senior leadership positions are occupied by women. Most of the time inequality is not an issue I’m aware of in my day-to-day life, and I know I’m lucky in that respect. And yet I do see it displayed in small ways all the time across the media. Just last week I was Googling Brie Larson and all I got back were tabloid articles about how her cleavage on The One Show had caused a social media storm the previous night. She was on the show to promote her latest film, not that you’d know it from the headlines. The issue of inequality is always present and is not worlds away from my life. Even here in Britain, where we have a female monarch and a female prime minister, gender issues are still part of our society and culture, and possibly will be for another 170 years.
So I’m taking the opportunity to celebrate some of the moments that high-profile women have inspired me recently. Their words remind me that gender issues do still exist in all kinds of ways, but also that people are always willing to challenge them.
- Last week Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia Perez responded to Polish MEP Janusz Korwin Mikke’s sexist rant about the pay gap, where he says that ‘women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller and they are less intelligent’.
“According to what you’re saying and your theory I don’t have the right to be here as a member of parliament. And I know it hurts you, I know it hurts and worries you that today women can sit in this house and represent European citizens with the same rights as you. I am here to defend European women against men like you.” – Iratxe Garcia Perez
- In the last few days Emma Watson has had to defend her right to be both a feminist and an attractive woman, so let’s remember her interview in Esquire magazine last year where she spoke out about the pay gap in Hollywood.
“We are not supposed to talk about money, because people will think you’re “difficult” or a “diva”. But there’s a willingness now to be like, “Fine. Call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘feminazi’, call me ‘difficult’, call me a “First World feminist’, call me whatever you want, it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens.”
“Hollywood is just a small piece of a gigantic puzzle but it’s in the spotlight. Whether you are a woman on a tea plantation in Kenya, or a stockbroker on Wall Street, or a Hollywood actress, no one is being paid equally.” – Emma Watson
- During the US election campaign trail Michelle Obama expressed her disgust at Donald Trump’s sexist comments and attitude to women in general. It’s worth reading the whole thing.
“The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want to a woman.
“It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.” – Michelle Obama
- Model Emily Bador uses Instagram to challenge the objectification of women’s bodies.
“You don’t owe it to anyone to be perfect. You are not less worthy because you don’t have a flat stomach. You are not less valid because you don’t shave your armpits. You are not less beautiful because of your scars, stretch marks, eczema, acne. I’m just so sick and tired of the objectification of women’s bodies and how it’s seemingly ok to dictate a woman’s worth based on what she looks like… (this also obviously applies to men, and those who don’t conform to gender binary stereotypes too, inclusivity and intersectionality is key)” – Emily Bador
“I’m a forthright, intellectual woman who’s never had a problem with confidence. But I’ve spent 20 years wearing clothes designed to make me feel ill at ease—in both my body and mind. It sickens me, remembering just how self-conscious I’ve been about my clothing at the exact moments when my attention should have been directed elsewhere.” – Lucy Rycroft-Smith
- After the sad passing of Carrie Fisher, the world remembered her strong feminist ideals rather than just her gold bikini. I narrowed masses of her thought-provoking quotes down to just three.
“What I didn’t realize, back when I was this 25-year-old pinup for geeks… was that I had signed an invisible contract to stay looking the exact same way for the next 30 to 40 years. Well, clearly I’ve broken that contract.” – Carrie Fisher
“Screw beauty, it’s superficial anyway, and my other attributes matter way more than my appearance.” – Carrie Fisher
“Men don’t age better than women, they’re just allowed to age.” – Carrie Fisher
#BEBOLDFORCHANGE is the 2017 motto for a reason. Speaking out against inequality and declaring yourself a feminist comes with backlash, as many of the above women found out. But if nobody does then we can definitely expect it to take 170 years for the changes to happen. So let’s all make an extra effort #BEBOLDFORCHANGE.
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