This week, the world celebrated the centennial of International Women’s Day with marches, conferences, and other consciousness-raising activities to remind us of how far we’ve come in the fight for equal rights. Consider this – when the day was proposed by German political activist Clara Zetkin way back in 1911, women in this country didn’t even have the right to vote, own property, or run for office. Hell, we weren’t even legally recognized as persons in Canada until 1929.
And while it’s true that women, particularly those lucky enough to be living in the Western world, enjoy a sense of freedom unparalleled at any time in human history, have we really won the war for equality, thereby rendering the concept of feminism obsolete?
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente seems to think so. In a controversial piece earlier this week, she laments that International Women’s Day doesn’t have much significance in the West anymore, likening it to a marketing opportunity or “an excuse for women’s grievance groups to keep griping”. She backs this up with statistics about women’s ever-growing enrollment in post-secondary institutions, a life expectancy that surpasses men’s, and couples opting for girls when seeking out high-tech sex selection.
I think she’s completely missing the point. Feminism is just as relevant now as ever. According to the recent CBC documentary, “The F Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist“, women make up 53% of the world’s population but own only 1% of the world’s wealth. And while women constitute more than half the work force, they still take home an average of 20% less pay. That sure doesn’t sound like equality to me.
And while true equality may still be nothing more than a pipe dream, we need to ensure we don’t backslide and lose the rights and freedoms gained by our first and second wave sisters. According to World Economic Forum’s 2005 Global Gender Gap Report, Canada ranked 7th in gender equality. The group bases their rankings on women’s roles in four key areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
In 2010, Canada plunged to 20th place. This could be attributed to the under-representation of women in parliament, where women hold just 21% of the seats. It could also be due to what Kathleen Lahey of Queen’s University Law School described as a “systematic erosion of women’s rights in Canada over the past decade”, with everything from women’s shelters to sexual assault crisis centers being defunded under the current Harper government.
One of the most successful methods of having your voice heard is grassroots political action. However, women are up to 50% less likely than men to seriously consider running for office. Third wave feminist author Amy Richards identifies two major fears that hold them back: a fear of being unable to raise sufficient campaign funds, and a fear of exposing themselves, their families and their personal lives.
Because remember, we still live in a day and age where just putting yourself out there can get you called a whole slew of sexist and downright misogynistic names, as documented in the Pyramid of Egregiousness by the media advocacy site NameItChangeIt.org.
Once we can start removing some of the negative connotations associated with feminism, we can reclaim it for its original purposes- social, political and economic equality of the sexes. That is why I’d like to go on the record as a foxy, feisty third wave feminist, and I hope that like-minded men and women around me will be proud to do the same!
* * *
Lastly, the fabulous local and online sex toy retailer Joy Toyz is having a contest to name their new Vulva Puppet to be used at demonstrations and home parties. The winner gets a $25 gift certificate to the site.
First, go watch the video on youtube – http://youtu.be/mve1mQTQbyg
Then, go to their Facebook page to submit your entry. The contest closes on Sunday, March 13th at 8 pm.
Photo created at someecards.com- seriously, the most ridiculous and hilarious e-card site out there.