Beyond March 8th
“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”G. D. Anderson
It has been 110 years since the first International Women’s Day was observed. This radical feminist movement was born, in 1908, when 15,000 female garment workers marched through the streets of New York City demanding fair wages and safe working conditions. This protest was followed in 1909 by the Uprising of the 20,000 — a three-month-long general strike organized by Jewish immigrant workers in the city’s garment district, calling for fair pay and better working conditions.
Last week, on March 8th, the International Women’s organization asked us to Choose to Challenge — a rallying call to action to come together to strive for equality for all women. We came together on that day to celebrate women’s accomplishments and to rally for equality.
But are we on track to attaining equality or, is this event, once a progressive feminist movement, becoming merely symbolic? Wouldn’t you think that after more than 100 years, the glass ceiling would have been shattered?
According to their report, 2020 Global Gender Gap, the World Economic Forum states that gender parity will not occur for nearly a century. After more than 100 years, we have not yet shattered the glass ceiling, nor does true gender equality yet exist anywhere in the world. Our accomplishments and contributions are often not recognized or valued.
It is disheartening to realize we are still striving for gender equality today. The statistics are shocking. The United Nations study, the World’s Women 2020: Trends and Statistics, found that one in three women will experience gender-based violence in their lifetime. Women are still paid less than men for the same job. Women do more unpaid domestic work. Women still lag behind men in the corporate world — only 28% of managerial positions were held by females in 2019, and less than 20% of women held positions of CEO globally in 2020. Also, female representation in the political arena still has not reached parity. There have been small gains — the UN reports that there has been some progress in attaining universal primary education. However, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely threaten any positive measures made towards equality. When disaster strikes, women usually suffer the most from the economic and social costs. These are sobering facts.
As we continue the fight for equality, we must not overlook how the intersectionality of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity are further barriers to parity for some women. Often women who face these forms of discrimination are forgotten in the struggle for equality. They often suffer more disparity than their counterparts. Also, their achievements and contributions go unacknowledged or dismissed. We must remember to combat gender bias and discrimination and work towards gender equality for all women.
GOING BEYOND MARCH 8TH — TAKE ACTION
The International Women’s Day organizers urge us to keep working to attain gender parity all year long. Believe it or not, there are many easy ways we can do this. By changing the way we talk, think and act in our daily lives, we can make a difference and help create a more equal world.
Try out the UN Women’s Twelve Small Actions With Big Impact for Generation Equality. From calling out sexism and harassment to shopping responsibly, these small actions are simple and effective.
Find out more about the United Nations UN Women, an entity established in 2010 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Did you know that as of 2017, according to the advocacy organization Women Owned, more than 39% of U.S businesses are owned by women? Yet, only 4 per cent of all small business loans are awarded to women.
When you support female and minority-owned businesses, you are helping to accelerate gender parity. You are helping to encourage young women and minority persons to pursue business ownership. Need more reasons to shop at local women and minority-owned small businesses? Here are five you may like.
- Revenue from women and minority-owned business usually stays in communities where you live, work and play. Women reinvest 90 per cent of their income back into their communities.
- Women and minority small business owners create employment opportunities for people in their communities, helping local economies to thrive.
- When you shop local, you help fight inequality, systemic racism, sexism and generational wealth gaps. Female and minority businesses often face challenges such as lack of access to funding, sexism, discrimination, and racism. It can help fight systemic racism and sexism. Spending your dollars at small businesses can help make a difference in income inequality.
- They put the customer first. Female and minority entrepreneurs are more likely to build relationships with their customers, providing them with a better shopping experience.
- Shopping at minority and women-owned companies celebrates diversity. Also, they often offer sustainable products while helping to stabilize and grow local economies.
Love to write or edit?
Join or host a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon!
Under 20% of Wikipedia’s 1.7 million biographies are about women and, of over 143,000 active editors, it is estimated that fewer than 20% of them are women. Gender disparity is found everywhere in our society. On the world wide web, where information is easily accessed, gender inequities on sites such as Wikipedia contribute to a bias in content and language. Take part in closing the gender gap on Wikipedia by participating in writing or editing articles on women’s issues.
Edit-a-thons are events where people write and upload articles or edit existing ones. Wikipedia has a calendar of edit-a-thons that you can join and resources to help you along the way. You can also host your own virtual editing gathering. Invite your friends and help preserve “herstory” — see the Wikipedia how-to guide.
As well as fighting for gender parity, International Women’s Day is about raising awareness of the many other struggles faced by women in our world — poverty, discrimination, and gender-based violence.
One way to raise your own awareness and support women is to read and share women-authored books with feminist themes. To get you started, visit the links below for some compelling works that explore gender equality, feminism, women and other marginalized people in society.
- Recommended Reads for International Women’s Day — curated by the staff at Penguin Random House, this list contains their favourite fiction and non-fiction works that celebrate women.
- 5 Women-Centred Books on International Women’s Day — these five non-fiction books include essays, poetry, and plays for a diverse tribute to women and their struggles and achievements.
- International Women’s Day 2021: Choose To Challenge — compiled by the University of British Columbia library, these books feature topics on feminist theory, Canadian Aboriginal women, gender identity and more.
- Revealing the 2021 Women’s Prize Longlist — The Women’s Prize for Fiction is the largest book award in the United Kingdom. The literary prize is awarded annually to a female author for the best original, English language novel published in the UK. This award was established in response to the absence of women authors on the shortlist for the 1991 Booker Prize. This year’s shortlist will be announced on April 28th, and the prize awarded on July 7th. How many of the 16 longlisted novels will you read?
Do you have little ones in your life? It’s never too soon to introduce children and young people to societal issues around women’s rights. What better way to do this than through books written for them. Take a look at the lists below for some great suggestions.
- Great Children’s Books for International Women’s Day — This compilation features books for children of all ages. It highlights women in history, science and technology as well as fairytales and other fiction.
- GeekMom’s International Women’s Day Reading List 2021 — GeekMom blog, part of the Geek Family Network curated this booklist that showcases women in science, history, social activism along with fantasy and picture books.
- Top 10 Kids’ Books For International Women’s Day — Indigo books roundup lists titles such as Strong is the New Pretty, She Persisted, I am Malala, and The Pink Hat. From board books to anthologies, this list has something for every child.
- 10 Books For Kids To Celebrate International Women’s Day — This CBC collection from 2014 is for pre-schoolers and elementary students. These ten charming narratives will engage them with stories about curious girls and real women from history.
Movies are another way to get a dialogue started or find inspiration to help bring about change. COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine restrictions are still in place in most areas preventing us from gathering in-person for social activities.
However, there are many stress-free streaming solutions like Zoom, YouTube and Skype, that allow you to host your friends and family for a virtual weekend watch party, even though they live thousands of miles away.
Try one of these 7 Ways to Watch Movies Online to help set up your movie night. Check out the list below for some great films and documentaries that celebrate strong women, then grab some popcorn and settle in (virtually) with your besties for some provocative ideas. From documentaries to movies based on books to comedies, these films will inspire and empower you.
- 16 inspiring movies to watch for International Women’s Day —This list features sixteen films featuring strong women including, Selena (1997), The Post (2017), Bombshell (2019), and Late Night (2019). A roster of inspiring movies that are thought-provoking and entertaining.
- 12 Inspiring Movies To Watch On International Women’s Day 2021 — From Biopics to a Disney classic, this list includes Iron Lady (2011), Erin Brockovich (2000), Little Women (2019), and The Help (2011). Which one will you watch first?
- 40 Essential Feminist Movies You Need to See — Harper’s Bazaar has compiled this comprehensive list of must-see films made for, by and about women. This diverse collection of movies features titles such as Revenge (2018), Wild (2014), A League of Their Own (1992), and Set It Off (1996). This slate includes foreign films, animated features and multicultural themes. Keep this list handy. You might find you want to watch all 40 movies!
Fun Fact — All three of these lists contain the movie Hidden Figures (2016). This movie is based on the true story of three Black women mathematicians who played a crucial role in the early days of NASA’s space exploration.
These are only a few ways in which we can help close the gender gap. There are many more ways to keep the momentum going. Think about supporting women and minority artists in your community. Find out about the history of women suffragettes, the fight for equal rights, feminism, the sexual revolution and more. The work is not yet finished. We must all try to do our part.
International Women’s Day is more than good wishes, flowers and office lunches. We can all make an effort year-round to break down the barriers of sexism, racism, and gender discrimination in all forms — and smash that glass ceiling once and for all.
Visit the links below for more ways to help bring gender equality to the world.
- 3 ways to be an activist on International Women’s Day
- Eight ways you can be a women’s rights advocate today, and every day
- Demystifying Feminism: 5 Ways To Support Girl-Power Movements Around the World
- Gender equality: Our progress is at risk Learn the facts about gender equality in Canada
*Feature image: Two women strikers on picket line during the “Uprising of the 20,000”, garment workers strike, New York City. U.S. Library of Congress