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14th March 2017

Feminist reflections on International Women’s Day

A reflection on 2017’s International Women’s Day, what it means for feminism, and how it can help us reflect on the fight for gender equality

The celebrations and demonstrations of International Women’s Day swept the world last Wednesday the 8th of March, with countries across the globe hosting events to both commemorate the achievements of women and to rally together in demand of gender equality. The tradition of International Women’s Day has been observed for over a century now, a century tracing huge progression in women’s social status and expansion of rights. Whilst such achievements have made vast improvements for gender equality, the fight remains far from over.

With the call for gender equality still a pressing matter, it becomes crucial to ensure that any demand and movement for women’s rights remains deeply invested in unity with a strong consideration of intersectionality. The dedication of a day to women, or indeed a day invested in the rights of any single identity category, may run the risk of a potential exclusion or failure to account for all the diversities such a category contains. Women come in a multitude of colours, shapes, sizes, beliefs, fashions, and attitudes. The struggle of one individual’s experience of their gender may be entirely different to that of another’s from a different social or cultural background. In order for gender equality to prosper, these differences and varying manifestations of oppression must be acknowledged and utilised.

A criticism so often levelled at the second wave feminists cites the movement as exclusionary, particularly to transgender women. With so many political demonstrations for women’s rights becoming expressed through language that reduce women to their biology and genitals, many forget the implication this may have for transgender women. Similarly the expression and call for female liberation has so often been one articulated from a position of white privilege, with the struggles of women of colour comparatively underrepresented. To achieve equality in a world of such diversity, it becomes crucial therefore that feminism refuses to become synonymous with white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied women. In acknowledging the intersectional pathways of oppression and the multiple ways a woman manifests herself, we can establish a much stronger unity for demanding gender equality.

In light of the recent presidential elections, the past year has seen a burst of activism, with women uniting to march in protest against Donald Trump’s anti-abortion policies, misogynistic comments and attempts to naturalise language inciting sexual exploitation of women as “locker room talk.” The fact that such attitudes threatening women’s equality and rights not only remain painfully prevalent but are also regurgitated by arguably the most powerful man on the planet is more than a cause for concern. In a time of such political change and implicit threat to women’s rights, control over their bodies, and equal social status, the fight for women’s rights is one which calls for solidarity. In ensuring solidarity and a movement of inclusivity, incorporating the multiple and varying struggles of different women, such unity may be the key to achieving wide reaching effects and interrogating the social systems, currently marginalising and suppressing so many.

The celebration of International Women’s Day becomes crucially invested in a resistance of controlled and subjugated bodies, as we resist a system that has downtrodden and dictated women’s position for centuries. So whilst International Women’s Day remains an immensely important day and a time of celebration, we must remember that not only is our struggle for equality still ongoing, but it is necessary to keep the category of ‘women’ broad and inclusive to enable us to demand our right to live, do, and express our gender without restriction.

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