March 8th is International Women’s Day: the perfect opportunity to read up on little known women scientists, listen to great music by female artists, or just to tell your mum how much you appreciate her.
Unfortunately March 8th is also the day each year when we all have to suffer through some dude called Dave putting his hand up in class or calling talkback radio to ask why we even need feminism anymore.
So the next time someone asks you why nobody gets particularly excited about International Men’s Day, tell them we need to fix these five things first:
Yes, we now live in a world where people who openly boast about committing sexual assault can be elected as President of the United States. And even in Australia, where our politicians are less creepy (at least most of the time – remember that Liberal Party Fundraiser?, the rates of sexual assault against women are actually significantly higher than the global average.
As many as 70 million women alive today were married as children. Underage marriage limits the access of children to education, and can trap women in cycles of domestic violence, forced pregnancy and childrearing.
There is no single cultural cause of child marriage, and responses to the issue need to be driven within local communities to be effective: here in Australia, state authorities have been developing intervention strategies after the investigation of several cases of young women being coerced into marriage overseas.
Limited Access to Education
Even where access to education is not cut off by early marriage, millions of girls around the world today are missing school or dropping out entirely because they lack access to sanitary products or because of insufficient restroom facilities. Even where sanitary resources are available, girls are often shamed for attending class because of persistent taboos about menstruation.
The Pay Gap
Australian women in full time work make 83.8 cents for every dollar earned by a man. While the wage gap is often justified by the higher proportion of women working in part-time work, differences in compensation by gender are irrational and all-pervasive: from the huge differences in the remuneration of corporate CEOs, to the fact that the earnings of transgender women fall dramatically after transition, whereas the earnings of transgender men increase.
The Marginalisation of Women’s Sport
While sports played by women, like netball, have some of the highest participation rates in Australia, they don’t receive anywhere near as much funding as sports with much lower participation rates, like Rugby Union. Women’s sport also features in only 7 per cent of Australian sports coverage – and with less visibility, women’s sport struggles to secure the sponsorship and advertising necessary to secure opportunities for athletes and club development.
Tell that annoying dude he can either pitch in or shut up: there are plenty of reasons to get engaged with feminism this International Women’s Day.