Happy International Women’s Day!

via Google Images

If you’re a girl, today is your today. March 8 is International Women’s Day, as you no doubt noticed when you clicked into Google this morning. (Seriously, how did we remember any event before the internet?)

International Women’s Day began over a hundred years ago as a political event designed to highlight the achievements made by women in the economic sphere. Over the years it’s moved on to a general celebration of women similiar to Mother’s Day in some parts of the world,  in particular Eastern Europe. Here in Ireland and other Western nations, the day is used to highlight social and political issues concerning women.

The UN designated March 8 as a day for Women’s Rights in 1977. But do we actually need a day to highlight women’s rights? After all, don’t we have jobs and voting rights these days? What more could we want?

Irish women still earn 17% less than men. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I hope to make the maximum money possible for work I do (materialistic, moi?) and I have a real problem with this. Considering that girls outperform boys in the Leaving Cert year after year, should we not be paid equally when we hit the workplace?

Wait, there’s more. A horrendous attitude towards rape and sexual assault is still prevalent in Ireland. Sure, she was dressed like a slut, she deserved what she got. These outdated beliefs are far from dead, and what’s worrying, the younger generation have taken them up too.

Don’t believe me? According to Rape Crisis Network Ireland, thirty percent of people who visited them reported the crime to the gardai. Thirty percent. The most common reasons are that women feel they don’t want to go through the humilation of a trial, where their every action is scrutinised, or they feel they won’t be believed, or they were under the influence of alcohol.

Our neighbours in the UK have taken real strides to address this issue. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg recently launched an advertising campaign targeted at teenage boys to educate them on the issue of rape. (Watch him speak and see the ad below). The sooner we in Ireland follow suit the better.

It’s not only attitudes to sexual violence that have regressed. You only need to read the Tweets from Chris Brown’s impressionable fans to see that domestic violence is seen as a minor issue too among some teens. Chris Brown, lest we forget, beat the crap of Rihanna three years ago. While it’s true that a person should not be punished for their crimes forever, Brown is a deeply unappealing individual whose only pity is self-pity. His continued success is galling.

And to anyone who thinks we in the West have won gender equality… I present US right-wing nut Rush Limbaugh. His incisive and stunning analysis that a woman who uses contraception is a slut almost matches the assertion made by my old religion teacher: ”There’s a strong link between the pill and cancer. God’s punishment for immorality!”

Women’s Day is still as relevant as ever. And I haven’t even touched on the developing world and the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia for example, women have only just been granted the vote, but they’re still not allowed to drive. There’s also female genital mutilation, honour killings and other human rights violations. The theme of 2012′s International Women’s Day is Empower Women- End Hunger and Poverty. There’s a special emphasis this year on helping women whose loved ones-sons and husbands for example- have disappeared or died due to war.

We’ve come a long way from the suffragettes, but there’s still a way to go. This International Women’s Day, girls, congratulate yourselves. Guys, stick on the kettle!

This article appeared on Studenty.me on March 8 2012. 

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