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Should we still celebrate Women's Day?
Christine Lagarde is the director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and J.K Rowling is one of the richest people on the planet. Unlike the suffragettes who were fighting for the right to vote, French and British women are no longer men's subordinates and they have imposed themselves in some of the most influential circles of power. So why should we still be celebrating Women's Day?
French and English women can vote, they can go to school and then to university, they can choose whatever career they want and they can even join the army and access high-powered jobs. There are also laws against sexual harassment which protect them... Women such as Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel are examples of women's ability to excel in a men dominated environment. Today FORBES magazine ranks Christine Lagarde as the 8th most influential woman in the world.
Confronted with women's success in all kinds of fields, the mere existence of a day dedicated to Women's rights seems quite obsolete. Why would women still fight for their rights when most of them feel they do not have anything to prove?
Worse than that, Women's Day is sometime understood in the wrong way and stigmatises women more than it honours their achievements. On the day it is not rare to hear "Well then, today is your day, I will do the dishes" or to receive flowers, as if it were Valentine’s Day. Even the French website dedicated to Women's Day warns women against "misogynist commentaries". Not much to be happy about after two centuries of feminist struggle. Well, that is maybe the real problem.
The reactions to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's declarations actually showed that feminism is nonetheless necessary nowadays. "In my generation, we do not need to be feminists. There were pioneers that started the fight. I am not at all a feminist activist." The former spouse of the President provoked many reactions from women onTwitter, all trying to prove her wrong and show why feminism is still very useful today. Laurence Rossignol, a socialist Senator declared “#dearcarlabruni: so long as people still ask me if I am the Senator’s assistant, we will still need feminism.”
We cannot deny that women’s conditions have drastically improved since 8 March 1857, date of the first Women’s Day. Nevertheless, on each side of the tunnel, feminism still has many issues to deal with.
One of the most striking examples is the gender income gap. French women earn 20% less than their masculine counterparts for the same job in the private sector and 13% in the public sector, according to INSEE's report published in March 2013. On their behalf, English women earn 18,4% less than men in the private sector and 9,2% in the public sector according to TUC's report.
Equality is a mirage in France and Great Britain, but things are far worse in other parts of the globe. In total, 41 million girls are excluded from education and 515 million women are analphabetic (Unesco's report 2010). Burkina Faso is an extreme example with only 8% of women that go on to secondary school.
Also violence against women is far from being resolved. Each year, 3 million little girls are excised adding to the 140 million women who already are in the world, especially in Africa and Asia. In Afghanistan, women’s treatment is sometimes worse than animals. They are imprisoned, cannot interact with other men than their husband, and their whole existence is reduced to procreation, satisfaction of men’s sexual desires and taking care of the house.
Thus, far from symbolizing an obsolete feminism, Women’s day is a way of informing society of the condition of women around the world and urge people to act against that.
In London, on Saturday 9 March people marched in the streets. A market was also held in Spitafields Market to celebrate women’s creativity and talent. But most of all, many charities organise events to finance humanitarian aid towards women.
In Paris, events were not so international and charities were not so present. Museums around the French capital honoured women in art and a conference on Tibetan women was held. A more original approach to Women's Day is the demonstration of motorcycling women. But most of all, Parisians demonstrated on 8 March 2013 to demand more equality.
If Women’s Day can sometime seems quite obsolete in France or in Great Britain, it is far from being the case. Not only do inequalities persist in our countries but there are far worse in the rest of the world. Women’s Day allows to increase awareness of these issues and to fight against them.