International Women’s Day is not a date I’m usually aware of. This is not because I don’t care to celebrate the women in my life, or even take a moment to mark my own achievements, but because in my experience nothing has ever seemed to change on this day. I’ve never received more than a cursory email from work, or baffling advertising campaigns telling me to buy pink sex toys for the ‘strong’ women in my life. This year though, I was aware of International Women’s Day. I still received these emails, but I also saw my social media feed light up with discourse from my peers on their experience of the day, and this experience had one defining sentiment: dissatisfaction.
It is not surprising that a day intended to celebrate women has become a reminder of how far we still have to go to see women feeling genuinely supported, represented and valued. Global gender disparity – already leaving much to be desired before the pandemic – has been worsened by the impacts of Covid-19. The loss of income for many women, coupled with the exclusion of women from Covid recovery strategies, means the World Economic Forum estimates that the pandemic added 36 years to the time needed to close the gender pay gap.
Extended lockdowns also put women in physically dangerous situations, with global surveys showing significantly heightened instances of domestic violence, increasing 300% in Hubei, China; 25% in Argentina; 30% in Cyprus; 33% in Singapore; and 50% in Brazil. The UN has termed this the ‘shadow pandemic’, sitting below the surface of the wider pandemic (though no less dangerous).
Continued attacks on women’s liberties is now an expected part of our news cycle. From severe abortion restrictions being introduced, to unprovoked attacks on women walking home at night or going for a run in the morning – we are surrounded by the reminder that the female experience is pitted with inequalities. Is it any wonder that women are pushing for more on International Women’s Day? In this landscape, it is hard to receive greetings of ‘happy international women’s day’ without at least a small dose of anger.
This is not to reject the day in its entirety, or the efforts of many to genuinely make the women in their homes and workplaces feel valued, however there is so much still to be done. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to celebrate the day with greater pay for women, autonomy over reproductive rights, representation in political and social decisions – the championing of women that is achieved through genuine action and not simply lip-service.
Manager, Contemporary Art
Girl Museum Inc.