A Sadly Needed March 8th


Photograph: Vantagenews.com

Not so long ago I recall, I used to say ‘I am not a feminist’. I would think, ‘bah! feminism is this old-fashioned trend that, perhaps slightly crazy, women in the 1960s adopted so we could get more reproductive and work-related rights’. We don’t need it anymore. The work is done.  I was convinced, along with many other men and women I consider my friends, that March 8th was a useless mascarade, a ridiculous and unnecessary display of ‘womanly stuff’ , annoying ‘twangy voices’ and oestrogen. It’s only after I started reading again and heeding to the countless details of my – and many of my female peers’ – everyday routines, to our own internalization of the patriarchy’s gaze that evidently blindsided me, that I realized how wrong – and wronged – I had been. I got played.

I started to notice people’s self-deprecation, ignorance and prejudice, and most importantly my own, perhaps the worst of all. Where did these come from? How did I get to this point? What can I change? How will I convince others to quit the ‘feminism is a a dirty word’ and ‘March 8 shouldn’t exist’ attitude? So I embarked on a journey of questioning nearly everything and everyone, and in the process uncovered, much to my surprise, an abysmal number of systematically silenced and minimized issues that pertain to feminism, religious freedom, political rights, dignity, violence, minorities, capitalism, education, the LGBTQIA community and masculinity – just to name a few. I am, unfortunately, not a Feminist theory scholar, and am therefore very poorly educated on its deeper theoretical debates, policy implications and empirical realities and will thus refrain from engaging these in an academic fashion, this has been done remarkably well elsewhere anyway, and will thus have to just speak from my heart instead. Because, more by experience than choice, I came to understand feminism was an everyday struggle, I want to stress feminism’s continued and crucial relevance, and I will do so by throwing here 82 – yes, it’s a random figure, and yes, I will be updating it – reasons to give March 8th the reverence it deserves, so many of the skeptics out there can no longer contend gender issues at large are unimportant.

  1. In 2016 in France, one woman died every three days at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends, partners or other family members. Killed by loved ones.
  2. Globally, women achieve 2/3 of working hours and produce over half of all food items, but only earn 10% of the total income, own less than 2% of the lands and are granted less than 5% of all banking loans”.
  3. Even though post-partum depression is equally due to sleep deprivation and physical pain and exhaustion as to hormonal changes, our societies tend to blame it all on female ‘hormones’ only – ‘it’s the hormones’, they say. Because we believe ‘hormones are natural’ and ‘no one can do anything about it’, this tends to deprives women of appropriate health  and mental care, their family and friends’ consideration and their partners’ help, all easily fixable issues both at home and in government.
  4. I have heard too many of my female friends admit ‘reproductive system related pain are not recognized as such’, they are routinely ‘glossed over’  by their peers – ‘you’re on your period, your pain is natural, so shut up (be ashamed) about it ‘ – and ‘even doctors seem to normalize such pain’.
  5. This was confirmed in a variety of scholarly works here, here, here and here. And everywhere else.
  6. When I get grumpy, tired or frustrated, my boyfriend – who is a feminist and it is great – sometimes tells me pointblank: ‘you’re having your period?‘ This reinforces the idea that women are not rational adults with potentially real problems but fragile beings whose issues are contingent on random mood swings, hormonal levels and uterus cramping.
  7. Many still feel the need to object, rhetorically and sarcastically – ‘and, when is International Men’s Day?’
  8. A website called ‘Everyday Sexism Project‘ still needs to exist in 2017.
  9. Everyday sexism is a painful and undignified reality that is often shrugged off, and internalized by men and women alike.
  10. It involves micro-aggressions, recurring street harassment, and is often overbearing on women of color, LGBTQIA and, well, yes, straight men too.
  11. Because this: “The two years of The Conservative Women’s existence have witnessed another disturbing trend – denial of ‘binary gender’. This latest weapon in the culture wars is no longer a laughing matter. Rejecting the ludicrous transgender claim that you are the gender you want to be or think you are, can already label you a bigot”. True, I mean, how could LGBTQIA people blatantly dare to exist?
  12. 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump.
  13. Because Donald Trump.This one counts at least for another 100 reasons I have no time to elaborate on.
  14. Hillary Clinton had her (many, many) flaws, but had she have had 5 kids with 3 different husbands, her being a presidential candidate would have never happened in the first place.
  15. [Usually male] politicians continue to use taxpayers’ money to fuck luxury prostitutes and by the same token, their constituencies too.
  16. Prostitutes and human trafficking.
  17. Women are institutionally erased from history. Who was ever taught the 1789 French and 1917 Russian revolutions were ignited by small groups of women? Who can name the countless women who instigated breakthrough scientific and technological discoveries?
  18. It has been showed men continue to be disproportionately appointed to high-level positions at work compared to women in key economic sectors …
  19. … despite being less competent than their female counterparts.
  20. Because many men post nonsensical comments online : “Not every man is a brute and not every woman is a saint. Life happens in the grey area. Good day to all of us, who reject binary realities.” The ‘not-all-men’ rhetoric has been largely discredited and here’s why.
  21. White, cisgender-only feminism needs to disappear.
  22. In France Muslim women are not allowed – by law – to wear whatever they see fit. And voters and feminist organizations alike condoned and encouraged it.
  23. In France again, in 2016, a Muslim woman was ordered by 4 armed police officers to undress as they judged she wasn’t ‘wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism’, that is a hijab, leggings and long-sleeved top on a beach. Her little girl was crying while many bystanders shouted: ‘go back to your country’ and clapped. Not many saw both the irony and deeply unsettling feel of that situation.
  24. Since 2017 started I have been physically, mentally and sexually harassed over 15 times in public spaces. It used to be much more frequent when I was younger.
  25. My first sexual harassment experience happened when I was 12. I am lucky – many women reported this occurred as early as age 6.
  26. I was once literally ‘grabbed by the pussy’ on my way to school. I was 16.
  27. Many of my friends were equally groped, touched and grabbed by their genitals, bums or breasts.
  28. Female friends still have to send each other text messages at night to ask ‘have you arrived home safe?’
  29. In 2016, 1 on 4 people living in the EU judged rape acceptable or justified ‘under certain circumstances‘, in particular ‘if the victim was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if the victim was wearing revealing clothing’. ‘Slut shaming’, it seems, is still very much alive and well.
  30. According to the same source, only 12 % of victims spoke to the police, even if they had reported what happened to family members or friends.
  31. Women have told me rape was understandably natural because it is a physiological reality: we have a ‘hole’, it’s easy to violate.
  32. Rape culture‘ is real in our democracies …
  33. … but remains wildly under-reported or ignored when applied to Muslim women in Europe.
  34. After the 2014 European elections only 37% of MEPs were women and get this: in 2007 only 9 MEPs, irrespective of their gender, were non-white.
  35. In France, the Senate counts only 26% of women and the National Assembly, 25. France ranks between Iraq and South Sudan on the 2017 Inter-Parliamentary Union’s annual world classification ‘Women in Parliaments‘. After Macron’s debut as France’s president, this percentage increased to 38,8, a record.
  36. France gave women the right to vote in 1944. Corsica had granted this right to women from 1755 to 1769 without hesitation, until France annexed the island and forced its rulers to withdraw such right.
  37. Denmark and Iceland decided to let women vote in 1915.
  38. In 1965 in the United States – a law that had to be extended for 25 years in 2006!
  39. Switzerland allowed women to vote in 1971.
  40. South Africa, in 1984.
  41. The Vatican denies women the right to vote, de facto.
  42.  In March 2017, a far-right Polish MEP declared women should be paid less than men because they are “weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent”. He may be temporarily suspended, therefore sending the signal it is still OK to voice such offensive slurs in democratic institutions.
  43. In academia, women hold just 18% of full professorships in Europe.
  44. In addition, raising a family negatively impacts women’s academic careers: among tenured faculty, only 44% of women were married with children, compared to 70% of men in the United States.
  45. In the same country, Asian women held 4.8% of tenure-track positions and 2.6% of tenured positions, Black women held 3.7% of tenure-track positions and 2.2% of tenured positions, Hispanic women held 2.5% of tenure-track positions and 2.3% of tenured positions.
  46. I have heard of sexual harassment in the work place around me. Many times. I consider myself lucky not to have been one of its victims – so far, or that I know of.
  47. The word ‘mansplaining‘ has recently appeared as a reaction to women often being shut down. ‘It is a portmanteau of the words man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining and ‘generally refers to situations where a person (typically a man) explains something to someone else (typically a woman), often in a condescending way, without consideration for the explainee being more experienced with the subject in the first place.’
  48. And as some men felt offended by the term, they proceeded to mocking both the word and the people using it. As one ‘mansplainer’ for instance, recently posted “mansplaining means ‘Stating accurate, verifiable facts. Especially when these facts are inconvenient to the feminist worldview, or contradict feminist talking points. It is often used by a feminists who makes an incorrect claim in support of their narrative, and someone responds with something refuting the feminist’s claim, which she (usually it’s a she) cannot counter.”
  49. ‘Manterruption’ is another portmanteau word that defines the tendency of men to constantly interrupt women in public debates and casual convos.
  50. I have heard friends, men and women, justify unequal pay by saying ‘women give birth, take time off and thus cost money to their employers’, in which case, I suggest we simply codify child labour and slavery back into law. This’ll definitely help employers save $$. 
  51. On average, in the EU in 2015, women’s gross hourly earnings were 16.3 % below those of their male counterparts.
  52. Not a single country in the world has achieved equal pay.
  53. Because I’ve heard my dad, whom I love very much, once tell me “why don’t you just stay at home and do your nails instead of pursuing an ambitious professional career?” My dad should have known by now that having decided to engage in the extremely stressful and anxiety-provoking task of completing a PhD in political science and international relations, not much of said (bitten) nails are left for me to paint …
  54. Many of my friends who are now 30 or more, are literally scared they may now be too old or undesirable to find someone who will love them. Social pressure is much higher on women than men to ‘get married’ or ‘have children’ passed that age.
  55. We are literally scared to walk at night, in deserted streets, in certain neighborhoods,  in unknown cities, and at times, pretty much anywhere if we start imagining the worse.
  56. Many women need to wear a (fake) wedding ring in order to minimize harassment from men who ‘respect another man’s “property” more than a woman’s right to say no.’
  57. Women often accept – and then pay the price of – their objectification in a society driven by consumerism and therefore promoting ‘perfect bodies’.
  58. This leads to wearing uncomfortable clothes and shoes, which can turn out to be  health hazards. Cosmopolitan (which is itself a questionable source of feminist endeavors … ) wrote a short article on this …
  59. …but once you click on it, a massive add promoting ‘Ways to loose weight’ will immediately disrupt your reading. Isn’t this great?
  60. Such tendencies have started to apply to men too. I suppose we can all get equality – in misery.
  61. Not wearing a bra and letting your nipples show through fabric is reason for shaming and harassment. Only female nipples are worthy of such frenzy.
  62. Many governments criminalize abortions, restrict access to reproductive rights and other women-related health care such as breast cancer screenings, HPV testing and vaccination. And way too many people agree with this. I, sadly, do not even need to provide sources on this one, they’re everywhere.
  63. Women who do not wish to have kids or do not find bliss in pregnancy, childbirth or motherhood are still too ashamed to say so or met with judgmental responses and incomprehension, including by other women.
  64. If I dare say I will not breast feed my kids, if I ever get kids that is, too often women will meet me with judgmental responses and incomprehension
  65. Many [white] men in the film industry routinely treat women abusively. They nearly never face charges or sanction, and are regularly and officially rewarded for their art nonetheless.
  66. Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando assaulted actress Maria Schneider on film to create a rape scene in Last Tango in Paris.
  67. “Mel Gibson was similarly caught on tape telling his ex-girlfriend that ‘you look like a fucking pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers it will be your fault,’ shortly before threatening to kill her and rape her himself.”
  68. Casey Affleck abused several women while on movies sets.
  69. “Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl—he admitted to it not only in his guilty plea, but also in an infamous interview in which he called her his “victim”—but no one in the Academy seemed to believe it should pose much of an obstacle to his filmmaking career.”
  70. Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and Michael Fassbender were accused of domestic violence. The list goes on, and it is long.
  71. The horror also spreads within the music industry where male performers generally get away with … pretty much anything.
  72. Girls are more likely than boys to be the target of cyber-bullying.
  73. Removing hair from our armpits, legs, arms, lips, bikini line and other ludicrous places on our bodies, because it is supposedly gross on women but is absolutely normal on men.
  74. 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
  75. Gendered toys may have long-lasting developmental implications both for boys and girls and may deter the latter to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology.
  76. Many believe women and girls have never had it so good, therefore feeding the myth of a useless and man-hating feminism.
  77. Many cisgender, nonbinary and transwomen live in fear of government policies surveilling and ruling against your bodily autonomy.
  78. Having to take care of your own – and at times expensive – contraception plan because although the male equivalent could be readily available for sale, men refuse to voluntarily submit to clinical tests or to EVEN take it, because you know, you wouldn’t be ejaculating the same way. As The Atlantic summarized: “A clinical trial of contraceptives for men was halted because of side effects—side effects that women have dealt with for decades.”
  79. In the meantime, women went through unbelievable pains to get oral female contraception safe-ish and ready, including depression, breast pain, uterus pain, mood swings, bloating, potentially fatal blood clots, vomiting etc. Side effects so unbearable, women picked up in asylums and prisons were FORCED to participate in drug trials and had to endure invasive and painful medical exams.
  80. Public health programs target women to carry out sexual risk reduction through condom use (even though women do not ‘‘use’’ or ‘‘wear’’ male condoms) despite research showing that women may lack the power to press their partners to use condoms.”
  81. Manspreading.
  82. Because I know I forgot a thousand other reasons – most likely due to my own white  privilege, which is one additional reason in itself.

I must now concur with skeptics that there shouldn’t be a March 8th day merely because it is absolutely mind-blowing humanity must be reminded every year that half of itself still needs to fight for its existence. What the actual fuck.