The year is only a few months old, yet it has been a wild ride for anyone who cares about women’s rights and the ongoing sexual harassment scandals. International Women’s Day is coming up and we are taking a close look at all the good reasons to join forces and take to the streets.
2017 was a difficult and trying year for every woman (and many men). It started with Trump being elected president, then escalated in the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, undermining women’s reproductive rights and health benefits. But the crisis is a global one!
The first two months of the New Year have given us more than enough reasons to rise and protest, especially on International Women’s Day, which is today—March 8. “Enough is enough” is the credo for 2018.
1.) Harvey Weinstein and The “Me Too” Movement
In the wake of the ongoing sexual harassment scandals uncovered by the “Me Too” movement, both men and women are taking a clear stand. The whole world was shocked as well-known celebrities and other public figures faced allegations of abusive behavior towards women (and some men) when the new year was only a few days old.
Amongst them, famous Hollywood filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by several well-known female actresses to have sexually harassed them. After the first claims surfaced in fall 2017, the situation only escalated with the turn of the year. Women of all ages and backgrounds started to make their experiences with sexual harassment public, using the now widely known hashtag #MeToo (the Me Too campaign was actually founded in 2006 by long-time activist Tarana Burke).
Weinstein and nearly all of the other accused men swiftly lost their jobs and platforms. They are facing harsh public backlash and in some cases legal prosecution. The #MeToo movement has had a very positive effect. It turned into a widespread move to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. One after another, corporations are now issuing strong statements and showing zero tolerance in regard to sexual misconduct.
Without a doubt, many more cases are still waiting to be revealed. Therefore we will have to keep taking action and take every opportunity to express our rage.
2.) Lack of Female Filmmakers
When Natalie Portman took to the stage at the Golden Globes to announce the winner of the Best Director category, she highlighted that none of the nominations were female. Like zero.
Despite all the editorials, the speeches and the handwringing, things aren’t getting better for women in Hollywood. After years of open debate, there has still been little change. Sad but true; numbers of female directors have actually been decreasing in the past years.
Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director for her film The Hurt Locker. And the picture is equally dark for other behind-the-camera positions: producers, cinematographers, sound designers and others. Amongst writers, women only make up for a meager 13% of the content creators.
We are seeing that public shaming is no longer enough. What we do need is to demand the government take action when you’re out on the street this International Women’s Day.
3.) Period Poverty
Despite it happening once a month to half of the world’s population, periods remain unaffordable to many young women around the world. Looking at the prices for personal care products, this isn’t surprising.
While the number of those affected is believed to be relatively small, in some of the world’s largest economies, should it really be happening at all? What does that mean for other, less fortunate nations in the world?
Every woman has about 450 menstrual cycles in her life. In England, the average pack of tampons costs around £3 — including a five percent “luxury” tampon tax. Wait, what? Yes, you’ve heard right. 12 million pounds are raised every year from a so-called Tampon Tax to support women’s charities. In the U.S., the average price for tampons is over $5.50 (and in most places is subject to local or state sales tax).
Women are paying because of their gender. On International Women’s Day, campaigners are calling on the government to provide free sanitary products to those who also receive free school meals. Without official governmental support for sanitary care, many have to go without.
4.) Abortion Rights In Northern Ireland and Poland
What follows is hard to believe. In the year 2018, women in Northern Ireland are only legally allowed to undergo an abortion if the pregnancy poses a danger to their life. Under no other circumstance is a termination legal.
In theory, patients and doctors face life imprisonment for violating this law. Yes, in 2018!
Every year, more than 4,000 Irish women travel to England or other European countries to have an abortion. The law that provides the foundation for Northern Ireland’s abortion laws was passed in 1861. Let that sink in.
And it’s not just Northern Ireland. In the past year, thousands of Polish women took to the streets across the country to protest against the government’s plan to even further tighten one of the already most-restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Poland forbids abortions in all cases except rape and where the woman or baby’s life is in danger.
Now, if that’s not reason enough to March on International Women’s Day …
5.) There Are Only Six Female Bosses of FTSE 100 Companies
This is not going to be a surprise: At the very top of big business, women are barely present. Yet, its hard to understand how there could have been so little progress over the past two decades. Today, there are a total of six women in the FTSE 100 companies in the UK (in the US the statistics are only slightly better: there are 32 female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies). Obviously, we still have a long way to go to achieve full equality.
Yes, progress is being made step by step. By 2022, a target of 33% has been put in place. Still only a third, one could argue.
This problem is spreading far and wide and reaches even startups and small businesses. In 2016, just 9% of all start-up funding in the UK went to female founders. Its safe to say there is a problem.
Such a climate can lead young female entrepreneurs to take drastic steps. In one case, two women invented a fake male co-founder to correspond with potential investors and help get their business off the ground.
Are You Convinced Yet?
What we’ve learned this year: Don’t wait for the white knight to save you from oppression. You’re going to wait forever. Real change requires that we all stay vigilant and address the issues we care about.
Besides all this, there is a positive side: Women all over the world are rising up, making the women’s movement mainstream. And more men are becoming part of this cultural revolution.
Demonstrators are surging into the streets in all major American cities and Europe, Asia and Africa are not staying behind — turning International Women’s Day into a global affair.
This International Women’s Day, we are coming together to make a statement: Time is up for oppressors of women.
Where are you planning to demonstrate for International Women’s Day? Find an event near you and let us know in the comments.