Women for centuries have believed in their hearts that they were men’s equals, but for the same amount of successive centuries, men and their institutions have kept women oppressed, domesticated and submissive. But this premeditated notion of women seems to be outdated and no longer holds up in the modern world. With over a century of celebrations under International Women’s Day, that ‘ideal’ has become extinct and women have evolved into something a million miles away from the image of altruistic perfection. And so, this International Women’s Day seems to be the perfect opportunity to map the progression of women’s rights movements and its subsequent corrosion of the male ideal.
The 1900’s was a time of great expansion and instability in the industrialised world, which collided with a growth and flux in radical ideologies. But at the time it seemed that the most radical of these ideologies was to be women’s fight for equality. Why would women want a mind of their own? Why would they want political participation that their dainty little minds couldn’t cope with? In a changing world, that couldn’t just be central to men, women had to progress. Unrest and critical debate followed amongst women; it was women’s inequality that spurred them on to shake off the rusted shackles of their oppression to become more vocal in campaigning for change. And it was this that led to a March through New York City in 1908, through which women demanded voting rights, better pay and to become man’s equal. Following this, in 1910, an ‘International Conference for Working Women’ was held in Copenhagen, in which Clara Zetkin proposed what is today known as ‘International Women’s Day’; in every country, on this day women should press for their demands. It was a unanimous decision. After this, women and men attended annual International Women’s Day rallies to campaign for women’s rights to work, to vote, and to hold public office.
Since these early origins of International Women’s Day it has grown considerably and its importance still resonates globally, with The United Nations, Governments and Women’s Organisations all around the world annually holding events that tribute women’s advancement in society, their emancipation and celebrate what women are today, while subtly reminding of the continued caution and action required to maintain and ensure women’s equality throughout society in all walks of life.
Many of the younger generation – my generation – think that ‘the battles have all been won for women’ but being from that younger generation myself, it is easy to see that they haven’t and there remains yet many more battles to be conquered. Yes, there has been a huge shift in society’s thoughts and attitudes towards women’s emancipation, but the long lasting shadow of patriarchy remains. Yes, more women are in the boardrooms, we have female astronauts and politicians; women have more equal legislative rights; and greater opportunities to enter higher education, but the regrettable fact is that some women are paid considerably less than their male counterparts and there still remains a discrepancy in the ratio of men-to-women in business and politics. So while so much has been done, so much more still needs to be done to fight the outdated ideal of altruistic femininity of the past generations and put women on equal footing with men.