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International Women’s Day: a force for good?


After International Women’s Day last week, Martina Seppi explains what it’s all about, and examines whether it’s really worth celebrating.

“If not me, who? If not now, when?” I reckon many people, women in particular, remember the plea of Miss Emma Watson, world famous for her portrayal of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. In fact she joked about her “Harry Potter girl” past on the 21st September 2014 during her speech to the United Nations. She declared that she considers herself a feminist, and throughout her appeal she kept on pointing out how uncomfortable people feel when it comes to dealing with this word. I personally used to find it hard to accept the term “feminism” because it has always seemed to me as something oppose to the “antifeminism” therefore to me both the words used to remind me of the everlasting struggle between man and woman. I used to reject both the terms because I have never believed in a division or in a difference between the two sexes but actually in a unification and in a legacy between them. My attitude has partially changed after a friend of mine explained to me that “feminism” indicates a person which fights for equal rights between man and woman, therefore I can affirm that I am a feminist as well as far as this definition is concerned.

We recently celebrated International Women’s Day, and I have to say I have always been sceptical about it. Sometimes I don’t see the point in remembering just women or celebrating just women and apparently forgetting about many men who cooperate with women across the world to build a radical change in their lives. In this respect I fully agree with Emma, because she stressed the attention towards what men can do and have to do to help women to have the same rights and chances as they have, for instance when it comes to the salary for the same work. Besides it can be argued to what extent the IWD is effective at the moment. I don’t want to sound moralist or cynical, but it’s quite challenging to celebrate women today because I know that for many women and girls today will just be an ordinary day: women in countries at war, refugees, countries stricken by illness. Anyway, although I personally find it hard to engage with the International Women’s Day in such a worldwide situation, I do believe that it’s important to stop for a moment and think about gender equality in respect to those women and men who used have fought and keep on fighting for equal rights

Image: wfto.com
Image: wfto.com

Everything started on the 28th of February in 1909 in New York after the 1908 women’s strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union coalition. We have to wait until 1914 to have the first IWD celebrated on the 8th of March. This day was established to remember the struggle to build equal rights between the two sexes starting from the working conditions. In my opinion it’s not surprising that the first IWD movements had to deal with working and political right to vote instead of abuses and violence against women, which still remains a crucial point, because I believe that the main aim of these women was gaining independence by being able to support themselves on their own and by being free to express their political opinion, without the consent of men.

Still I do believe the men vs women attitude needs to change. I perfectly understand that 1914 has very little to do with 2015 because women’s condition has improved in many countries worldwide, but we must remember that in some areas of the planet it seems like the time has stood still for women, and no progress has been made. Still, as I have argued before, we tend to focus on women’s effort and problems ignoring sometimes the role of men in all the process. If all women truly intend to build a world in which everyone is equal regardless the sex I believe men are crucial in order to allow that to happen. In fact many men still think that women should be ruled and that should not interfere with men’s affairs like economics or politics, while increasing numbers of men agree with the idea of a legacy between man and woman, and that’s how it should work. I hope as many people as possible can understand that we are not to be dealing with division between us but with union and teamwork. I hope that this international movement as well as every other movement regarding gender equality won’t end up in a useless battle between sexes’ pride.

Martina Seppi

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