It’s March 8. You post something about International Women’s Day on Facebook, because, hey, all your friends are. I’m a woman, you think. Heck yeah I want a day of recognition. But what does it really mean?
Aren’t we equal in Canada, men and women? I mean, we can vote thanks to those brazen suffragettes, Nellie McLung and the Famous 5. We have five female premiers out of 10 at the moment (I am ridiculously giddy about this). We even had a female prime minister! (For all of three months, and kind by default, but why split hairs?) We have maternity rights (a whole year subsidized!); we can choose whether we should marry and to whom (right down to another woman); we can have a family and a successful career or stay-at-home and both are celebrated for their own reasons. We’ve got it good. It’s OK to celebrate that. So why should International Women’s Day matter to Canadians?
1. We’re still not making the same amount for the same amount of work. According a 2011 article called “The Gender Wage Gap” by the Pay Equity Commission in my home province of Ontario, “The most recent Statistics Canada data shows that the gender wage gap in Ontario is 28 percent for full-time, full-year workers. This means that for every $1.00 earned by a male worker, a female worker earns 71 cents.” And this is something we’re supposed to celebrate? “In 1987, when the Pay Equity Act was passed, the gender wage gap was 36 percent.” Holy crap, Canadians! We’ve gone up a mere 8 percent in all this time?! Festival! (Um, no.)
2. We live in a world where access to safe abortions and contraception is still being debated. Regardless of where you stand on the subject, I think it’s fair to say that no one wants the government to get involved in our lady bits. In some US states, women are legally forced to listen to their fetal heartbeat a day before having their abortion, regardless of the reason for that procedure. There are states trying to overturn abortion laws set by the American Supreme Court. In Canada, bills to amend our abortion laws are dangled over our heads like a threat. Do I even need to get into the horrific experiences that women who don’t have access to safe abortions end up having?
3. Our laws do not keep us safe. A woman can be sexually assaulted in broad daylight on a subway platform for crying out loud. We live in a world where millions of women and CHILDREN are SOLD into the sex trade as slaves. Don’t fool yourselves — many of these poor souls end up right here in Canada. You want to legislate our lady bits? How about legislating some PROTECTION of our bodies, our rights as individuals? We need tougher international laws and stiffer sentences at home. We need our government to stand up for women and not be bullied by what other countries think.
4. We still can’t wear what we want. We live in a world where a woman can be told that she “asked for it,” where women are led to believe that they must hide their bodies to protect themselves, where smart and powerful ladies like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are asked about their pants. PANTS!!
5. We care about what happens to HUMANS globally. We care that a young female student in India could be so violently gang raped on a public bus. We care that a child going to school in Pakistan could be shot in the face for wanting an education. We care that a girl who got drunk at a party in Ohio could be gang raped, while boys, who are still children themselves, TWEET about it. Is this the kind of world that we, as women AND MEN, want our children to grow up in?
As my hero author Caitlin Moran says, in How to Be a Woman, we don’t want to rule the world, we just want our fair share of it. International Women’s Day is not about surpassing men (we love men!); it’s about raising awareness that in 2013 things are still uneven, unbalanced, unfair — so our daughters and sons can inherit a much better world. It’s also about celebrating our gender, thinking about the struggles of our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and grandchildren.
Happy International Women’s Day!