We hear from a range of women, on what International Women’s Day means to them
Every year on 8th March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, to mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the globe.
This year, it’s unignorably significant. As Frances Mcdormand rouses Hollywood’s women to their feet in a defiant winner’s speech at the Oscars, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to rock the industry, many women are feeling more empowered than ever.
Issues like equality, consent, the male gaze, male privilege and feminism are storming to the fore in a way they never quite have before. Questions decades in the making are finally being asked, and it feels like a seismic and revolutionary change is on the horizon.
Sadly though, there is still animosity towards certain groups. There are some who feel that trans women, for example, do not have the right to take part in certain movements and conversations.
With that in mind, we spoke to a range of women, to get their views on International Women’s Day, and what being a woman means in 2018.
Founder and CEO of Nail Transphobia
To me, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the power of women, but also a day to talk about the issues that dis-empower women…so just a normal day for me really.
I think it’s so sad that so many people, especially so many girls and women, still don’t identify as feminists. It’s so basic. Feminism just means women being equal to men. Everyone should be a feminist.
There’s no one way to express what life is like for a woman in 2018 – there are so many walks of womanhood, and our walks are all different, from trans women, to women of colour, to working class women. This is why feminism needs to be intersectional.
The point of International Women’s Day is twofold for me. It reminds the world that it’s simply harder to exist in this world if you are a woman. Despite #metoo and #timesup, there’s still so much to accomplish before women achieve equality globally. In recent years, it’s also become notorious for bringing out the “when is it international men’s day?” brigade. It makes the toxic men in your feed so much easier to unfollow.
Feminism is about helping all women overcome the obstacles they face in society.
It’s weird that it’s become harder to be a trans women in the last year or so. The tabloid press is creating a negative climate for trans people. They’re stirring up trouble, creating bogeymen where there are none. It makes you question how welcome you are in the community for something that’s not your choice or fault.
Activist & Writer
International Women’s Day is a strange concept, because it’s strange that we need a day to acknowledge the contribution of half the global population. But we do. It started as a protest by working women and, for me, a big part of it is acknowledging the unrewarded and uncompensated work that is done by women across the world – not just standard employed labour but the emotional and reproductive labour women do as daughters, sisters, partners and mothers as well.
Feminism has had a resurgence in popularity in the past few years in youth and social justice movements, particularly online. Sometimes, it feels like you can slap the label ‘feminist’ on anything from a tote bag to an artisanal cocktail pop-up bar. But this is just commodifying a movement that’s supposed to be collective and political – it’s about seeing how fucked up our society is about gender – (and men and women, and power) – and daring to change it. It’s asking why women get affected most by cuts or why refuges are closing. Feminism isn’t a hashtag – it’s exhausting work. Everyone LGBT+ has a stake in feminism – cis and trans women alike. But also gay guys and trans guys and non-binary people. Homophobia and transphobia are both linked to misogyny: you won’t get rid of them without eliminating the oppression of women.
IWD 2018 will be my third International Women’s Day since I began outward transition. I feel even more clueless about what it means to be a woman now than I did at the start, but I know what it is to be seen and treated as one. For some people, I will never be a woman. The hardest thing about being a trans woman in 2018 is having to deal with regular sexism from men and then transphobia from women as well as men. Sometimes the most aggressive and hateful transphobia can come from within pockets of feminism. But I recognise that being a middle class, white, young binary trans woman with a media platform in 2018 is a very fortunate position and I’m keen to amplify the oppressions of less fortunate trans women – those who face astonishing rates of not just transphobic aggression and violence but the gender pay gap, harassment at work, sexual assault and domestic violence. It’s time to start making the links between this and the oppressions of cisgender women and other marginalised genders.
The earliest known observance of a Women’s Day was on February 28th 1909 in New York, with its current date of March 8th only emerging in the following decade. It was the date on which Russian women took to the streets to call for ‘Bread and Peace’ in 1917, which four days later would lead to the abdication of the Czar and a new provisional government which would grant women suffrage. It was mainly celebrated by communist countries, such as the People’s Republic of China, until the United Nations officially designated it International Women’s Day in 1975.
International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go as cis or trans women. I look at my life as a woman with great pride after the years of suffering within, to be who I really am. A day for conversation about what it really means to be a woman is still needed. There is much debate between trans women and cis women with some issues. On this day, I hope we can come together to celebrate, put our differences aside and enjoy what life can bring.
The role of feminism in today’s society is to walk with pride. As a woman today, you need to show strength and intelligence, with thoughts of never being treated as a second-class citizen. Transgendered women remain extremely likely to be discriminated against; lesbian women tend to experience higher levels of discrimination in the UK than gay men.
Transgendered women are still in danger when it comes to violence. Unfortunately, the heightened visibility has also put more trans women at risk of being harassed, hurt or murdered. While images of Caitlyn Jenner receiving a standing ovation and accepting an award in a Versace dress might seem to herald a sunny time for the transgender community, most of them are still greatly disadvantaged socially and economically. The risk is even greater for transgender women of colour, who often grapple with both transphobia and racism. I’ve had the honour to be a part of the Trans Day of Remembrance for the last ten years, and every year I sit there with shock and disgust with what is still happening within our community.
My experience as a woman in 2018 has brought me more peace. Knowing and accepting who I am is a beautiful time in my life. I have also found peace with the fact that a lot of transphobia comes from within the LGBT community. I’m not saying I’m happy about it, but I have grown as a person, and realised this is real and not to be taken lightly. We still need to educate, but I fear some will never accept moving to that next level. I won’t get upset and let it ruin my life, but become more and more dedicated to our cause with joy in my heart.
Dani St James
Nightclub host and manager of AOFM Makeup
International Women’s Day is both a celebration of the victories in equality of women, and also a highlight of the ongoing struggle that women face. To me, it’s always been a reminder to appreciate the strong women in my world, particularly the beacon of strength that is my mother.
I think we’re really lucky in the UK to have so many successful women that are narrowing the gaps in equality, obviously we still have a way to go but I think we’re very good as a nation at actively promoting and recognising feminist values.
I transitioned when I was really young so I don’t really have anything to compare my experience to, but what I will say, is that I’ve never been held back as a woman. When pitted against a man in anything, I have always come out on top. Which I suppose is a bit ironic, really.