Yesterday was the 8th of March, also known as International Women’s Day. 8th of March has always been a date for me to look forward to, being born and raised in Norway. It’s known for having speeches and processions and sometimes protests, and I’ve always seen it as an important day to highlight women’s rights and battles.
Having lived in Gillingham for the last two years, I haven’t really celebrated properly, but when I moved to Canterbury this year, I was really hoping for a celebration or protest of some kind.
Besides a lunch and a lecture, there was nothing. No signs, no flags, no protesters, no organisations, no nothing. In 2017?!
I would expect more, especially now when the man in charge of the white house is a man who encourages other men to grab women by the pussy. Especially now when a man suspected of sexual harassment won an Oscar just a few weeks ago. Especially now when, just last week, a Polish MEP said in the European parliament that women SHOULD earn less than men because they are smaller and less intelligent. Shouldn’t we protest that with all we have?
I completely understand that not everyone wants to mark International Women’s Day - but I refuse to believe that there’s absolutely no one who does. Why is there no marketing on it? Why is there no engagement? Where is everyone?
In Norway, more or less all of my friends identify as feminists. Here, it seems like people are hesitant to go under that name. People seem to have an impression that feminists are angry women who don’t shave their armpits, wear androgynous clothes and vote left. Some people even prefer to call themselves humanists, because “they don’t just care about women, but men too.”
To me, the most important thing is that people believe in equal rights, but we have got to remove the stigma around the word feminism. Feminism means equal rights. It doesn’t mean more rights for women than men. It doesn’t mean angry women with unshaven armpits. It doesn’t mean that women don’t want to ‘be in the kitchen’ or stay at home with their kids, but the opportunity to choose not to. The same, not more, opportunities that men have.
Our fight is not over, which is why I’m so discouraged to see that there wasn’t a proper marking of the International Women’s Day. I looked with envy at pictures my friends posted from back home, of important politicians speaking on women’s issues in front of crowds big enough to fill a football stadium.
If you think women and men are equal - we’re getting there, but we’ve got a long way to go. With people like Donald Trump in charge, we need to let him know that we will not be silenced and that we refuse to cave.
Hopefully, there will be a bigger marking of International Women’s Day next year, but I have to say I’m relieved it’s my last one in England. I can’t wait to return to a country where days like this matter.