International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
But celebrating International Women’s Day is always such a bittersweet experience for me – a reminder, year after year, that after accomplishing so much during the first three quarters of the 20th century, progress seems to have stalled during the past 30 years.
Maybe it’s because we’re now fighting for subtler rights – not for the right to vote or for the right to own property but for rights such as the right to be free of gender-based violence, for the right to be treated equally in the workplace, and for the right to be treated with respect.
We’re not there yet, and while some of my readers argue that my focus on media portrayal of women is wrong – that we have the choice to simply not consume those images, that the media doesn’t really have that much influence over us, I beg to differ.
I beg to differ because women like Lindsay copeland have taught me that media images did in fact influence their decision to undergo plastic surgery or liposuction; because many women still die every year trying to “improve” themselves with plastic surgery; because until I started educating myself, I never realized how heavily manipulated those media images really are; and because if we don’t know they are heavily manipulated, and young girls and women will not know unless we tell them, women will continue to be influenced by these images and feel inadequate, even depressed.
So what does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century in the developed world? First of all, it means you’re very lucky – by law, you have the exact same rights and freedoms as a man. You’re free to vote, to own property, to drive, to learn, to work. The law protects you from gender-based crime. You are doing so much better than your sisters in the developing world who are still being abused, harassed, raped, kidnapped, maimed, burned, stoned, trafficked, molested, exploited, and abducted on a daily basis – and in most cases, the criminals are never prosecuted, let alone spend jail time or otherwise pay for their crime.
But even for you, being a woman still means paying a heavy social, cultural and financial price. You waste thousands of dollars and precious time every year on looking “feminine.” You wear painful, damaging high heels and restrictive clothes, cover your “imperfections” with makeup, dye your hair to look “better” or “younger,” spend a fortune on anti-aging creams that don’t work, undergo dangerous plastic surgery, deadly liposuction and painful hair removal. You work hard but earn less than men do, work harder and get reprimanded for being a “bad mom.” You play like the guys and are labeled as a bitch, play nice and stay behind.
As the mother of two bright, talented young girls it pains me to say this, but in the 21st century, in the developed world, being a woman is still a major liability.
Loved this Comment: “for the last ten years, the annual wages for females has been stalled in the high 70% bracket. Granted, it’s better than the 60% +/- we saw up until 1990, but we still have a long road ahead of us. It’s really no wonder more women are becoming business owners and taking the ball into their own hands and gaining control of their own income.” Barbara Swafford, Blogging Without A Blog.