Strength And Power At The Melbourne Women's March

Why We March – The Importance of International Women’s Day

International women’s day is a celebration, we celebrate the success of women from all over the world, but it’s also a time to let our voices be heard and continue to fight for gender parity. Personally I believe this type of work goes beyond a single day, and for many of us it does, but day’s like International Women’s day give those fighting for gender equality a fantastic platform to shout out against many inequalities we have become accustomed to.

What has happened to Feminism?

Growing up I was accustomed to feminism being a dirty word. I understood being a feminist meant you were a man hater, spoiling the fun for everyone else. In school if you were considered a feminist, you were laughed at, if you wanted the same opportunity as boys in many sports such as; football (soccer), basketball and rugby, to name but a few, you were teased, name called or viewed to be less of a woman. It’s only recently I have stopped being ashamed to be seen as a feminist.

From researching feminism as a postgraduate student, women who seek gender parity are seen as transgressive. They are looking to break social norms that have existed in many cultures for centuries. Women should be dedicated to taking care of their husbands, sons and daughters. They should take up limited space, show some strength, but just not too much, because that would be perceived as unattractive. Be clever but not too clever, be physically in shape but not too muscular, have ambition but not to expect to be paid equally.

But things are changing, feminism has become ‘trendy’ and there’s less shame in being considered a feminist. Of course I would account much of this change to the political disaster in the U.S. and the women’s marches that followed. But feminism, to me at least, goes well beyond fighting for gender equality.

To many women around the world, I apologise for not stepping up sooner. I grew up in a working to middle class family, pretty well off as my mum and dad worked hard to give my sisters and I the best life possible. As I began to identify as a feminist I narrow-mindedly only ever thought about those in the community I was directly surrounded by. I didn’t consider how other women’s fight was much harder than my own, only with age have I opened my eyes to see how race, religion, social class and sexual orientation really affect how we are regarded and treated.

strength and power at the Melbourne women's march

From attending the women’s march in Melbourne on the 8th of March, one thing was very clear. We were marching for each other. Whatever our race or religion, our sexual orientation or our gender identity the majority of us were marching for each other. 

Many are critical of feminisms’ new found popularity and I understand their scepticism. There’s a belief that individuals are identifying as feminists for a few days a year but not really appreciating the struggle many face on a daily basis, forgetting about the movement for 364 days of the year.

But feminism is engaging a whole new audience of young people. It’s important to give individual’s the chance to open their minds and their hearts and see what they have previously over looked, lets try to keep any scepticism to a minimal, at least for a little while.

So is International Women’s Day important?

To answer this question I enlisted the help of a number of the inspiring women in my life. I think the above video captures the importance of acknowledging International Women’s Day.

I asked Dr Irene A Reid, a sport sociology lecturer and my former postgraduate supervisor, from the University of Stirling, why International Women’s Day is important to her. Her answer resounded with me and I would like to share part of it with you:

“I’ve grown into being more self-confident, more self-assured as a woman with a voice, with something to say and who can do something that might contribute to bringing about change for others. I recognise not only that I have the right to ‘march’ on IWD, but I have a responsibility to do so. For there are millions of women and girls around the world, in my own country, and in my local community, who don’t have the confidence to do so, who don’t have the right or the opportunity to do so to march, to make their voice heard.

International Women’s Day is a chance to acknowledge and celebrate women their achievements and their aspirations; it remembers the road women have travelled, and exposes the challenges for different women and girls in diverse communities. Why do I ‘march’ now? IWD is a marker of my journey throughout the year to be more engaged with the spirit, and the praxis, of womanhood.”

We should march for each other no matter where in the world we come from. To me this seems pretty simple. 

signs at international women's day march in melbourne
we have a dream

Are marches going to make a difference?

My motivation for writing this post and making the above video came from being asked what the point of women’s marches were. Quite simply I answered that it was about creating a community of support for each other, fighting against the injustice we see in the world. Will my little sign in the middle of a crowd change the world? Will my video cause a global cascade of change, leading to equality for everyone on this planet? Of course not, but I can’t sit back, we can’t sit back.

Why is a women in the refugee camp in Nauru (an island off the coast of Australia) denied treatment and medical care for a lump that was found to be growing in her breast? Is it due to the colour of her skin? Her faith? Because she is being punished for fleeing a war zone? This women’s story is harrowing and received a fair amount of media attention back in summer 2016. As I read through the articles I couldn’t find what happened to her. If anyone knows the answer please let me know.

Women’s marches are important because women’s rights are important. A group of voices CAN make a difference. You only need to look at the recent LOVE ARMY FOR SOMALIA   to see how campaigning for something you believe in can spark a movement.


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