The measure of any society, nation culture is how it treats its women. Michelle Obama requoted this statement in 2016 from many different variations. If a society treats its women fairly, then its a pretty good indicator of how the rest of the society is moral, fair and just for all.
Inequality is often at the foundation of cultural beliefs and values, whether it be religion or institutional ways of life. I believe empowerment for those who feel injustice, should be at the heart of human endeavour, unfortunately women have been at the bad end of the stick for too long. The story is just as important then as it is now. It's also not just a story of women for women, maybe that's the problem.
Something Over Nothing? UK & Europe
British issues of sexism, gender pay gaps are surely not as important as those women abroad suffering freedom to leave their home, what to wear or physical abuse, are they? Maybe small injustices often lead to major ones. Not only that, the further we go to demonstrate full gender equality here, pushes higher the world's overall level of justice. Emily Pankhurst "In this movement we hoped there might be the means of righting every political and social wrong."
Too many women are denied their essential human rights by laws that discriminate on the basis of gender. But the progress made against sexist laws in Tanzania, Malta, and Pakistan proves that public pressure can drive change. Whether it's through tackling child marriage, outlawing all forms of violence against women, or giving women autonomy over their own careers, ending institutional inequality is a must. The lack of legal knowledge among many women, especially in developing countries, is a major obstacle.
The #metoo campaign saw millions of women demonstrate how sexism, sexual assault and harassment still exists. This will hopefully prevent it from happening, when a certain issue is discussed in public, it seems to change people tolerances and acceptabilities. Of course there were campaigns over time which were more unsavoury such as Emmeline Pankhurst's aggressive protests, law breaking but then they were horribly treated because of it. Che Guevara also believe in action instead of diplomacy.
A Bit of History (bare with)
It all comes down to equality, gender equality. Unfortunately you could say Women's rights have gone backwards in some societies, in ancient Egypt women enjoyed the same rights under the law as a men, however rightful entitlements depended upon social class. In Ancient India, Women enjoyed equal status with men in all aspects of life. History suggests women were educated and married at a mature age and were probably free to select their own husbands.
Though in Ancient Greece, the philosopher Aristotle thought that women would bring disorder and evil, the Cynics argued that men and women should wear the same clothing and receive the same kind of education. They also saw marriage as a moral companionship between equals rather than a biological or social necessity, and practiced these views in their lives as well as their teachings. But Ancient Roman law was similar to Athenian law, was created by men in favour of men. The Qur'an, known as the early reforms under Islam, introduced fundamental reforms to customary law and introduced rights for women in marriage, divorce, and inheritance considered much improved compared to other religions at that time. The English Church and culture in the Middle Ages regarded women as weak, irrational and vulnerable to temptation who was constantly needed to be kept in check as described in the story of Adam and Eve. The 16th and 17th century saw numerous witch trials, which resulted in thousands of people across Europe being executed, of whom 75-95% were women. This was the case for most of the world history.
(Emmeline Pankhurst statue, London)
In the late 18th century the question of women's rights became central to political debates in both France and Britain though, the 'great' Enlightenment thinkers of that time claimed new freedoms should only apply to white men. As the Enlightenment period developed aspiring people for greater freedoms and knowledge, suffrage became the primary cause of the British women's movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Emmeline Pankhurst led the public campaign on women's suffrage and in 1918 a bill was passed allowing women over the age of 30 to vote. "She shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back." In the subsequent decades women's rights became an important issue in the English speaking world. By the 1960s the movement was called "feminism". In the UK, a public groundswell of opinion in favour of legal equality had gained pace, partly through the extensive employment of women in what were traditional male roles during both world wars. In the 1960s UK, birth control movement advocated for the legalisation of abortion. Birth control is still a major theme in many societies including the United States, where reproductive issues are cited as examples of women's powerlessness to exercise their rights.
Inequality World Tour
Lets do a quick world tour of Nations laws against Women's inequalities.
Where in the world can a man abduct a woman, marry her, and immediately become impossible to prosecute? That would be Lebanon and Malta. Where can’t a married woman get divorced without her husband’s permission? Try Israel. In Russia, women are still forbidden from “hard, dangerous and/or unhealthy trades.”
India has been struggling to address its sexual assault problem the global outcry over a brutal gang rape and death of young student made headlines across the world in 2012. But a year later, the country added this clause into legislation—“Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” The country has effectively legalized marital rape.
In Saudi Arabia, a 1990 Fatwa argues that “women’s driving of automobiles” is prohibited, due to it being “a source of undeniable vices,” such as men and women privately meeting and women removing their veils.
Tunisian women are only given half an inherited estate, according to the country’s law, and two daughters are allowed two-thirds of what was willed. But if there’s a brother thrown into the mix, the ratio gets dramatically skewed. In the United Arab Emirates, the law is almost exactly the same, with men granted double what women are allowed.
In Nigeria, violence “by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife” is considered lawful.
In Yemen, a 1992 act allows that a wife “must obey him and refrain from disobedience, and perform her work around the conjugal home.” She’s barred from even leaving the home without expressed permission.
The obvious examples of this is demonstrated today in Turkey, where women are protesting for their right work. Just 34% of women in Turkey work, by far the lowest of the 35 industrialised countries, average is 63%.
In Syria a woman doctor describes how some men won't let her treat them because she's a woman.
Nine Sudanese women have been sentenced to 40 lashes – each – all because they wore trousers.
In Israel, A judge noted that it would be preferable to be a slave than a wife under Jewish law.
An Iranian woman who publicly removed her veil to protest against a mandatory hijab law has been sentenced to two years in prison. Obviously this is quite a lot worse than western countries issues of gender equality, but does this also represent the level of the Iranian society as a whole where Iran has been gripped by protests. Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to demonstrate against government corruption, unemployment and the weak economy.
Wearing the hijab is a legal requirement for women in Iran and many arab states. Headscarves are not mandatory by law in Afghanistan, but many girls and women are forced by their families to wear them.
Women with disabilities from different countries in Africa are meeting today in Nairobi to strategise for change to end violence against women and girls with disabilities. We are exchanging our experiences and good practices to promote progress and end systemic gender-based violence.
In Spain today women taking part are stopping work and have been urged by organisers to spend no money and ditch any domestic chores for the day.
Nowadays, it is so easy to dismiss the need for feminism because the ‘big issues’ have been dealt with, but there is still so much discrimination against women. In the UK, 43% of women aged 18-34 had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces last year. A study concluded that 90% of women have suffered sexual discrimination in the workplace including offensive sexist remarks or being told they could not do their job properly due to their sex. There is the misplaced belief that women have achieved equality and they should just shut up and stop moaning. Feminism has become a joke in popular media, often being depicted as men hating bra burning lesbains! This has led to women and men shrugging off the inequality that still exists. How common casual sexism is prevalent when feminism is mentioned. The rolling eyes. People instantly assume feminism is some kind of extremist movement. It really isn’t. I hate to break it to you, but you might just be a feminist too. Feminism = Equality.
Some would say that gender equality begins at childhood when we are nurtured to like pink or blue, girl or boy. This leads to the stereotypical boys liking toy soldiers, girls playing with barbies. A few years later the gender gap exists in culture and is self inducing. Men and women feel they should do and not do certain things. Are we self sexist? Of course this is a general theme, generating terms such as Tomboy, or just gay if you are a male with female personalities. All this is absurd if you think about it. Of course men and women are different biologically, but should we be brought up gender neutral?
I perceive International Women's Day, as a time to reflect & demonstrate a push for equality for all. Those incredible women deserve a recognition in their tremendous fight for civil rights, but maybe there should also be an International Equality day. For me it's all about empowering those who are at the point of injustice. The women listed below are remarkable, yet everyone can me influencial too, every drop makes an ocean.
No one is born with prejudice,
we learn it.
"In the face of all that, I want teenagers to know that, 100 years ago, others fought seemingly hopeless battles and succeeded against the odds. I want them to know that societal change is not just possible, but essential. I want them to know how impossible that fight must have seemed – but how the suffragettes fought it anyway, and won." Sally Nicholls F-Word.
Notable Women in History
Emmeline Pankhurst - Recent biographies show that historians differ about whether Emmeline Pankhurst's militancy helped or hurt the movement. However, there is general agreement that her methods raised public awareness of the movement in ways that proved essential. Pankhurst is recognised as one of the most important people in modern history.
Rosa Parks was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, whom the United States Congress called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement." She famously refused to obey bus drivers order to give up her seat in the "colored section" to a white passenger. Her resistance set in motion one of the largest social movements in history, "No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” World wide she is recognised as a Champion of change. “I gained strength to persevere in my work for freedom, not just for blacks, but all oppressed people.” “I did not want to be continually humiliated over something I had no control over:
Hedy Lamarr's - the 1940s ‘bombshell’ who helped invent wifi - invention of a secret communications system during World War II for radio-controlling torpedoes, employing "frequency hopping" technology, laid the technological foundations for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS. She also happened to be a world-famous film star.
Maria Telkes, In 1947, the Hungarian scientist invented the thermoelectric power generator, Solar Panels.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani human rights advocate known for her activism in promoting education for girls. In 2012, when she was just 15 years old, a Taliban gunman shot her in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her work. At the age of 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest Nobel laureate.
Maria Beasley: The life raft
A Syrian girl named Bana Alabed grabbed the world's attention with her series of heartbreaking tweets from inside the besieged city of Aleppo starting in 2016. Now 8 years old, Alabed continues to advocate for the people of Syria and draw attention to conditions in the war-torn country.
Ann Tsukamoto: Stem cell isolation - This was a huge and complex invention—the ability to isolate the stem cell has been vital in learning more about cancer. The hope is that one day it could lead to a cure for cancer and many other diseases.
English author Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein, which many credit as the origin of science fiction. Thus, Shelley has been called "the teenage girl who invented science fiction."
Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar - 5 times stronger than steel.
Boudicca was an inspirational leader of the Britons. She led several tribes in revolt against the Roman occupation.
Grace Hopper: The computer. She invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code and coined the terms “bug” and “debugging”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her pamphlet “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” laid down a moral and practical basis for extending human and political rights to women. She was a pioneer in the struggle for female suffrage.
Ada Lovelace, whose father was Lord Byron, was encouraged by her scientist mother from a young age to become a champion of mathematics. "analytic engine" (i.e. old-timey computer) to develop ways to program the machine with mathematical algorithms, essentially making her "the first computer programmer".
Elizabeth Magie: Monopoly - Was originally a political criticism of “It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” “It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’ - same as the human race in general to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) A lifelong anti-slavery campaigner. Her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a bestseller and helped to popularise the anti-slavery campaign. Abraham Lincoln later remarked that her books were a major factor behind the American civil war.
Catherine the Great (1729–1796) One of the greatest political leaders of the Eighteenth Century. Catherine the Great was said to have played an important role in improving the welfare of Russian serfs. She placed great emphasis on the arts and helped to cement Russia as one of the dominant countries in Europe.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her pamphlet “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” laid down a moral and practical basis for extending human and political rights to women. She was a pioneer in the struggle for suffrage.
Mirabai (1498–1565) Indian mystic and poet. Mirabai was born into a privileged Hindu family, but she forsook the expectations of a princess and spent her time as a mystic and devotee of Sri Krishna. She helped revitalise the tradition of bhakti (devotional) yoga in India.
Marie Curie (1867–1934) Polish/French scientist. Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize and the first person to win the Nobel Prize for two separate categories. Her first award was for research into radioactivity (Physics, 1903). Her second Nobel prize was for Chemistry in 1911. A few years later she also helped develop the first X-ray machines.
Elizabeth I (1533–1603) Queen of England during a time of great economic and social change, she saw England cemented as a Protestant country. During her reign, she witnessed the defeat of the Spanish Armada leaving Britain to later become one of the world’s dominant superpowers.
Coco Chanel (1883–1971) One of the most innovative fashion designers, Coco Chanel was instrumental in defining feminine style and dress during the 20th Century. Her ideas were revolutionary; in particular she often took traditionally male clothes and redesigned them for the benefit of women
Billie Holiday (1915–1959) American jazz singer. Given the title “First Lady of the Blues” Billie Holiday was widely considered to be the greatest and most expressive jazz singer of all time.
Rosalind Franklin: DNA double helix - a British biophysicist, was the first person to capture a photographic image while observing molecules using x-ray diffraction. But without her permission, an estranged male colleague showed the photograph to competitors Watson and Crick, who stole the credit as their own.
Anne Frank (1929–1945) Dutch Jewish author. Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most widely read books in the world. It reveals the thoughts of a young, yet surprisingly mature 13-year-old girl, confined to a secret hiding place. “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
Tegla Loroupe (1973– ) Kenyan athlete. Loroupe held the women’s marathon world record and won many prestigious marathons. Since retiring from running, she has devoted herself to various initiatives promoting peace, education and women’s rights.
Diana, Princess of Wales (1961–1997) British Royal princess who was noted for her humanitarian charity work. Despite her troubled marriage to Prince Charles, she was popular for her natural sympathy with the poor and disenfranchised.
Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007) The first female prime minister of a Muslim country. She helped to move Pakistan from a dictatorship to democracy, becoming Prime Minister in 1988. She sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor. She was assassinated in 2007.
Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993) British actress. Influential female actor of the 1950s and 60s. Audrey Hepburn defined feminine glamour and dignity. After her acting career ended in the mid 1960s, she devoted the remaining period of her life to humanitarian work with UNICEF.
Indira Gandhi (1917–1984) First female prime minister of India. She was in power from between 1966–77 and 1980–84. Accused of authoritarian tendencies she only narrowly avoided a military coup by agreeing to hold an election at the end of the “emergency period” of 1977. She was assassinated in 1984 by her bodyguards.
Dorothy Hodgkin (1910–1994) British chemist. Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel prize for her work on critical discoveries of the structure of both penicillin and later insulin. An outstanding chemist, Dorothy also devoted a large section of her life to the peace movement and promoting nuclear disarmament.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) Wife and political aide of American president F.D.Roosevelt. In her own right Eleanor made a significant contribution to the field of human rights, a topic she campaigned upon throughout her life. As head of UN human rights commission she helped draft the 1948 UN declaration of human rights.
Mother Teresa (1910–1997) Albanian nun and charity worker. Devoting her life to the service of the poor and dispossessed Mother Teresa became a global icon for selfless service to others. Through her Missionary of Charities organisation, she personally cared for thousands of sick and dying people in Calcutta.
Millicent Fawcett (1846–1929) A leading suffragist and campaigner for equal rights for women. She led Britain’s biggest suffrage organisation, the non-violent (NUWSS) and played a key role in gaining women the vote. She also helped found Newnham College, Cambridge.
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) British nurse. By serving in the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale was instrumental in changing the role and perception of the nursing profession. Her dedicated service won widespread admiration and led to a significant improvement in the treatment of wounded soldiers.
Joan of Arc (1412–1431) The patron saint of France, Joan of Arc inspired a French revolt against the occupation of the English. An unlikely hero, at the age of just 17, the diminutive Joan successfully led the French to victory at Orleans. Her later trial and martyrdom only heightened her mystique.
Malala Yousafzai (1997– ) Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for women’s rights, especially the right to education.