#IWD16: Stop Asking Why IWD Still Exists!

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For International Women’s Day, Doreen Manning has taken the gloves off and is pulling no punches when she tells us in no uncertain terms, why we need to stop asking why IWD exists, and start asking what we can do to make things better.

Ah, the privileged, able-bodied, heterosexual white male, aged 18-49. What a fucking brilliant existence he must have. Everyone listens to him. Nobody laughs at his suggestions. He suggests cereal cafés; they promptly happen. He suggests ball pits for grown-ups; companies build them and market them as a real modern necessity for the man who has it all, but wants something more. Then a woman comes along. Dressed in her clothes. Talking about things, and stuff, y’know, the usual ‘woman’ shit. She suggests gender equality; it doesn’t happen, she gets verbal abuse from teenage boys online, and sexual harassment in her workplace – because she ‘obviously just needs a fuck’. She suggests the daring idea that not all women want to be mothers; groups of old men spit on her and call her a murderer, with no evidence to back up their claim.

I can already sense the outrage building in some readers’ minds. I’ve made several hasty generalizations that you’re just itching to correct me on, I know. But even with those overzealous simplifications of what the real world is like, the reality can’t be ignored anymore. Inequality still exists. In fucking spades.

International Women’s Day is fast approaching and people still ask why women still need IWD, or why there isn’t an International Men’s Day, even asking why one exists and not the other is to ignore sheer levels of inequality women experience in the world, even today. In recent months, there has been a surge of events and incidents that have brought misogyny and sexism back into the headlines, and into people’s psyches. Tying a rape victim to her alleged abuser in an indefinite contract is just one in a long line of these increasingly disturbing shitstorms.

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Let me spell it out for [you]. Imagine someone really hurt you, physically and emotionally. Scared you and abused you, threatened your family.  The judge says that you don’t have to see them again, BUT they still own your house. So they can decide when to turn the heat on and off, whether they’ll pay the telephone bill or fix the roof when it leaks. After everything you’ve been through, do you feel safe living in that house? Do you trust them to protect you?”

The above is an excerpt from a letter written by Lena Dunham, on the recent judgement passed by New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich to deny singer Ke$ha’s preliminary injunction to temporarily release her from her recording contract with Sony Music Entertainment, a contract which sickeningly ties her to producer Dr. Luke, a man who allegedly drugged and raped the singer. Dunham’s letter is directed at Kornreich, suggesting that both she and Sony Music Entertainment “could make this go away”. Both Dr. Luke and Sony are currently facing a massive online backlash due to the result of this judgement, which has left Ke$ha’s music career in limbo for several years, and it looks like it could stay that way for several more to come.

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Late last year, acclaimed actress Jennifer Lawrence expressed public anger at Hollywood’s archaic gender pay gap, citing her role in the David O Russell movie, American Hustle, for which she received only 7% of the movie’s profits, versus the 9% of both the director and her male co-stars. Sadly, Lawrence laid the blame on herself for not demanding the same money for doing the same work as her co-stars (“…based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue … Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”), rather than blaming the age-old idea in Hollywood that women are not cast for their acting talent, but are instead cast for their looks and sexual pull, and are too meek or polite to demand what’s rightfully theirs. Her American Hustle co-star Bradley Cooper publicly supported Lawrence’s demands for fair pay. Her other co-star Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, claimed it wasn’t his problem.

The actions of both Ke$ha and Lawrence have gone a long way to highlight the disparity between equality for men, and equality for women. This imbalance shows up in many areas we encounter in our daily lives, including advertising, healthcare, employment and social networking. Let’s start with advertising.

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It almost seems normal these days to use women, and their bodies, for advertising purposes. That doesn’t mean it has to be normal. Work has gone towards changing that but it’s not going far enough. With that in mind, I will now direct my ire towards the bane of many women’s existence: marketing executives. I figure that usually when a company or product needs an eye-catching idea to advertise their latest, up-and-coming, wonderful, can’t-live-without-it product or some horseshit like that, a group of aliens thinly disguised as humans sit around a table writing down ideas on how best to reach the target demographic. Then some fuckclump perks up and says, “But what if we put the product on a woman’s arse or something?”

And you end up with something like this, courtesy of the marketing shitheaps at Sony:

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What better way to advertise a handheld console that’s supposed to be marketed to all genders and all ages, than to have a woman with four fucking breasts in the imagery for it!

Now, compare that to an advert by the same company, featuring a male in place of a female:

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Do you see the problem?

A man in a gaming advert is part of the game. He IS the gamer. A woman is the object to be handled by the gamer, rather than being a gamer herself. The woman is NOT the gamer, and is not allowed to be. Yet the industry wonders why GamerGate happened, and why approximately 70 percent of women who play online multiplayer games set up male characters in order to avoid sexual harassment from male gamers.

Healthcare is the next hurdle for women craving equality to tackle. When was the last time you read a clickbait article about men struggling to get basic medical care, or being forced to travel to another country for a simple medical procedure that they should, by right, be able to obtain in the country they reside in? There wasn’t a last time, because that level of inequity is only thrown at women to get to grips with. In developing countries, women without access to basic modern contraception accounted for an estimated 63.2 million unintended pregnancies in 2012, and more than 50 percent of people worldwide who are HIV positive are women. There are greater barriers for women with a migrant/ethnic minority background, including women with disabilities, trying to access reproductive healthcare, or even basic healthcare. Recent incidents have come to light of women who have been misdiagnosed or have died, simply due to medical practitioners fobbing off their medical complaints as ‘period related’, or ‘hormonal’. That’s before we even cover the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, which has been shutting down increasingly violent, and frankly infuriatingly stupid, scare tactics thrown at it by anti-choice mouth-breathers and Republicans, in an effort to shut down their centres, which provide affordable healthcare for women who, without it, would have to go without. So I have to wonder, how the hell are women expected to get over that hurdle in their daily lives?

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Employment is still an extremely tough area for women, with the gender pay gap still creating serious problems for women. According to Douglas Massey’s Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System, there is a certain amount of stature still seen in jobs that are exclusively occupied by men, so as a consequence, when women begin to enter an occupation, this reduces the amount of prestige associated with the job and men will eventually filter themselves out. Hiring women into specific jobs have the bizarre trend of suggesting to male employees that ‘less competent’ workers are being hired, or that the job has become ‘deskilled’. Men are reluctant to enter female-dominated occupations because of this, and likewise resist women’s entrance into predominantly male jobs and workplaces. In America, women currently make up 80 percent of welfare recipients, and 70 percent of Medicaid (social healthcare program for families on low income and limited resources) recipients.

Now we direct our ire towards a particularly low form of abuse that is almost always directed at women: online harassment.


 

Online abuse directed at women, including, but not limited to, doxing (posting an individual’s home address or other private contact details online for public use) making threats of rape and murder, even stealing women’s online images in order to create ‘slut shame’ profiles, like SuprMaryFace aka Mary G Thomson above, have risen sharply over the past several years. Research has revealed over the past few years that 70 percent of those stalked online are women, with 80% of cyber-stalking defendants turning out to be men. Women are left struggling to deal, and respond, to abuse like this, with approximately 70 percent of women who play online multiplayer games setting up male characters in order to avoid sexual harassment from male gamers. Incidents like these, and the increases in their occurrence, can be almost entirely attributed to a backlash in the media and among people as a whole against the growth of feminism and gender equality. Women are fighting back, and men don’t want them to.

Inequality still exists. Women are still far from equal to men. International Women’s Day is absolutely crucial, both for raising awareness of issues like these that disproportionately affect women much more than men, and for showing other women across the world that they are not alone, that there is a strong contingent of both men and women who know that inequality still exists, but don’t accept the idea that it should. IWD is needed. Men, women and children need IWD. The world needs IWD, and IWD needs the world, to march, to fight and to demand equality, rights, respect, safety and freedom for women.

Based in Cork, Doreen Manning is an activist, writer, graphic designer and self-styled “feminazi cunt who is taxed as a non-essential item.” You can follow her on Twitter here.

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