International Women's Day Conference and Workshop March 2022
When I hear a lot of the clichéd ‘inspirational quotations’, I have to say I’m often a bit guilty of rolling my eyes. So, it’s a little bit hypocritical to start coining one here. But, forgive me:
‘If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can no longer hear them.’
It’s a line I wish I’d heard - and indeed followed long ago. That or I should have invested in some good ear defenders.
As I write this, I need to tell you that today is International Women’s Day and, even in my lifetime, I feel there have been many marked changes in the drive towards equality. Yet, I’d be deluded to say that things are perfect; they’re not. Far from it. I only have to recall some saddening and sickening statistics from the online conference I attended today with our Sixth Form girls to warrant such a comment. Domestic abuse is on the rise; 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in some way during their lifetime, compared to 1 in 6 men. I mean, any domestic violence is a bad thing, but why are women so much more likely to face it? It’s a question we need to start asking ourselves right now. The joy continues… only 35% of MPs in Britain are female (an all-time high) and, although this is moving in the right direction, the fact is that decisions, on the whole, are being made by males. This is not good for men, too. Sharing the burden of responsibility will make life better and easier for us all. We need women to lead, too, so that women’s issues can be genuinely and accurately represented. Interestingly, the conference today revealed that Rwanda leads the way in terms of its representation of women in parliament. There is much to do...
The conference highlighted that we need to recognise the systematic social inequalities. This will be uncomfortable but a necessary step to purge anything unhelpful. The panel was quick to note that we need to question traditional gender roles which are seen to legitimise abusive behaviour or inequalities. Phrases such as ‘Boys will be boys’ are particularly unhelpful as they encourage people to behave in a boisterous manner. And it’s clear from the discussion that such perceptions are prevalent. Some of the speakers representing charities supporting victims of domestic violence referred to some shocking research which highlights how people are marginalised through language and that this language strengthens and perpetuates gender inequality. This speaker continued to explain the need to challenge this language and cycles of abuse to avoid intergenerational abuse and to avoid this behaviour being ‘normalised’.
Interestingly, Northamptonshire is a county in Britain which does record misogyny as a hate crime. Is it not shocking to hear that there isn’t parity across our counties?
In the lead up to this event, I had some enlightening conversations with my tutor group. One student mentioned that women now face the ‘triple shift.’ When I asked him about this, he explained that they had been learning about it in Sociology. Women are expected to work, be the homemakers and the mother figure and everything else. I suggested that, in many respects, it is even more demanding to be a woman now than it has ever been as we are expected to do it all. So that’s why I feel like a minute gerbil on a massive hamster wheel, that’s on the high-speed setting…
However, please don’t think that this event was all doom and gloom. The atmosphere was far from it. Cupcakes, tea, a music and history quiz followed by the opportunity to talk about our experiences as females was just brilliant. It is heartening to attend an event like this, to witness young females, our future, hear the facts straight - no sugar coating - and discuss their experiences, hopes and aspirations for future generations of women - and indeed men. As one panellist highlighted, ‘There is the need for representation from different parts of society if we are going to gain equality for all.’
Ms S. Morrison