When I produced my first ever documentary 25 years ago against violent porn I opened the film with images of the red light district and the James Brown song “It’s a man’s world”:
“This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl!”…
It is the 100th International Women’s Day today but it is still a Man’s world:
Even though women make up more than half of the world’s population, we are still a long way off from being equally represented. Only an average 19% of parliament members world-wide are female. Women still have limited access to education: 41m girls world-wide are still denied primary education and 64% of the world’s illiterate adults are female. Women do still not receive equal pay for equal work.
It is still women who are at the receiving end of (sexual) violence:
It is mostly women who are sex trafficked and abused. Most rape victims are female. But the conviction rate of male rapists is still at only 6%. 90% of people experiencing domestic violence are female.
In many countries women are still not in control of their own bodies – they experience forced genital mutilation, have no access to health care and birth control and abortions are criminalized.
Currently my heart bleeds for the sisters in the African countries that are on the verge of the civil war. Ritual raping during times of unrest and war is rife. The woman considered to be the possession of the enemy there to be taken, violated, even killed.
For the inherent sexism that rules, we don’t have to look far afield.
Imagine a European female president holding regular sex parties with a posse of male escorts and having an affair with a 17 year old boy. Not only would the tabloids hold a modern day witch hunt but she would be disgraced, out of a job and probably be locked up by now. Just the posing of Sally Bercow wrapped in a sheet and talking about the sex life with her husband who happens to be the UK parliaments speaker caused an outcry of a nation. Big deal. Same old same old. He boasts about sex and is a ‘stud’, she talks about it and is a ‘slut’.
There still is a double standard regarding what different genders get away with. Women still have less freedom, to say and do what they want. This is particulary apparent in public, on the street. We still have not claimed back the night. We have not even claimed back the days yet. The first time a lorry driver wolf whistled and shouted explicit sexual chat up lines at me I was 11. I was terrified. What had I done wrong? Was it the way I walked or what I wore? Of course it has nothing to do with you – apart from the fact that you have the female gender and a lot of men feel the need to put you in your place and tax your right to walk on ‘their’ streets by verbally abusing you. As a woman you learn early on not to draw attention to yourself, hold your head down and just keep walking when a posse of builders shouts at you “great tits” and then “cheer up, go on give us a smile” when you don’t respond to their harassment. I do not take any shit anymore and confront the wankers. It puzzles and embarasses them. They are used to being the predator and not the victim. More and more women are fed up with being invisible and keeping their mouth shut. It is time to shout back! The HOLLABACK movement is gaining momentum. Check out: www.ihollaback.org
There are glimpses of hope and a future of true equality. In many African countries under the banner “Gender is my agenda” African women unite to achieve equality where it matters most: government and enterprise. Liberia elected the first ever female African president, Nobel Peace Price nominee Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. In neighbouring Rwanda there are now 52% of women in parliament. These events give reason to celebrate! Even though we are still at the beginning of the journey, change is coming. Slowly but surely. Feminist sisters around the world are uniting and supporting each other.
Find out more about the positive changes in Africa and how to support them here: thegreatinitiative.com
If you are in a position to help women who are the victims of violence please consider donating even a small amount to:
Victims of sex trafficking: unseenuk.org
Against female genital mutilation: forwarduk.org.uk
The time has come to hold your head high. Look straight ahead, be proud. Women perform 66% of work on the world and only receive 10% of the income.
You are a woman. And the world would be nothing without a woman or a girl.
Wishing you all a fantastic woman’s day!
Find out where to celebrate here: internationalwomensday.com