Women still get the shaft 100 years later

International Women's Day is now a reminder that feminism appears to have fallen out of fashion.

To burn my bra, or not to burn my bra—that is the question.

The environmental impact of lighting up slings of polyester, not to mention my aversion to potentially dangerous clichés, leads me to the latter course of action.

But then again, as this is written, it’s International Women’s Day—a time to pay homage to all the ladies who paved the way for the likes of me to putter along in a cubicle, typing up my glib thoughts, indifferent to concerns of gender inequality.

What history lessons past have taught me is that my American female forebears put this day into action in 1909, marching en masse in New York to protest miserable working conditions and an inability to weigh in on the political process.

The United Nations got onboard in 1975, making International Women’s Day a cause for celebration, or observance, ever since.

Screams of dissent and tears of frustration have marked these occasions all around the world as women have battled for equality.

But today in my cubicle, where it’s abundantly clear the notion of feminism has fallen out of fashion all around me, International Women’s Day seems less like a political call to action and more like  a Hallmark holiday—the likes of Mothers’, Fathers’ or Valentine’s Day.

In fact, part of me can’t help but wonder if it’s downright detrimental.

Do we need celebrations that don’t promote equality between the men and women but hammer home divides?

I suppose, the answer would be no, if it seemed like women would stop getting the shaft, but a quick scan of stats, news headlines and reports show that feminism, while not trendy, is still very relevant.

Cast aside the ugly fact that women’s reproductive rights have made American news in recent months, as though we hit a breach in the space time continuum and have all been sent to the ’50s.

Focus instead on the more insidious vestiges of inequality on Canadian soil.

In 2008, for example, Statistics Canada reported women earned about 65 per cent of what men earned, attributing the gap to a difference in hours worked.

Speaking of gaps, the income difference between Canadian women and men with a university education has been stuck between 66 per cent and 68 per cent since the late 1990s, according to an equality report presented to the United Nations in 2010.

And in March 2011 the UN Development Programme knocked Canada down from 16 to 18 on its Gender Inequality Index, in view of a UNICEF report on maternal mortality rates.

All of these tidbits don’t exactly add up to the  powder keg conditions that sent thousands of Americans into the streets to protest, over 100 years ago.

But, it’s quite clear that International Women’s Day isn’t deserving of indifferent or glib thoughts—maybe it’s just the spark needed to burn down the last barriers to equality.

Kathy Michaels is a reporter with the Capital News.

 

kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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