Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day.

Zapatista Women, found here

When I saw that one of my favourite blogs, Gender Across Borders had organised for a bunch of blogs to blog for International Women's Day, I jumped at the chance to take part! You can check out who else is taking part in the directory here, I'm so looking forward to filling myself up on some feminist-y goodness later on today.

I love that I'm writing this the morning after seeing the first women win best director, and then go on to take best picture at the Oscars. Seeing her holding the two Oscars in her hands was so satisfying, especially knowing that not only had she made history but had beaten out her ex-husband (evil of me to be happy about that? Perhaps). I have yet to see The Hurt Locker, but the very fact that it has taken 82 years for this to happen and as Jill at Feministe points out, in 2007 women made up only 29.9% of speaking roles in films and that of those films directors, producers and writers, 83% were men, is an inspiring accomplishment. Also, using Helen Reddy's 'I Am Woman' as patronizing exit music and hearing comments about how she looked more like an actress than a director on the red carpet (we all know you can't be both smart and hot!) illustrated how much of a divide is still really there.

Gender Across Borders has posed the question, based on the U.N.'s theme for International Women's Day, 'What does 'equal rights for all' mean to you?'. My first response was, well....everything? Is that not what we're all working for? Well, sadly not everyone is working for that, but you know what I mean. The fact is though, that there are thousands of people who are tirelessly working towards a reality of equal rights for all, but only a handful of those are ever recognised and very, very few get fancy awards. I don't want to diminish Kathryn Bigelows award at all, because I realise how hard she worked and what a fantastic achievement it is, but we can't ignore the fact that she comes from a place of privilege. She is white, wealthy, cisgendered, straight and American, and has had opportunities many women only dream of.

So while again, I think Bigelow winning was a great moment, it is helpful to look at it as a symbol, just like International Women's Day is a symbol. Things like IWD, Women's History Month, Black History Month, etc are all excellent tools for raising awareness and catalysts for action, however the reality is that not only should we be promoting equal rights everyday, but there are women all over the world who are demanding just that. The women represented by Bigelow are a small percentage of those women and if we're not also honouring and remembering the rest of us fighting for change then we are not fully concerning ourselves with equal rights for all. And by the 'rest of us' I mean women who are poor, women who are trans, gay women, women with disabilities, women of colour, women who are fat and women who are sex workers.

There are countless examples, but a few that spring to mind are;

- The Pink Chaddi Campaign were women in Bangalore and across India responded to attacks on women in pubs by a right-wing Hindu group, by sending the group piles and piles of pink panties and exercising their personal freedoms by continuing to go and enjoy drinks at pubs with their friends.

- Femen, women in the Ukraine fighting against the sex trade industry with their powerful slogan, 'Ukraine is not a Brothel' and dedication to creative self expression (found via the always awesome Craftivism).

- Sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside fighting to be heard and safely challenge adult prostitution laws.

- Garment workers in L.A. risking their jobs to sue Forever 21 and demand fair pay and working conditions.

- Human Rights Watch taking a stance against violence towards transgender folks in Honduras in their report 'Not Worth A Penny' and the transgender community continuing to protest against systemic violence which in turn puts their lives at risk.

- Websites such as Scarleteen, Our Bodies, Ourselves, Where's Your Line and stores like Good Vibrations, Womyns Ware and Come As You Are empowering women through sex positivity, body awareness and inclusiveness.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture I'm sure. There are so many examples of women not just working towards equal rights but demanding and outright taking them. While there is an inherent challenge in these examples, especially because they often illustrate the giant divide that still exists, there is also so much joy for me. Women all over are fighting for their rights and taking their rewards of self determination. So for someone like Kathryn Bigelow, I'm sure being awarded those statuettes and being recognised for her work was an amazing feeling, but for me the reward was the very fact that she was there in the first place, that she had the freedom to do the work she loves, and this freedom is afforded by an underlying structure of ongoing struggle for equal rights that has been going on for centuries and will continue until everyone has these freedoms.

Equal rights for all is a framework, a tapestry, a patchwork, a grid system of many, many people working for justice. Their fights are my fights, their successes are my successes, we all benefit from greater self determination. The continuous struggle for equality is often an unbelievably daunting task, until you realise that throughout the world there are incredible people pushing, demanding and fighting for the same thing and what an incredible picture that is.

Oh, there's is also a Monday's Mix today! In celebration of International Women's Day I give you, 'allez les filles!' Beware, there is angry women's music ahead.
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