International Women’s Day – What Is It Good For?
Every March 8th sees the annual observance of International Women’s Day.
According to the IWD website, International Women’s Day has a history that can be traced back over one hundred years, and has taken on many forms to match the world’s ever-changing societal landscapes. Throughout its mutable existence, however, the goal seems to have been fairly uniform: to create awareness of the ongoing struggle for women’s equality.
Today, the movement’s reach is truly a global one, with many countries—including Afghanistan, Russia, and Vietnam—treating the day as an official holiday.
There are young people among us who would question the necessity of such a day, and that’s a good thing. There are innumerable examples of modern women succeeding in every possible field. Athletics, politics, business, the arts; almost any arena that you can imagine includes stories of successful females.
It’s interesting how the perspective of a few passed years can cause us to emote such distaste.
It wasn’t until 1960 that all women in Canada had the right to vote in federal elections. The CBC tells us that while some women were offered the privilege as early as 1921, it wasn’t until almost forty years later that women of colour and aboriginal women were all afforded the same right. We hear these types of statistics, and we are appalled. How could people, a mere fifty-four years ago, have been so obtuse? Yet here we sit at the end of history, continuing to oppress various groups of individuals based on religion, sexual orientation, nationality, you name it. I shutter to predict whether or not, fifty-four years from now, they will be writing the same things about us.
The Fight Goes On!
And that’s not to say that the fight for women’s equality is over. Evidence could be cited of blatant inequality persisting in underdeveloped nations around the world, but we don’t need to travel that far. A few recent events at Canadian universities have shown us that while the disparities faced by modern women may be more covert, they are still far from extinct.
On March 3, the University of Ottawa announced that they were suspending their men’s hockey program amid allegations of sexual assault. “Thunder Bay police said Monday they were investigating a third-party complaint of a sexual assault believed to have occurred on the weekend of Feb. 1, when the University of Ottawa hockey team was in Thunder Bay,” the CBC reported.
Another parallel incident is currently playing out at the same university. The second case involves a sexually explicit online chat about the school’s student union leader, a 24-year-old female. Apparently, she was sent a transcript of the crude conversation via an anonymous email.
The More Things Change..
These stories have drawn many comparisons to what took place at St. Mary’s University last fall. In the case of the Halifax school, a short video was leaked that showed frosh leaders orchestrating a vulgar chant, the lyrics of which insinuating that men at the university prefer unconsented sex with underage females.
The phrases “rape culture” and “misogyny” have been used to describe the state of modern-day campuses in relation to these events. It’s discouraging to see this type of behavior occurring at institutions of higher learning. While young, these students are supposed to represent the future. It’s disappointing when youthful indiscretions mar an individual for a lifetime.
But at the same time, if found guilty, a precedent should be set that will make it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
During these official days of awareness, while we celebrate the victories, it’s perhaps just as important to examine where we currently stand regarding the various civil rights struggles. It’s upsetting when a few alleged bad apples spoil the proverbial bunch, but it’s also imperative that we use these examples to help move things even further along, to show our disapproval in the hopes that others may learn from these mistakes.