I must have been in my seventh or eight grade when I received a flower for the first time in my life for the 8th of March. A boy in my school approached me and gave me a rose while mumbling “Happy 8th of March”. Instead of “thank you, that is very kind of you”, I said “please give it to a teacher, I am neither a woman nor a mother”. I wish I understood the importance of celebrating this day back then a bit more. Also, I wish I got the chance to thank him properly and to tell him that it is wonderful that he is recognizing the day also for those girls who are “neither a woman nor a mother (yet)!”. Sadly, I never did.
I do not know how it is in your country, but 8th of March – or, International Women’s day – is a big holiday in Macedonia! As kids, I and all of my friends would prepare cards days in advance for the central female figures in our lives – our mothers, grandmothers, and female teachers. Our fathers would always come home after work with flowers and/or chocolate and sometimes, we would even dine out in order to celebrate.
Since I do not have any pictures of the cards I prepared for my mother, I headed to twitter and asked my followers if they can share some of the cards they got from their children. My inbox was flooded with joy – take a look.
Opposed to the big hype in Macedonia, 8th of March goes almost unnoticed in Germany. I find this rather odd, even sad, especially because one of the lead figures of the women’s rights movement – Clara Zetkin – was German. Many women thank her for having basic rights – such as the right to vote.
Women in the World nowadays
Regardless of how much you (do not) appreciate 8th of March, for me – as a woman – it stands until today not only as a reminder of the tedious fight of women for their rights, but also as a celebration of the long way women have come since Clara’s time. Yet, this does not mean that we – as a society – have to stop here.
Research shows that both men and women still hold a strong bias against women. The World Economic Forum reports it will take quite a while until the gender pay gap is fully closed, while some fields show especially devastating numbers for women – such as politics/government or STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
Yet, to think that every woman in the World faces the same problems is rather naive. For some, especially for women of color or women not coming from first-world countries, things are immensely difficult. Just think of Saudi Arabia, for example, which allowed women only recently to drive. And driving isn’t even the biggest problem. They are still heavily controlled by men in every aspect of their lives – such as education, work, and parenting.
Saudi Arabia is not the only one. India continuously fails to protect women from abuse and numbers are rising. Other parts of the world face problems like women’s and girls’ trafficking. No access to education. In some parts of the World, men view women as their property and if the man decides that the woman has embarrassed him or dishonored him, “honor killing” is permitted. Iran, for example, until recently it did not allow women to enter stadiums and attend football matches. And Turkey’ new law “marry your rapist” is just another reminder that some places might walk even backwards.
Feminism: do we still need it?
Despite all of these problems in these parts of the World, as well as the still-present rape culture, stereotypes, and discrimination everywhere – many are of the opinion that we do not need any feminist movement nowadays since “the big issues have been solved”. People have stereotypes even about what feminists do, like, or look like.
But, what is really feminism?
Therefore, feminism does not and should not mean man-hatred! What will we achieve if we simply switch from misogyny to misandry? Feminist can be anyone who believes that our society still has some way to go before women will be given the same opportunities and chances as men and who knows how much more time will be needed until our biases against women are fully lost. In fact, will we ever be truly ready to get rid of these biases?
Food for thought for 8th of March
Spend this day to think a little bit of the important female figures in your lives. Imagine how you would have felt if they lived in countries where women are constantly oppressed. Or, if you had lived just a century ago… I know that it would not feel right.
So, reach out to the significant women in your lives: mother, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriend, wife, female friends. Thank them, give them some credit for everything they have been through and everything they have achieved.
If you lack some inspiration, maybe this small extract for something I have written some years ago will motivate you.
The Strong Women in my life
I call myself lucky because of I have three strong women in my life. My mother Viktorija, my sister Simona, and my grandmother Grozda. My grandmother Ana would have been on this list as well, but she passed away when I was 7 or 8. Sadly, I have very few memories of her.
Strong women inspire us. They are our support when the World starts to fall apart. When the soil under our feet turns into an abyss. The strong women heal our wounds with an honest smile, friendly conversation, and wholesome advice. Finding a strong woman is like finding a firefly in a dark, winter night; like finding a star that can guide you through that night. A sprinkle of hope.
The strong women in my life taught me how to raise stronger when life tries to take me down. How to lift up my head, even at times I wanted to bend it because of the malicious pressure from everyone who thought “I don’t quite fit”. These women taught me how to stay strong, when everyone expected I would shatter into million pieces.
The strong women taught me that with honest work and heart I can achieve anything I wish, no matter how long the process might last. They taught me everything I needed to know, and then they gave me an absolute freedom, support, and trust to head out into the World and find myself.
The strong women in my life guided me, but they never ordered me around. They nourished my mind, my soul, and my spirit ever since I was a kid and are there even enough words to thank these women properly?
The strong women are everything I wish to become one day. I hope I will become a strong woman one day. Phenomenal Woman – as Maya Angelou says.
Now you understandJust why my head’s not bowed.I don’t shout or jump aboutOr have to talk real loud.When you see me passing,It ought to make you proud.I say,It’s in the click of my heels,The bend of my hair,the palm of my hand,The need for my care.’Cause I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.