The 8th of March is the day the world has designated to celebrate women’s rights (which we all agree still has a long way to go), as well as the political, socio-economical and cultural achievements of women. It had its inception in 1910, courtesy of the International Women’s Conference who suggested the switch from February 28th to March 8th. Noting that it’s been roughly 108 years since the first march took place, we can’t help but be exasperated at the fact that most of the issues that served as the baseline for a march, held over a century ago, still seem to be unresolved. Not because they are impossible, no, but because the idea of women having their own voice and holding men accountable for their actions, seems pretty daunting to many.
Women are undoubtedly the backbone of the world and now, we’re going to focus on some of the achievements women have scored over this past year, displaying their incredible temerity and ability to weather all storms thrown at them in the fight for wage parity.
We all know the popular saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” well, how about changing it to “Hell hath no fury like women who have had enough!” This was the case when the largest single protest was organised and held by women in Washington on the 21st of January, 2017. The protest spilled over into cities like New York and Los Angeles, with similar protests held in Canada and Mexico. Originally stemming from the shock of America voting for an unqualified, prejudiced man over a qualified “Nasty Woman” in the 2016 elections, the movement grew beyond that to include Planned Parenthood, Equality in Pay, Reforms in policies and many more issues affecting minorities in general.
With guest speakers ranging from activists like Gloria Steinem, to box office stars like Scarlett Johansson, the march became a moment in history that reiterated the power of women and their unrelenting spirit. The 2018 Women’s March was also phenomenal and inspiring with weighted conversations on the pay gap between white woman and women of colour, as well as the #MeToo movement.
Women Behind the Wheel in Saudi Arabia
No this is not a figurative wheel, it’s a real wheel. How we still live in a time when women are banned from driving is confusing and shocking, but this happened to be the awful reality of the women of Saudi Arabia. Luckily, things will change from July, 2018 when the law passed last year comes into full effect, giving women in that region the right to drive. Little steps like this, as small as they seem, are important for the movement because if one group of women are free while others are still shackled, then freedom is not yet complete.
Silence is Broken with #MeToo and #TimesUp
The 5th of October, 2017 was a regular Thursday to some but, for Hollywood, it was the day the scales were removed, truth prevailed and a tectonic dent was made in the industry, which would go on to affect the world. For years, the “Casting Couch” was a term used by industry insiders to describe the process whereby men in positions of power abused this power by taking advantage of female co-workers sexually. The publication of a detailed write-up in the New York Times revealed years of sexual harassment and abuse by prolific Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, featuring several excellent actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan.
This led to an avalanche of women coming forward to tell their stories, from various parts of Hollywood ranging from high profile Actresses like Angelina Jolie to stylists trying to make a living on set. Several men were called out on their BS, with each day bringing more accusations of harassment and abuse levied against different performers in the industry. Although punitive actions were taken against some of the men accused (remember Kevin Costner and Jeffery Tambor who got fired? yeah.), some allegations are yet to catch up with their perpetrators (Woody Allen? yeah.)
With the rose-colored glasses shattered, a movement was born, fuelled by women finally telling their stories using the #MeToo campaign, as well as telling their abusers #TimesUp. A campaign and organization backed by over 300 women in the entertainment industry, including Shonda Rhimes and Natalie Portman, has raised millions of dollars to provide legal counsel and aid for minorities, especially women, who suffer any form of abuse or harassment in their workplace. The change is here to stay and we are all for it, whilst looking forward to the day when #MeToo would be a thing of the past and men finally see women for their intellect and wit, rather than objects.
Women Reclaiming Their Time
It was a great year for women standing up for themselves. The most meme-worthy but notable moment so far was Rep. Maxine Waters’ refusal to let Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speak over her and exhaust her presentation time. It went viral and became the theme for the 2017 Women’s Convention as it showed Waters was a woman who wasn’t willing to be silenced or side-tracked, especially on her own [damn] time! Another incident of a woman “Reclaiming Her Time” was when the highly-acclaimed Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, decided to shut down a French journalist, Caroline Bruoe, who attempted to put down the writer’s home country of Nigeria, by insinuating the absence of proper libraries. To this, Adichie responded with: “I think it reflects poorly on France that you should even ask that.” Talk about a solid clap back.
Women Have Stories and They Will Tell It
For years, women have had to deal with their stories being told from a male perspective on both the big and small screens. I mean, the most famous female-centric shows were created and run by men (think Desperate Housewives and Sex & the City). Fortunately, 2017 saw a different wave starting with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman’s miniseries: Big Little Lies, based on the acclaimed novel by Lianne Moriaty. The show became an instant hit, as it showed different women dealing with different relatable situations and the ultimate alliance they make with themselves in the end. The show bagged a total of 8 Emmys, winning almost every category it was nominated in. Another notable TV moment was the scary but timely Handmaids Tale adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book with the same name, chronicling the story of women in a world where their basic rights are stripped away. The show was also a critics fave, scoring a win in the Best Director category for Reed Morano (after 22 years of only men winning) and 7 other Primetime Emmy awards. The show inspired multiple themed protests around America, chiming for change. Also breaking records, was Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman. The first major female superhero movie was a wake-up call for not just how commercial female-driven movies are, but the need for representation on all fronts, even in the world of makebelieve.
No doubt, there is still a lot to be done. However, we can’t help but appreciate and acknowledge the growth that has been achieved in various fields. Africa is still far behind when it comes to feminism and women’s rights, partly due to our ‘acquired’ cultural disposition of having women be seen not heard (Victorian era England much?). But, change is coming and a new wave of women are deciding to take the bull by the horn and make that giant leap from silence to presence. As men, it is imperative that we do better and instead of raising our girls to live in fear around men, we should teach our boys that being an egotistical creep is no longer acceptable. Happy Women’s Day!