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IWD2018: Why #PressforProgress and how?

By ChiUni 08 Mar 2018

By Saskia Hessdorfer (2nd year History and Creative Writing student)

Today is International Women's Day! A day for celebrations, right?  Well, it definitely should be! And there are indeed a lot of breakthroughs to celebrate.

Since the days of the suffragettes - women fighting for their right to vote, a hundred years ago - progress has been made, laws have been passed.  All of it to pave the way to gender parity. Yet, we are nowhere close to equality. Thus, this years official theme of the International Women's Day #PressforProgress!

A call most people, including me, will be delighted to follow. The only problem is how exactly can one 'press for progress'? And do I have to be a feminist?

Short answer to the latter question: Yes, you do have to be a feminist! But no worries, if you want equality of the sexes, you theoretically already are. Becoming a feminist, somebody who presses for progress, in practice as well as in theory, obviously requires a bit more commitment. Again nothing to fear, there is no one true way of being a feminist.
Firstly it is important to know why we still need to declare the want for equality and thereby our identity as feminists. Why should we all 'press for progress'?

The reasoning behind the press for progress theme, according to the official IWD website, is mostly based on a recent research by the WEF, the World Economic Forum, which estimated that it will take 217 years to close the pay gap. A report obviously predominantly concerned with equal opportunities in the workplace. Nevertheless, it is a good indicator of what state our progress towards gender equality is in.

Saadia Zahidi, the WEF's head of education, gender and work, further adds: 'Gender equality is both a moral and economic imperative'. This suggests that equal opportunities, regardless of gender, will benefit economical growth while also giving the struggle for women's rights a new dimension. Confirming what feminist writers like bell hooks have known for years. Feminism is for everyone. Directly and indirectly.

Other feminist movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp demonstrate how far we are from actual equality. Claims that feminism is dead or not needed anymore, seem like a sick joke in light of recent revelations. To all who are still not convinced that a press for progress and therefor feminism is necessary, see the links at the end of this post for two comprehensive, very eloquently written articles on why feminism is indispensable.

Secondly, it is crucial to know how to help speed up the process to reach gender equality. How can we all press for progress?

The easiest way to find an answer is probably to follow the given instructions on the IWD website. Reading through the article, it advertises a 'gender parity mind-set' instead of explicitly mentioning feminism. No need to identify as a feminist then, right?

Well, it's again a bit more complicated than that. Because having a 'gender parity mind-set' is essentially what feminism is about. Now, I do understand why many people feel uncomfortable with the label 'feminist'. As the majority of mainstream media is still adamant about portraying the movement as a contradictory and hypocritical mess. While some of these accusations are, without a doubt, true, this close scrutiny does make one think.

In her book Bad Feminist Roxane Gay comes to the conclusion that this close examination is holding the movement to an unreasonable standard. She deals with this difficult situation in her everyday life by finding her personal feminist identity, calling herself a bad feminist. A good method to deal with the generalisation feminism faces, on a personal level. This however, is obviously just a solution for the individual, not for the movement as a whole.

Moreover, this doesn't mean we have to split feminism up into different opposing groups, between which a person who wants to help close the gender gap, has to decide. On this matter Gay clarifies that feminism is flawed because it is powered by people. People are flawed. No way of changing that. What we can change is the way we deal with these flaws.

When it comes to feminism and the on going fight for gender equality, this can be best achieved by continuing to talk about it. Yes, scrutiny for feminist causes is often harsher than for some others but that too can be beneficial. The solution is not being more lax about feminism, but being more critical about other causes not as closely examined.

All in all, to press for progress for International Women's Day, the first step in the right direction has already been made by asking these questions. For asking more questions and continuing to thrive for more answers, has ultimately always been the only thing that ever led to progress.

The two brilliant articles I promised:

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