Monday, March 12, 2007

International Women's Day

Thursday* was International Women's Day. Townsville had a number of different events marking the occasion, most celebrating the theme set down from on high by the Queensland government--Women at Work: Know your rights, it's your future. The only event that I attended was the march and rally organised by the Women's Centre (where I'm a volunteer) at the beach/city centre. There were speakers (most speaking about various forms of work: unpaid labour, an older woman talked about how things have gotten better but are still not great, a union representative talked about industrial relations), singers, Aboriginal dancers, and poetry. Somehow, despite my stagefright, they managed to convince me to speak at the rally. This is what I said:

I was born in 1984. The major struggles for women’s rights were over by then, either already won or forgotten by the public. I grew up in a household where both of my parents worked. There was never a doubt in my mind that women should have the exact same rights as men.

In many senses, my generation has been lucky. We can take the hard-won equalities of earlier generations for granted. But because of that, many of us suffer from a bad case of apathy. We didn’t have to struggle for things like reproductive rights or the option to work outside the home, so we don’t really appreciate how valuable they are.

These days, it seems like feminism is a dirty word—it’s the F word that makes people uncomfortable. I don’t want to be too negative; there are plenty of young women who do care, even if they don’t identify as feminists. But what I’m suggesting is that we try to remove the stigma that surrounds the F word. Because feminism is far from done.

We live in a country that pays women 83.5 percent of what males earn. We live in a world that ignores and sometimes condones violence. This happens in homes, on the streets, and between countries, and women and children are too often the victims. We live in a world where people are treated as second-class citizens if they aren’t the right skin colour, sexuality or gender, or if they don’t have enough money. We live in a world where we are judged based on our appearance, and where women are continually treated as objects. We live in a world where millions go hungry every day. This isn’t just some faraway problem of ‘over there’, but right here in Australia, in Townsville even.

So today, we’re celebrating the wonderful work that women are capable of. But we should also look ahead at the work that is in front of us. We need to stand together and demand a better deal, without worrying if people think we’re crazy feminists.

It isn’t radical to expect and end to gender violence, racism, and poverty. It isn’t out of line to expect to be valued as human beings rather than sex objects, or equal opportunities for everyone, no matter what. It isn’t shameful to think that women’s work inside the home should be recognized and appreciated.

All these issues are inseparable—racism, sexism, violence, poverty—to fix one, we really need to look at them as a whole. Because really, women’s rights are human rights.

To this list of isms, I would have liked to add speciesism, but I just wasn't willing to stand in front of a crowd of meat-lovers and bring that in. Call me weak, it's probably appropriate, but I don't think most people are ready to make the connection with various forms of human oppression and animal exploitation. But, I do think they are completely, 100% intertwined. Maybe next time I'll go there.

*I meant to post this on Friday morning, but, in a rush to leave the house, I left my keys at home. I couldn't get into my office to use my computer, and since I had a workshop for half the day I didn't bother getting someone to unlock it. I am an idiot sometimes.


In other exciting news, today when I was walking from my office to the library, I saw a sticker on the bridge railing that said "Meat is Murder". It brightened my day, knowing that there are other people who care on the same campus as me!


KleoPatra said...

OHMYGOSH. What a speech!! You are AWEsome. I could hardly speak in front of my college "Public Speaking" class. That's quite a great speech you gave. Kudos and congratulations. You made your voice heard in a very compelling way. Beautiful.

Nice post, all the way about this subject, too.

And i love that you saw a "Meat is Murder" sign today. There's hope for the world yet.

Today i was walking around and saw a bumper sticker with the PeTA sticker, "Fur Is Dead." I know what you mean about it making you smile!

bazu said...

I loved your speech. It's true that a lot of people think that feminism is irrelevant or unnecessary now- but you don't have to be in shackles to be oppressed! That's one of my top pet peeves: "post-feminism"- what the hell is that?

vko said...

Brava on a great speech!
And don't feel badly about not bringing up speciesm in your speech, I think we've all been there in various conversations where we don't talk about our veganism when we fee we should, but there will be a time when you do. You spoke very eloquently and it's true how apathetic and complacent people have become.

And yes, we all appreciate the t-shirt or bumper sticker that reminds us that there are caring people out there who respect all living beings. That's what I love about blogging and connecting to vegans all over the world.