A Man's World? Not For Long Boys
With today being International Women’s Day, I feel a mix of pride and sadness. Pride because we have made it so far in our journey towards equality. But sad because there was a journey to be made in the first place; a journey that even today, in this new millennium, is far from over.
Today calls for the focus on the part of the journey that we have made thus far.
Some of the issues that have fuelled the movement, and this term I use as an umbrella for the Women’s Liberation Movement, the movement towards equality, and everything in between, (there’s that term again!) are things like contraception, women in politics, and women in the corporate corridor.
"Look back, to slavery, to suffrage, to integration and one thing is clear. Fashions in bigotry come and go. The right thing lasts." -Anna Quindlen
Beginning first with contraception, a concept that many people have the misconception was a modern introduction; we go all the way back to 1850 B.C. During this time, it is believed that the first contraceptive formula was a mixture of honey and crocodile feces (yuck!) This mixture was referred to in Egyptian texts, hinting that contraception was not only used, but perhaps needed, even during the early times of Egyptian life.
Since then, the use and distribution of contraception has been the centre of a heated and lasting debate between women, feminists, religious and political leaders, and other members of society that have their own beliefs toward whether or not women should use it. In more recent years, however, it appears that men have been dominating the debate about birth control. With Obama and Romney’s 20120 presidential campaign largely centred on their views towards the availability of birth control for American women, it is important that women’s views and needs are still addressed, and more importantly, catered to.
“But if God had wanted us to think with just our wombs, why did He give us a brain?”
-Clare Boothe Luce
In 1959, birth control was a crime. Luckily, we have arrived at a place and time in society where birth control comes in different shapes and forms, anything from a little pill that can be swallowed once daily and prevent a woman from being impregnated, or an IUD that can last up to 5 years. Despite the continuing debate, it seems that for the most part, women have gained their autonomy, at least in the Western world, regarding their sexuality, and more importantly, their reproduction.
“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
-Florynce R. Kennedy
Women have slowly gained an increasing role in the political sphere. And I’m not just referring to the recent election of Kathleen Wynne as Ontario’s first Premiere, or her female competition, Sandra Pupatello. I’m talking about the increase in the mere presence of women, and the effect that has had on how women are represented in different levels of government.
“It is unthinkable to allow complete strangers, whether individually or collectively as state legislators or others in government, to make such personal decisions for someone else.”
Currently, more than 20 countries hold females as head of state, and it is expected that this number will continue to increase as countries are taking steps that will increase the participation and inclusion of women in politics, locally, federally, and nationally.
While women have faced a number of challenges, ranging from the belief that they belong in the archaic “private sphere”, the “interruption” of the possible need for maternity leave, which is believed to disrupt the flow of continuity, and the obvious opposition that is the result of centuries of male-dominated professional arenas.
Luckily, this is all changing, very slowly, but surely. The United Nationshas come up with a six-fold plan that will not only encourage the participation of women in politics, but strengthen their role once in government. This plan includes equality in educational opportunities, more focus on issues pertaining to women and children, and more support for the presence of grassroots women’s empowerment initiatives.
Another significant issue women face is our lack of presence in the corporate corridor, despite the recent increase. According to a study done by TD Economics, it was concluded that there are still too few women in this side of business, and that Canada is lagging behind the progress made by other industrialized countries.
More than 50% of the firms listed on the TSX reported that they have no women on their executive boards.
While this statistic is unfortunate, 28% of the firms listed on the TSX reported that women make up half of their executive boards, while only 11% reported that they have one woman representative on their executive boards.
In many ways, the cup is half full. It is just being poured very, very slowly.
All in all, this week was a chance for us all, men and women alike, to recognize and acknowledge the remarkable journey that women have made. Today, especially, and every other day frankly, allows us the opportunity to look forward with hopes of more inclusion, more equality, and more recognition. It has been a personal pleasure to research some of the topics I have chosen to write about this week, and it has contributed to a more solidified understanding of where my female peers have come from, and how they have helped to shape the world that I live in, and function in, as a woman.
Despite having all the reason to believe that the future of women, and in turn, our society, has good things awaiting us, I implore you all to not forget about our female counterparts in other areas of the world who still suffer from a lack of freedom, rights, and education. It is my hope that the changes in the world we have brought about extend beyond the regions they have already touched, and penetrate the walls of every region that has not yet been graced by the Women’s Liberation Movement.
“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”
-Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman