Today is International Women’s Day and it is still a world that needs a special day to talk about women. In many ways, the world is changing for women. Opportunities are slowly opening. Professions that a decade ago would have not been possible are now within reach. From defense journalists to astronauts and train drivers to political leaders, as the world makes a conscious choice that they have a legitimate right to pursue their choice, there are women using those slivers of opportunity to make their presence known.
Psychologically, socially, the change is still to permeate in our realities. In other ways, the emerging threat of having to share space with women in an increasingly competitive and insecure world is resulting in increasing violence and backlash in an effort to turn back time. From sexual violence to condemnation of attention paid to women’s rights, there is strong objection to women leaving an existence as an object of convenience to becoming people. That hasn’t changed.
Politicians and other random authority figures continue to excuse crime against women in a world where everyone has too much on their plate and they would rather deny women rights than taken on a whole new war on an unprecedented scale. Sexualized violence is more and more vocally shrugged off as a social concern and onto the broken shoulders of its victims.
Occupations like farming still don’t recognize the role of women in production. Nor do suicide statistics and compensations, since they only acknowledge the person who owns the title to the land as a farmer. CEOs of corporations are still overwhelmingly male, and feminine connotations are still used to convey inferiority. And while there is a moral snobbery about professions like prostitution, women are increasingly used to lure people (men?) into otherwise unrelated actions – for example through advertizing or “item numbers” or news anchors with visible cleavages.
A pretense in the name of modernity sees women in bikinies with men relatively clothed in some parts of the world – while women who dare to bare are seen as loose and a “bad influence on others” by the same people who hoard centerfolds – yet, it is the woman blamed for that, and not supposedly family friendly media that publishes the pictures that were perfectly acceptable in certain kinds of media. The idea is that every opportunity that arises from the changing dynamics may be exploited for profit, but anything that makes people uncomfortable is the fault of the woman alone. But women are used to this. It is not new, and they are used to swimming against this tide – fair or not – and they are pursuing their dreams.
While the progress of women cannot be stopped in the windows that have opened, there are other, uglier areas no one wants to talk about that are becoming increasingly insecure. The gender ratio in India is still on its way down. Women own about 1.2% of property worldwide. Gender selective abortions are causing concerns in several countries, including developed ones. Women have become the bone in a chauvinistic tug of war, where they are targetted for religious conversion or their conversion is resented – either way, more women are changing religion than men.
Women seem to bring out the worst of humanity – where the vulnerabilities of sexual desires and power meet. And like any other battle zone, they pay the cost. We stand at an important crux where we must find the capacity to co-exist and allow every human dignity, safety and freedom, because the world is not the exclusive property of any one group of people.
There is also change. As women who do have voice are able to raise it louder, pockets have formed that push back against unacceptable traditions and attitudes socially and politically. As are men, who wish to see a more equal world.
I wish us all on the occasion of International Women’s Day to find the confidence within ourselves that doesn’t require to push someone down to rise. Where there is synergy, attraction and beauty co-created by the male and the female. Like so